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Essays on The Great Gatsby

The great gatsby essay topic examples.

Whether you want to analyze the American Dream, compare and contrast characters, vividly describe settings and characters, persuade readers with your viewpoints, or share personal experiences related to the story, these essay ideas provide a diverse perspective on the themes and complexities within the book.

Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays require you to analyze and present arguments related to the novel. Here are some topic examples:

  • 1. Argue whether the American Dream is achievable or illusory, as depicted in The Great Gatsby .
  • 2. Analyze the moral ambiguity of Jay Gatsby and the consequences of his relentless pursuit of the American Dream.

Example Introduction Paragraph for an Argumentative Essay: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a tale of ambition, decadence, and the elusive American Dream. This essay delves into the complex theme of the American Dream, exploring whether it remains attainable or has transformed into a tantalizing illusion, luring individuals like Jay Gatsby into its enigmatic embrace.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for an Argumentative Essay: In conclusion, the analysis of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby invites us to reevaluate our perceptions of success and fulfillment. As we contemplate the fate of Jay Gatsby and the characters entangled in his world, we are challenged to define our own version of the American Dream and the sacrifices it may entail.

Compare and Contrast Essays

Compare and contrast essays enable you to examine similarities and differences within the novel or between it and other literary works. Consider these topics:

  • 1. Compare and contrast the characters of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, exploring their contrasting worldviews and motivations.
  • 2. Analyze the similarities and differences between the portrayal of the Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises .

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Compare and Contrast Essay: The characters and settings in The Great Gatsby and other literary works offer a rich tapestry for comparison and contrast. This essay embarks on a journey to compare and contrast the enigmatic Jay Gatsby and the brash Tom Buchanan, delving into their contrasting values, aspirations, and roles within the novel.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Compare and Contrast Essay: In conclusion, the comparison and contrast of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan illuminate the divergent paths individuals can take in pursuit of their desires. As we consider the consequences of their choices, we are prompted to reflect on the complexities of ambition and morality.

Descriptive Essays

Descriptive essays allow you to vividly depict settings, characters, or events within the novel. Here are some topic ideas:

  • 1. Describe the opulent parties at Gatsby's mansion, emphasizing the decadence and extravagance of the Jazz Age.
  • 2. Paint a detailed portrait of Daisy Buchanan, focusing on her beauty, charm, and the allure she holds for Gatsby.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay: The Great Gatsby immerses readers in the lavish world of the Roaring Twenties. This essay embarks on a descriptive exploration of the extravagant parties at Gatsby's mansion, capturing the opulence and hedonism of the era, as well as the illusions they create.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay: In conclusion, the descriptive portrayal of Gatsby's parties serves as a vivid snapshot of the Jazz Age's excesses and the fleeting nature of indulgence. Through this exploration, we are reminded of the allure and transience of the materialistic pursuits that captivated the characters of the novel.

Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essays involve arguing a point of view related to the novel. Consider these persuasive topics:

  • 1. Persuade your readers that Nick Carraway is the moral compass of the story, serving as the voice of reason and morality.
  • 2. Argue for or against the idea that Gatsby's love for Daisy is genuine and selfless, despite his questionable methods.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Persuasive Essay: The Great Gatsby presents a tapestry of characters with complex moral dilemmas. This persuasive essay asserts that Nick Carraway emerges as the moral compass of the story, guiding readers through the labyrinth of decadence and disillusionment in the Jazz Age.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Persuasive Essay: In conclusion, the persuasive argument regarding Nick Carraway's role as the moral compass underscores the importance of ethical navigation in a world characterized by excess and moral ambiguity. As we reflect on his influence, we are compelled to consider the enduring value of integrity and virtue.

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays offer you the opportunity to tell a story or share personal experiences related to the themes of the novel. Explore these narrative essay topics:

  • 1. Narrate a personal experience where you encountered the allure of materialism and extravagance, similar to the characters in The Great Gatsby .
  • 2. Imagine yourself as a character in the Jazz Age and recount your interactions with Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Narrative Essay: The themes of The Great Gatsby resonate with the allure of a bygone era. This narrative essay delves into a personal encounter with the seductive pull of materialism and extravagance, drawing parallels to the characters' experiences in the novel.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Narrative Essay: In conclusion, the narrative of my personal encounter with the allure of materialism reminds us of the timeless nature of the themes in The Great Gatsby . As we navigate our own desires and ambitions, we are encouraged to contemplate the balance between aspiration and morality.

The Superficial Love of Gatsby: His Obsession with Daisy's Wealth

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Character Portrayals and Society in The Great Gatsby

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"The Great Gatsby": Theme and Symbols

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The Portrayal of Female Characters in F.s. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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April 10, 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Novel; Fiction, Tragedy

Jay Gatsby , Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, George B. Wilson, Trimalchio, Mr. Gatz

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The Great Gatsby" with multiple motivations in mind. Firstly, he sought to critique the materialistic excesses and moral decay of the Roaring Twenties, a period of post-World War I prosperity. Fitzgerald aimed to expose the disillusionment and hollowness behind the glittering facade of the American Dream. Additionally, he drew inspiration from his own experiences and observations of the wealthy elite and their decadent lifestyles. Through the character of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald explored themes of unrequited love, longing, and the pursuit of an unattainable ideal. Ultimately, Fitzgerald's intent was to capture the essence of an era and offer a profound commentary on the human condition.

The story revolves around Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a married woman with whom he had a romantic past. Narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man from the Midwest, the novel delves into the opulent and extravagant lives of the wealthy elite in Long Island. As Gatsby throws lavish parties in the hope of rekindling his relationship with Daisy, the narrative explores themes of love, wealth, illusion, and the disillusionment that comes with the pursuit of the American Dream.

The American Dream , decadence, idealism, resistance to changes, social excess, caution.

The influence of "The Great Gatsby" extends far beyond its initial publication in 1925. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has become a literary classic, revered for its exploration of themes such as wealth, love, and the elusive American Dream. It remains relevant due to its timeless portrayal of human desires, societal decadence, and the consequences of relentless pursuit. The book's vivid characters and atmospheric prose have inspired countless writers and artists, shaping the landscape of American literature. With its commentary on the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age, "The Great Gatsby" continues to captivate readers, serving as a cautionary tale and a poignant reflection of the human condition.

1. During F. Scott Fitzgerald's lifetime, approximately 25,000 copies of the book were sold. However, since then, it has gained immense popularity, selling over 25 million copies and establishing itself as one of the most renowned American novels. 2. The Great Gatsby did not have its original title as the author considered various options, ranging from "Under the Red, White and Blue" to "The High-Bouncing Lover." These alternative titles were potentially revealing too much about the content prematurely. 3. In 1926, just a year after its publication, the book was adapted into a film, demonstrating its quick transition from page to screen. 4. Fitzgerald's cause of death is believed to have been tuberculosis rather than a heart attack. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 44. 5. The price of this famous novel at the time of its publication in 1925 was $2, representing its value in that era. 6. The Great Gatsby did not immediately receive critical acclaim upon release. However, it has since garnered recognition and praise, becoming a significant literary work.

"The Great Gatsby" has made a significant impact on various forms of media, captivating audiences across generations. The novel has been adapted into several films, with notable versions including the 1974 adaptation starring Robert Redford and the 2013 adaptation featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. These cinematic interpretations have brought the story to life visually, further immersing audiences in the opulent world of Jay Gatsby. Additionally, the novel has been referenced and alluded to in countless songs, television shows, and even video games, solidifying its cultural significance. Its themes of love, wealth, and the pursuit of the American Dream continue to resonate and inspire creative works in popular culture.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.’” “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.” “I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Studying "The Great Gatsby" holds great importance due to its enduring relevance and literary significance. The novel offers profound insights into themes such as wealth, love, social class, and the corruption of the American Dream. Its exploration of the Jazz Age exposes the allure and emptiness of a materialistic society, making it a compelling study of human desires and societal decay. F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterful prose and symbolic imagery provide rich material for analyzing character development, narrative techniques, and social commentary. Moreover, delving into the novel's historical context allows for a deeper understanding of the cultural and societal shifts of the 1920s.

The inclusion of "The Great Gatsby" as an essay topic for college students stems from its exploration of themes like the American Dream, the juxtaposition of poverty and wealth, and the destructive allure of corruption. The character of Gatsby embodies the American spirit and can be paralleled to contemporary individuals fixated on materialism and fame as measures of romantic success. Furthermore, this literary masterpiece holds a significant place in American literature, as F. Scott Fitzgerald skillfully weaves socio-cultural elements into each sentence, providing a timeless portrayal of American life that resonates across generations. The choice to analyze and write about "The Great Gatsby" allows students to delve into these thought-provoking themes and examine their relevance to society.

1. Stallman, R. W. (1955). Conrad and The Great Gatsby. Twentieth Century Literature, 1(1), 5–12. (https://doi.org/10.2307/441023) 2. John Jerrim, Lindsey Macmillan, (2015). Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?, Social Forces, Volume 94, Issue 2. (https://academic.oup.com/sf/article/94/2/505/2583794) 3. Robert C. Hauhart (2013) Religious Language and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby’s Valley of Ashes, ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, 26:3 (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0895769X.2013.798233) 4. Burnam, T. (1952). The Eyes of Dr. Eckleburg: A Re-Examination of “The Great Gatsby.” College English, 14(1), 7–12. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/371821) 5. Tom Phillips (2018) Passing for White in THE GREAT GATSBY: A Spectroscopic Analysis of Jordan Baker, The Explicator, 76:3. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00144940.2018.1489769?scroll=top&needAccess=true&role=tab) 6. Matterson, S. (1990). The Great Gatsby and Social Class. In: The Great Gatsby. The Critics Debate. Palgrave, London. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-20768-8_9) 7. Licence, A. (2008). Jay Gatsby: martyr of a materialistic society: Amy Licence considers religious elements in The Great Gatsby. The English Review, 18(3), 24+. (https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA173676222&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=09558950&p=LitRC&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7E5a84816e) 8. Khodamoradpour, Marjan and Anushiravani, Alireza, (2017) Playing the Old Tunes: A Fiskean Analysis of Baz Luhrmann's 2013 Cinematic Adaptation of the Great Gatsby. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Volume 71. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3020752) 9. Anderson, H. (1968). THE RICH BUNCH IN" THE GREAT GATSBY". Southern Quarterly, 6(2), 163. (https://www.proquest.com/openview/6a9e704a476d873aada2d2529821b95a/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2029886)

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Writing Lessons From Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’

At literature’s core pulses the arcane virtuosity of talespinning—an alchemy that has ensnared souls through eons. F Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, “The Great Gatsby,” epitomizes the melding of nuanced narrative threads. For students and academics , dissecting this popular book offers a deep dive into the craftsmanship of storytelling . That’s why in this guide, we take a comprehensive look at The Great Gatsby to extract some key writing lessons .

Let’s dive in .

The Great Gatsby And Plot Development

Fitzgerald’s storytelling prowess is evident in the complex yet riveting plot of “The Great Gatsby”.

The story, set against the roaring twenties, weaves a tale of love, ambition, and the relentless pursuit of the American Dream.

writing lessons from the great gatsby

The plot’s intricacies lie not just in the events but in the richly drawn characters whose desires and conflicts drive the narrative .

For example , Fitzgerald uses plot and structure to paint an image of what Gatsby is like, only for us to later learn the reality .

When analyzing the plot of The Great Gatsby, it can help for learners to access useful resources. For example, comprehensive study guide on GradesFixer and similar websites can provide an in-depth look at Fitzgerald’s work, along with essay examples for free.

Such tools enable students to grasp the underlying themes of the story better, which can at times be ambiguous and vague.

In seeing examples and reading guidance from experienced minds, you can see how that theme or point was deduced and how it was included by the writer .

Learning Narrative Techniques: Beyond the Plot

Let’s take a look at some excellent writing techniques that feature in The Great Gatsby.

Symbolism: Objects with Depth

Fitzgerald didn’t just rely on his plot; he used symbols to deepen the meaning of his narrative.

From the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock to the haunting eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, symbolism becomes a pivotal narrative device, adding layers of interpretation to the story.

When it comes to your own writing, you can look for objects or characters that you can attach some kind of meaning to, like flaking paint on walls or using the weather or seasons . This way you can introduce contrasts and comparisons to highlight themes and messages .

Character Complexity: Crafting Multi-dimensional Personalities

Character development plays a significant role in drawing readers into the world of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and others.

Fitzgerald crafts multi-dimensional personalities, showcasing their growth, conflicts, and transformations throughout the novel.

Such character depth serves as a vital lesson for writers aiming to bring authenticity and relatability to their narratives.

Many readers love to see characters grow or change as the story progresses . As a writer, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself these questions of change, especially when editing your story .

Setting the Scene: The Power of the Environment

The lavish mansions of West Egg, the bustling streets of New York, and the desolate Valley of Ashes—each setting in The Great Gatsby is meticulously crafted, reflecting the mood and themes of the story.

The environment becomes an active participant in the narrative, influencing character actions and story progression.

With any story, the setting or world plays a huge role . Any fantasy writer will tell you how much time they invest in worldbuilding . Defining your setting can really immerse your reader and draw them deeper into the tale .

Infusing Narrative Techniques in Modern Storytelling

Modern-day storytelling, whether in literature or other media forms, can benefit immensely from Fitzgerald’s techniques. Here’s a table detailing how you might apply his methods:

By infusing these techniques, writers can add depth and layers to their stories, making them more engaging and thought-provoking.

The Role of ‘The Great Gatsby’ in the Education Curriculum

Embedding “The Great Gatsby” within tertiary educational syllabi doesn’t just help students itch the study of English literature, it teaches them about the art of storytelling.

Pupils stand to gain from dissecting this novel, fortifying not only their academic acumen but also equipping them for examinations where incisive critiques and discursive compositions play an important role .

Drawing analogies between Fitzgerald’s intricate narrative ploys and characterization can bolster students’ prowess in weaving entrancing tales, be it in discursive pieces, analytical essays, or imaginative literary fiction .

the great gatsby plot

Recommendations for College Students

Amidst the odyssey of delving into the profundities of literary masterpieces, myriad scholars and aficionados gravitate towards many reservoirs of knowledge.

One of the most renowned and reliable resources is CliffsNotes , a platform that offers comprehensive summaries, analyses, and study guides for a plethora of books, including The Great Gatsby.

Be it navigating the convoluted tapestry of Shakespearean theatrics or deciphering the emblematic stratums embedded within Orwell’s tales, CliffsNotes manifests as a lucid and succinct platform. It’s a tool that, when used alongside the original text, can enrich your reading experience manifold.

Another particularly compelling analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” can be found on The Guardian . This review ventures beyond mere narrative functions and persona interplays; it illuminates the book’s unwavering relevance. Readers who wish to gain a layered understanding of this American classic would benefit immensely from such comprehensive critiques.

Final Thoughts On The Writing Lessons In The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby,” transcends mere narrative; it stands as an epitome of the ageless finesse in tales woven.

Within academia’s sanctuary, both the novices and the connoisseurs find invaluable treasures when immersing themselves in this magnum opus.

Harnessing and incorporating the nuances from this exemplar of literature, burgeoning raconteurs can embellish their tales, creating reverberations felt through epochs.

For more advice and guidance on the writing lessons in The Great Gatsby, get in touch.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to write a compare/contrast essay for the great gatsby.

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These compare/contrast essays are an opportunity for you to tie the character similarities and differences to larger observations about society and class, the American Dream , or identity in the novel. They also allow you to practice standard English class skills: close reading, using lines from the text as evidence, and taking a stance and presenting a supporting argument in an essay.

We’ll go over some basic dos and don’ts for writing compare/contrast essays before diving into some analysis of the most asked-about character pairings. Keep reading if you have a Compare/Contrast assignment on the horizon!

Article Roadmap

  • The do's of a compare and contrast essay
  • The don'ts of a compare contrast essay
  • Why some characters are paired for comparison more often than others
  • Nick and Gatsby
  • Tom and George
  • Tom and Gatsby
  • Daisy and Jordan
  • Daisy and Myrtle

What to Do in a Compare/Contrast Essay

Like anything you write for English class, your essay should be clearly organized, with a thesis statement (a one-sentence summary of your argument), and topic sentences for each body paragraph.

And you should definitely have an overall argument! The point of the compare/contrast essay isn’t for you to just list the differences and similarities between two characters, you need to take those observations and make a larger argument about the novel as a whole . That larger argument allows you to practice writing an essay that contains an argument, which is a skill that nearly all English teachers are focused on building.

To take a quick example, don’t just list the differences between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. Instead, make an argument like, “Fitzgerald’s portrayal of wealthy New York society through Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan allows him to critique both old money and the newly rich, while reserving his most pointed critiques for the old money crowd.” (Obviously, that’s just one example, and there are dozens of potential arguments you could make while comparing and contrasting characters in Gatsby!)

Make sure to address your larger argument in each body paragraph as you draw out the similarities and differences between the two characters. Don’t get caught in the weeds as you tease out the many differences and similarities in each character pair. Always link back to the bigger picture.

Finally, analyze each quote you use – in other words, don’t stick a quote in your essay and do nothing with it. Make sure to explain how and why the quote demonstrates a key similarity or difference, and what that means for your bigger argument.

What to Avoid in a Compare/Contrast Essay

Don’t just list differences and similarities without an overarching argument . Although you can definitely start brainstorming by making a list of similarities and differences, just presenting that list in essay form won’t get you a good grade, since you need to go deeper and explain what the similarities/differences suggest about the novel as a whole.

And, on the other side, don’t make big claims without some evidence from the text to back them up . For example, don’t say “Tom is selfish while Gatsby cares about others.” Prove those two separate claims (Tom is selfish” and “Gatsby cares about others”) with relevant lines from the book. (And if you’re having a hard time locating good quotes, find a digital version of Gatsby you can search using the CTRL-F function. It’s a lifesaver when gathering relevant quotes for an essay!)

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Why Are These Characters Paired Most Often?

We will tackle these major pairings in the next sections of this article:

Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby

Tom buchanan and jay gatsby, tom buchanan and george wilson, daisy buchanan and jordan baker, daisy buchanan and myrtle wilson.

Before we dig into the analysis, you might be wondering: “why are we only comparing characters of the same gender?” or maybe “why not other pairings? Why not Jordan and Myrtle, or Nick and Tom?” We are focusing on these specific pairings because they are by far the most commonly asked about pairs in essay prompts and discussion topics for The Great Gatsby . And we want this guide, first and foremost, to be helpful to students as you work on assignments involving Gatsby!

Furthermore, these pairings help teachers get you to explore some of the novel’s larger themes . For example, comparing Daisy/ Myrtle or Tom/George can help you explore the differences between the wealthy and the working class . Comparing Daisy/Myrtle or Daisy/Jordan can help you explore the changing status of women during the 1920s. Comparing Tom and Gatsby can get at the old money/new money divide. Finally, differences between Nick and Gatsby raise some of the novel’s larger questions about the American Dream , repeating the past, and identity. In short, these pairings have become common because they each allow fairly easy access to one of the novel’s larger issues.

That’s not to say you couldn’t also explore some of those themes by comparing, say, Jordan and George, or Daisy and Gatsby, but cross-gender compare/contrast essays can be challenging because the status of women and men is so different in the novel. If you are interested in seeing how a particular male and female character are paired, you may be better off studying them through the lens of love, desire, and relationships in the novel, or through the way they relate to one of the novel's symbols or motifs.

With those thoughts in mind, let's jump into the top 5 pairings! For each pairing, we will suggest a few possible larger arguments you can either build from or disagree with, but these are far from comprehensive! You should add to our analysis of the characters and come up with an argument you’re excited about.

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book. To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

Although Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway vary both in outlook and temperament, they are also alike in interesting ways. Despite somewhat similar desires, attitudes, and social positions, Nick and Gatsby make very different choices during the novel.

Love and Romance . Nick and Gatsby both want women that are out of their reach, although in different degrees. Daisy is miles above Gatsby in terms of social class. Jordan and Nick are of the same social status, but Jordan doesn't seem free to make her own decisions since an aunt controls her financial life. There is a significant passion gap between Gatsby and Nick as well. Gatsby obsesses over Daisy - he has thought of nothing else for five years, going as far as to buy a house across the bay from her just in case she notices. Nick, meanwhile, is attracted to Jordan's cool and self-sufficient demeanor, but he is clearly not in love with her, as he himself notes ("I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity" (3.159)). 

Approach to Women.  Both men are not particularly interested in the inner lives of the women they want to be with. Gatsby is devastated when Daisy doesn't want to renounce her relationship with Tom completely. Similarly, Nick cavalierly discounts Jordan's penchant to lie, cheat, and generally be cynically uninterested in other people, and then is deeply disappointed when she acts this way after Myrtle's death.

Class and Social Standing.  Although both Gatsby and Nick are outsiders to the wealthy communities of East and West Egg, Nick is a much more in-between character socially than Gatsby. Nick is familiar with the ways of the old money crowd because of his own family's privilege and the fact that he is related to Daisy. Gatsby is not only self-made, but is a criminal who is desperate to pass as part of the old money elite without knowing its customs or rules of behavior. What isolates Nick from East Egg life is his Midwestern values and the importance he places on morality and decency. Gatsby is isolated from everyone by the fact that he can never actually be himself - he is always playing a role and putting on his "Oxford man" persona. It may be this sense of feeling out of place that connects them.

Outlook and Temperament.  Gatsby is an optimist (almost to a delusional degree) while Nick is a realist who finds Gatsby's idealism inspiring and admirable. Gatsby believes in his ability to shape his own life and future, which makes sense since he has managed to transform himself from a farmer to a successful gangster, to impersonate an "Oxford man," and to accumulate a fantastic amount of wealth in a very short time. This belief in his power translates to Gatsby being sure that he and Daisy can go back to their month of idyllic love ("'Can't repeat the past?', he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you can!'" (6.129). Nick tries his best to be an objective realist and to reign in his tendency to judge others. He is deeply in awe of self-directed men like Gatsby, and even Wolfshiem (Nick is amazed to think that one man could be behind a huge event like the rigged World Series). 

Ambition.  Gatsby dreams of greatness. As a young man his mind “romped like the mind of God,” and so as an adult, he seems to have made good on this promise by buying the most ridiculous mansion and throwing the most extravagant parties (6.134). Nick is much less ambitious in comparison. While he comes to New York seeking excitement, he doesn't want to be the wealthiest bond salesman on Wall Street or to have the biggest house. He is happy to be an observer at the edge of the drama rather than being in its midst.

Nick and Gatsby Essay Ideas

Here are potential arguments to build on or disagree with based our observations. These are certainly not the only possible arguments, so be creative! Make sure your essay considers what the similarities and differences between Nick and Gatsby reveal about the novel as a whole.

  • Nick is a passive person and Gatsby is active, which is why Gatsby is the hero and Nick simply the observer.
  • Nick has much more in common with Gatsby than he thinks he does, which explains why he becomes so enamored of him.
  • Nick serves as a foil (someone who serves as a contrast) to Gatsby, which makes Nick the best possible observer of Gatsby.
  • At the end of the novel, Tom says that Gatsby “threw dirt in [Nick’s] eyes, just like Daisy’s,” meaning that both Nick and Daisy were taken in and could never see the true Gatsby: a narcissist and a criminal. Tom is right - the whole novel is Nick trying to spin a negative character into a positive one.

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As they battle over Daisy’s love, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby sometimes seem surprisingly similar - particular in their self-centeredness, wealth, and concern with appearances. At the same time, these surface parallels point to major conflicts in their social class, and say a lot about the world of the novel.

Appearance.  Gatsby is driven by his materialism to be very invested having fashionable clothes, a beautiful mansion, and visually overwhelming parties - for him, the outfit is the thing that makes the Oxford man . Meanwhile because Tom doesn't have to dress the part of the moneyed elite to be one, he is instead very attuned to the behavior of others. This is why he immediately sees how fake Gatsby's persona is, both because of Gatsby's overly ostentatious clothes, and because of how much Gatsby misreads the fake invitation from the Sloanes. Tom is never fooled into thinking that Gatsby is anything other than an upstart, and mostly likely a criminal one.

Self-Centeredness.  Tom and Gatsby are both completely selfish, and fully convinced that their desires have to be acquiesced to by those around them. Tom, for example, starts his affair with Myrtle by pressing himself against her on a train platform - basically, his version of flirting is bodily assault. Gatsby, meanwhile, also thinks nothing of starting an affair with a married woman, assuming that his obsessive feelings are enough to justify any behavior.

Wealth.  Despite the fact that both are unimaginably rich, these men come from totally different sides of the big money divide. Tom comes from old money and is forever worried about the encroachment of the nouveau riche, minorities, and others onto what he thinks is his. At the same time, Gatsby is the most successful of the novel's many ambitious social climbers, using his lack of ethical scruples to parlay his criminal activity into a higher social status.

Power.  Tom loves being powerful and wields his power directly. He is physically aggressive and uses his body to threaten and intimidate (Nick, for one, is clearly very cowed by Tom's bulk). He is also quick to violence, whether it's socially sanctioned - like his football accomplishments - or not - like when he breaks Myrtle's nose without a second thought. Gatsby also holds significant power, but his methods are much more indirect. Still, whether he is offering Nick some illegal bond trading action, or showing off his get-out-of-a-ticket-free card to a cop on the highway, Gatsby is clearly happy to be in control of a situation.

Love. Tom and Gatsby both seem to be in love with Daisy. But what does that really mean to each of them? For Tom, Daisy is clearly partly appealing because she completes his horse-riding, East Egg, 350-thousand-dollar pearl necklace lifestyle. He cheats on her because he clearly has never denied himself anything, but he also understands Daisy as a person. He knows that she is too weak to leave him, but he also loves her enough to tolerate her affair with Gatsby and to stay with her after Myrtle's murder. Gatsby's love, on the other hand, is in some ways purer because he so idealizes Daisy and connects her to all of his other hopes and dreams. But this love is overly pure - he doesn't really seem to know Daisy as anything other than an idealized object, and is incapable of accepting that she has led a life apart from him for five years.

Tom and Gatsby Essay Ideas

In a compare/contrast essay, you can’t just present a list of similarities and differences. You also need to have an underlying argument you’re supporting. Feel free to take these at face value or as jumping-off points for your own thoughts.

  • Tom loves Daisy as a person, Gatsby loves her as an idea.
  • Both Tom and Gatsby’s tendency to control women and see them as prizes reveals the misogyny of the 1920s.
  • Although Tom sees Gatsby as someone from an entirely different class than him, what they have in common (selfishness, affairs, obsession with appearances) makes a larger argument for an overall moral hollowness of the rich of any class.
  • We see both Gatsby and Tom through the eyes of Nick, who worships one of them and hates the other. In reality, they are both much more similar than different, and their different treatment reveals Nick's insecurities and biases.

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At first, most readers see Tom Buchanan and George Wilson  as opposites. But, these markedly different characters face very similar circumstances and offer two takes on masculinity and power in the novel.

Appearance and Presence.  Where Tom is strong and cowering, George is meek and shrinking. Tom exudes power and confidence while George tends to just fade into the background. These differences are borne out in the way these two men interact with the world. Tom is violent towards others, while George’s instinct is to be passive or to try and escape situations, the notable exceptions being his locking up of Myrtle and murder of Gatsby. Tom is confident, privileged, and assured while George is timid; George is “ruled by his wife” where Tom is selfish and acts on his own desires.

Reaction to Adversity. There is a dramatic difference in the way the two men react to the fact that their wives are cheating on them. Tom notices Daisy’s love for Gatsby and immediately starts making power plays. On the other hand, George discovers Myrtle’s affair and is undone by it. Nick compares the two men in a memorable description:

“the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before--and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. Wilson was so sick that he looked guilty, unforgivably guilty--as if he had just got some poor girl with child" (7.160).

In this description, Tom is “well” and George is “sick.” These are certainly arresting ways to describe Tom's more traditional masculinity and George's less overtly masculine character. Tom is self-assured in the face of adversity and immediately takes action to win Daisy back, insisting on driving Gatsby's car, bullying those around him into driving to Manhattan, and using his romance skills to remind Daisy of the pluses of their relationship. Meanwhile, George's weakness makes him look sick and guilty as he contemplates Myrtle's betrayal and is driven to violence to reassert his power over her.

Approach to Women.  Both Tom and George assume they know what’s best for their wives: Tom dismisses Daisy’s professed love for Gatsby despite their obvious closeness, while George is determined to take Myrtle out west once he learns about the affair. But, while it seems that Tom does fundamentally understand Daisy and is right about her unwillingness to leave their marriage, George is unable to hold on to Myrtle either emotionally or physically. She is killed trying to run away from him.

Tom and George Essay Ideas

Differences in attitude and outcome, despite a relatively similar situation, reveal some unexpected truths about the world of the novel. Argue the reverse of any of these topics for a really provocative essay!

  • The fact that Tom manipulates George into killing Gatsby and then himself (which allows Tom and Daisy to walk away from the entire affair without consequence) shows the huge privileges of having money in the novel.
  • Nick's approach to Tom and George shows his admiration of a physical, brutish, domineering kind of masculinity. 
  • The fact that the relatively good guy turns into a murderer while the bad guy lives to cheat another day is a very cynical take on what happens in a world without a moral compass.

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Despite Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker 's similar “white girlhoods” (1.140) in Louisville, their attitude and motivations are quite distinct, making them really interesting to compare and contrast.

Attitude and Outlook.  Both Daisy and Jordan display an entitled, bored attitude that’s typical of Fitzgerald’s depiction of the old money segment of wealthy New York society. The fact that they are introduced in tandem, both lying on the couches in their white dresses, speaks to their initially similar attitudes. But soon we see how different their takes on this kind of life are. Daisy is increasingly despondent, even nihilistic, asking in Chapter 7 , “what shall we do today, and tomorrow, and for the next thirty years?” (7.74).  Jordan meanwhile is a pragmatic opportunist, who sees possibilities everywhere, arguing that “life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall” (7.75). In other words, Daisy’s pessimistic attitude from Chapter 1 comes through again, while Jordan, despite coming across as cynical and sharp, actually still seems excited about the possibilities life has to offer.

Appearance and Personality.  Both Daisy and Jordan very alluring in their own way, though Daisy’s allure comes through her enchanting voice and feminine charms, while Jordan is masculine, “jaunty,” witty, sharp, and physical. Daisy maintains a squeaky-clean reputation despite moving with a fast crowd, while there are plenty of rumors about Jordan’s cheating in golf, and Nick comments on her dishonest attitude. More significantly, Daisy is incredibly self-absorbed while Jordan is very observant.

Role in Society.  Daisy seems caught between what society expects of her and some deeper, more powerful desires she can’t name, resulting in restlessness, depression, and her affair. Daisy is sticking to her prescribed societal role by marrying and having a child, while Jordan plays golf, “runs around town” and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to marry, at least in the beginning of the novel. Perhaps Jordan is still somewhat optimistic about the possibilities of life since she hasn’t settled down yet, while Daisy realizes that nothing major in her life will change at this point. Jordan, meanwhile, is content to chase after fun and intrigue via other people’s bad behavior. And she doesn’t get dragged down by the tragedy in the book – on the contrary, she is callous in how little Myrtle’s death seems to shake her, coolly calling Nick the next day and asking him to meet like nothing has happened (8.50-61). Perhaps her motivations are a bit less accessible to the reader since her role was significantly downsized between some of Fitzgerald’s earlier drafts. But in any case, as we watch Daisy struggle in her marriage, what we see of Jordan is cool, calm, collected, and rather uncaring.

Daisy and Jordan Essay Ideas

So what are some possible conclusions we can draw from Daisy and Jordan’s characters? One of the most common strategies is to tie the differences between these women onto one of the book’s larger themes, like the role of society and class or the American Dream . Another is to think about an important feature of the novel, like Nick’s narration, and see what these two characters can reveal about it. With those strategies in mind, here are some potential arguments you could argue for or against!

  • Jordan and Daisy, because they are generally disempowered, both use their sexuality in different ways to gain power, with different results.
  • Despite Jordan’s overt cheating and lying, Daisy is, in fact, the more morally compromised person.
  • The way Nick treats Jordan versus the way he describes Daisy reveals the novel’s preoccupation with Gatsby above all, to the detriment of the female characters.

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While Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson obviously come from very different backgrounds and have conflicting motivations, they also have some surprising similarities.

Physical Appearance.  Daisy and Myrtle both derive power from their looks. Myrtle's comfort with her voluptuous body is clearly appealing to Tom, while Daisy's magnetic voice and ethereal presence obsess Gatsby. Throughout the novel, Myrtle is frequently reduced to being just a body - one to be used or violated by those around her. Tom sees little in Myrtle besides someone to either rub up against, have sex with, or punch at will; George resorts to imprisoning Myrtle while she eggs him on to "beat" her (7.314) the way Tom does; and finally, Daisy gruesomely rips Myrtle's body apart with a car. Meanwhile, Daisy's voice also serves to make her less of a person in her own right and more of an idealized, mythic figure from fairy tales. For Gatsby, Daisy's voice is appealing because it is "full of money" (7.105) - he is attracted to her not because of who she is, but because he sees her as a prize.

Social Standing.  Myrtle puts on the airs that Daisy has been born and raised with. This allows Myrtle to wield considerable social power within her group, as seen by how her guests fawn on her at the Manhattan party she throws. Daisy, in contrast, never exerts such overt power over a group – rather, she seems to move with crowds, doing what it expected of her (for instance marrying Tom despite still loving Gatsby). 

Love and Relationships.  Daisy and Myrtle’s marriages are strikingly quite different. Daisy and Tom are able to stay together even through serial affairs and murder. They end up loyal co-conspirators, protected by their wealth. Meanwhile, Myrtle has nothing but disdain for George despite his evident love for her. Still, both women use affairs with other men as a way to escape. Daisy wants to get away from an increasingly unhappy marriage and try to recapture the spontaneity and possibility of her youth, while Myrtle loves the status that her affair with Tom grants her. However, both learn that they can’t escape forever through their affairs. Obviously, their biggest difference is that Daisy gets to walk away from the novel unscathed, while Myrtle gets killed. 

Daisy and Myrtle Essay Ideas

Here are ways to write about these different women who face similar choices with dramatically opposite conclusions.

  • Despite their similarities in action and motivation, Daisy is protected from any lasting harm by her wealth and old money status, while Myrtle is punished for the same behavior, revealing how the class system in America protects the wealthy.
  • The novel refuses to give any inner life to women, and instead reduces them to their physical qualities no matter what social class they come from. Daisy and Myrtle's similar treatment by the narrator and by the men around them shows that gender trumps class when determining status. 
  • Daisy and Myrtle’s similarities reveal how hollow the progress of the women’s movement really was at that point in time. Despite the big gains the movement made in the early twentieth century, including winning the right to vote and pushing for more freedom in how they could dress and act, both of these women’s lives aren’t vastly improved. They’re both trapped in unhappy marriages, they both rely on their looks/charms/sexuality to get what they want, and neither of them has even a chance of pursuing a fulfilling life through a career.

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What’s Next?

Now that you’ve gone over the novel’s most popular compare/contrast pairings, check out our analysis of the novel’s romantic pairings in our guide to love, desire, and relationships in The Great Gatsby .

Have an essay about a symbol or motif? Get started with our symbols overview  and motifs overview.

Still a little hazy on some of the plot elements in Gatsby? Not to worry, we have you covered with our complete book summary !

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Richard Marriott English

English Lecturing and Tutoring

The Great Gatsby Sample Essay

how to write a great gatsby essay

This sample essay demonstrates the full range of A-level skills needed to meet the assessment objectives at the highest level.

“They’re a rotten crowd.” I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” How does Fitzgerald convey a “rotten crowd” in The Great Gatsby and to what effect?

“Rotten” describes a state of putrefaction. It is a word we apply to decomposing fruit, fruit that is over-ripe, decaying and which, close-up, stinks. What a brilliant word to convey the decaying civilisation of post-war Europe and America that surrounds Gatsby – and repulses his friend, Nick – shocking him into moral awareness.

It is primarily through the moral judgements of his narrator, Nick Carraway, – the character that goes East to make money only to retreat revolted by the moral, cultural and social rottenness that he finds among the moneyed classes he wished to join – that Fitzgerald presents his “rotten crowd.” Through Nick, Fitzgerald exercises his narrative art with extraordinary compression: cultural allusion and symbolic names and images are central to his method – underpinning the actions of his characters – so too a poet’s feel for the sound and connotations of words.

Fitzgerald’s allusive method brilliantly conveys the rottenness of Gatsby’s crowd. Names, and names of books allude to a rotten world. Relationships in the East are rotten and infect the outlying members of the great Carraway dynasty: Nick’s second cousin twice removed is married to a philanderer; already unfaithful on honeymoon, we find him in the second chapter introducing Nick to his mistress. Now, the great Gatsby himself has been no monk (he ‘knew women early’ (82) Nick tells us, momentarily picturing a proud and promiscuous young Gatsby), but in pursuing Daisy, he pursues more than sex: he wishes to attain a higher state of being – to ‘romp with the mind of God,’ to ‘gulp down the milk of wonder.’ Romping and gulping suggests a child’s wide-eyed amoral appetite for unbounded satisfaction. Tom’s rottenness, his sexual corruption, then is apparent by contrast with the sublime, high-minded aspirations of the man who would cuckold him. Taking then, Nick, to the apartment where he conducts his affair, Tom leaves Nick while he and Myrtle both disappear – presumably to the bedroom – before reappearing after Nick has had time to ‘read a chapter’ of Simon Called Peter . A chapter-read is an innovative way to measure the length of a human coupling and perhaps degrades (reveals the rottenness of) Tom’s relationship in its brevity (or in its longevity, reveals the rotter luxuriating in his sin) – but more importantly, it is through the title of the book that Fitzgerald reveals the rottenness of this crowd. Robert Keable’s 1922 best-seller records the career of an earnest young clergyman, Peter Graham who volunteers as an army chaplain in the First World War. His faith fails to sustain him on the path of righteousness and he abandons his nice middle class fiancée, Hilda, for the generous charms of a prostitute and a generation of young women whose sexual freedom is more aligned to the Myrtles of Gatsby than the prim propriety of Hilda and the Edwardian England Peter has left behind. However, Peter is not simply a lost cause to the church, he is disillusioned with its teachings and with human nature, the sexual freedoms and easy pleasures of the war generations seem to him more real, more essentially human than the morality he preached from the bible. The novel, condemned in his review as ‘immoral’ by Fitzgerald, is seriously concerned with what war reveals of essential human nature: its immorality, its pessimism lies in its disillusion with love. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby holds on to his aspirations, his faith in the possibility of transcendence through love, despite the hardships of his (quickly overcome!) poverty. It is perhaps only through the contrast with Keable’s response to war that we can appreciate the extraordinary hope implicit in Fitzgerald’s, in his faith in the higher callings and aspirations of the human heart. It would be interesting to know if Fitzgerald had a particular chapter in mind that “didn’t make any sense to [Nick].”

Thus, almost passing reference to a contemporary novel, is fraught with much meaning. The use of a character’s reading material to shape and create meaning is a familiar part of the novelist’s art: think Austen’s Catherine Morland, gently mocked by her author for her indulgence in The Mysteries of Udolfo and the power it has over her imagination. This allusive method is not surprising in Fitzgerald: it is the foundation of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” –a poem Fitzgerald knew by heart, written in the year he sets his Gatsby . In it, the morality, the spiritual condition, of one generation is measured against representative cultural fragments from earlier civilisations.

Fitzgerald is similarly wide-ranging in his frame of reference to convey his “rotten crowd,” alluding to contemporary novels and events as well as ancient texts. Take the casual naming of just one party-goer for example: Ismay. Ismay is collected up as part of a group: “the Ismays and the Christies.” Perhaps Fitzgerald has in mind Bruce Ismay, Managing Director, of the White Star Line and held to blame for the greatest shipping disaster of all time: the loss of the Titanic in 1912; he was J Brute Ismay to the press at the time. He was rumoured to have put pressure on the Chief Engineer to drive the ship faster for a record time for the Atlantic Crossing and was himself a survivor. Newspaper cartoons showed him watching the ship sink from the safety of a lifeboat whilst the true “women and children first” heroes stood facing death on the doomed ship. So, Ismay comes to represent the selfish, self-serving rottenness of Fitzgerald’s contemporary society and the inversion of its moral values.

Ismay is among the first of the East Eggers on Nick’s famous list that helpfully divides the party guests into two according to the Egg whence they arrive: East Egg is the old money (Jesmond) in our local terms; West Egg is new money (we think Darras Hall). The West Eggers are “all connected with the movies in one way or another.”  So one “controlled films Par Excellence” another is a “promoter” (and at the Chapter VI party we meet “the moving-picture director and his Star” (89)). In contemporary – and non-party political terms we find in West Egg the New Labour celebrity culture of film stars, pop stars, and fashion designers as well as the stalwart Old Labour of the Trade Union movement meeting at Blair’s parties: it would be a mistake to believe either group is any more free from corruption than Gatsby’s guests.  Fitzgerald’s crowd fills up the “empty spaces of a timetable” (52) that is now out of date. And their “gray” names assigns them to the ash heaps of The Valley of the Ashes – where the detritus of a dead civilisation is dumped.

The whole list in its conception is a brilliant tribute to writers of the past: “the Prince of something, whom we called Duke, and whose name, if ever I knew it, I have forgotten” concludes the roll with a wonderful contempt for empty title (“of something”) and undeserved respect (“whom we called”). The forgotten name that concludes his portrait echoes Chaucer’s final valediction on his Merchant:

For sothe (truly) he was a worthy man with alle, in every way But, sooth (truth) to seyn, I noot (= ne woot, don’t know )how men hym calle.

“I noot how men hym calle,” he is in other words unworthy of name or remembering. Of all writers, Chaucer is so especially concerned with a man’s worth, (the word is used ironically in the quotation above) his worthiness, the parity between the inner and the outer man. The choice of the Merchant is apt: he represents financial rottenness, self-serving material greed.

The last line of all in Nick’s guest list, “All these people came to Gatsby’s house in the summer,” in its obvious summing up of what we already knows echoes Homer’s method in the famous muster of the armies at the beginning of The Iliad , (e.g. “These were the men whom Amphimachus and Nastes brought.”). The very idea of remembering each with some anecdote of their deeds is again Homeric – but how unedifying their deeds: fighting with bums, drunk on the gravel, arriving with another’s wife, run over by Mrs. Ulysses Swett. The name Ulysses is enough to point us to our Homer. This “rotten crowd” is mocked in comparison to the Greek Heroes of the great ancient civilization of the past: the one at its heroic zenith, the other at its rotten nadir.

Plenty of food then for scholars wishing to track down all these names and associations. Ulysses Swett is in fact a real person (born 1868) and a member of the famous Swett family of Cape Cod who traced themselves back through thirteen generation. However, the names have an immediate, not just a scholarly impact. Swett (homophone for a squalid bodily function) is allied with Belcher (the, what, shamelessly, insolent expulsion of stomach gas through the mouth?– usually avoided because of the bad smell) and Smirke (the silent mocking laugh) – all aspects of our base corporeal rather than spiritual natures.

Worse are the animal names: Blackbuck, Roebuck, connoting both money (buck=dollar) and animal sexuality (a buck is a male deer – like the word ‘tup’ we make the gender distinction usually to refer to sexual behaviour). The name ‘Blackbuck’ perhaps evokes Tom’s fear of the Rise of the Colored Empires , of the sexual potency of black races according to popular myth and also a fear of the black dollar, of black wealth as a part of rising black supremacy. So the names have a resonance that goes beyond the animals and fish they denote (Beluga, Whitebait, Hammer Head – it is easy fit them into a taxonomical classification). It is fun to learn from Wikipedia that the Beluga whale has a ‘high-pitched twitter.’ Such information adds another dimension to our own imagined constructions of Gatsby’s party crowd. But the name itself seems ugly. Is it because it has the consonants of the word ‘ugly’ in it? Or because, as we search to make sense of an unfamiliar word, our brains try out the word ‘bulge’ through the association of sound and thus evoke some ungainly swollen creature, some ulcerous tumescence of money and immorality. Is there something belchy in the sudden release of air in the second vowel sound, Bel u ga? And that is before we think about the associations with caviar and the untouchable luxuries of the war-time rich.

And then there are the Hammerheads: another wonderfully evocative name. What rottenness does this conjure? A family of boneheads. The Hammerhead Shark has evolved an elongated and flattened skull perhaps for the manipulation of prey – nice associations there. It also contains the idea of the tool after which the shark is named, the hammer, blunt bludgeoning instrument. Picture it here in the hands of one of Gatsby’s bootlegging cronies, crushing the skull of some unfortunate prey. Hear in its sounds, the repeated glottal fricatives, (‘ Ha mmer hea d’) the heavy breathing of the hammer-wielder exerting himself in the act of skull-crushing.

There is a poetry in this carefully constructed mock epic that delights in the cultural allusion, in the connotative capacity and the phonological features of words to express the sheer rottenness of this crowd.

Fitzgerald offers a wide, but not comprehensive, survey of the animal kingdom to convey his rotten crowd: in all this verminous, predatory, bestial crowd there is not one airborne, flying creature. There are fish aplenty as well as the semi-aquatic rodent, Ernest Beaver and the tree dwelling Doctor Webster Civet , who despite his airy habitat “drowned last summer.” James B. (“Rot-Gut”) Ferret take his name from the domesticated earth-burrow dwelling carnivorous mammal. All three (beaver, civet, ferret) are noted for scent glands, genital or anal: in the wild, they pollute the air to mark territory; killed, they are used for perfume. The point is of course that Fitzgerald’s elemental imagery portrays Gatsby’s aspirations to transcend mortal bounds as an aspiration to fly. Daisy is associated with air, floating, fluttering, anchored like a balloon. Gatsby aspires to her airiness which lifts her among other things, ‘above the hot struggles of the poor.” (122) He is condemned, through Fitzgerald’s imagery to death by water: he is shot in a swimming pool, to be buried in “soggy ground” (142). The moment is foreshadowed at Nick’s tea-party reunion: Gatsby stands “in a puddle of water glaring tragically” (72). Fitzgerald’s rotten crowd is an earth-bound water-dwelling crowd and they drag Gatsby down to his watery death and earthy resting place. Their very names make the air he breathes stink.

This crowd perhaps constitutes the ‘funny fruits’ (103) of New York of a civilisation that has, in Spenglerian terms, (Oswald Spengler, The Decline of Civilization – the book Fitzgerald never recovered from when writing Gatsby) organically outgrown itself, lost touch with the nature that feeds it to produce the cities, and city folk, this ‘rotten crowd’ that are its fruit. And Fitzgerald’s judgement reveals Nick’s growth to moral understanding – he too will reject the wealth of the East, its money, machines and rottenness to nurture the reputation and aspirations of Jay Gatsby, seeking his flower, his Daisy Fay, who, in his imagination (according to Nick) represents the green breast of an earlier, rural America. For Nick, in Gatsby, found an incarnation of the Faustian legend (there was indeed a Faustina O’Brien –a diminutive and corrupt mini-Faust on that party-list (53)), of man’s desire to transcend the bounds of his mortality and the rottenness of his world.

Richard Marriott English

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Essays About The Great Gatsby: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

The Great Gatsby is a classic American tale; if you are writing essays about The Great Gatsby, find interesting essay examples and writing prompts in our guide. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) revolves around a young man named Nick Carraway and his interactions with his New York neighbors, including the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. Throughout the novel, Gatsby attempts to rekindle his relationship with Daisy Buchanan, a cousin of Carraway’s; along the way, he is revealed not to be who he seems. The novel is regarded as a literary masterwork due to its profound exploration of love, social class, gender, and race, among other themes. As a result, it has developed into one of the most well-known ls of all time. 

If you need to write a good essay about The Great Gatsby , look at our featured essay examples below. 

1. The Great Gatsby – Really Great by Grace Nguyen

2. five reasons ‘gatsby’ is the great american novel by deirdre donahue, 3. “the great gatsby” color analysis by kurt medina, 4.  in defense of plot: an analysis of the tension in the great gatsby by aatif rashid.

  • 5. ​​Behind The Great Gatsby by William Peace

Top Writing Prompts on Essays about The Great Gatsby

1. how does the novel manifest the american dream, 2. the story behind the title, 3. compare and contrast, 4. how is new york city portrayed, 5. the great gatsby’s legacy, 6. the theme of race, 7. the theme of social class.

“Gatsby is the prime example of a person disregarding whatever morals he might have had, in order to pursue Daisy, his own personal American Dream. Consequently, his actions were reprehensible, not great. Gatsby also showed himself to be a generally dishonest person. Daisy

was married to a man named Tom. By trying to win her affections Gatsby is, in turn, adamantly trying to get Daisy to cheat on her husband.”

Nguyen writes about the novel’s titular character and how he changed himself so much for one person. This would be admirable if not because he was most enamored with Daisy’s rich life rather than her shallow character. From a working-class background, Gatsby acquired massive amounts of wealth through illegal means to match Daisy’s life, letting go of his morals to achieve his goals. In the end, Nguyen writes that Gatsby dies due to his deception. 

“One reason: It offers complicated characters who can be interpreted in fresh ways for new readers. Is Nick in love with Gatsby, as Greg Olear theorized on Salon? Could Gatsby — the other, the outsider — actually be a black man? Often dismissed as a selfish ditz, is Daisy victimized by a society that offers her no career path except marriage to big bucks?”

Donahue enumerates reasons for which The Great Gatsby is so highly regarded and considered the “great American novel.” These include an “American Dream”-type story, complex and exciting language, and most importantly, the unbelievable love story of Gatsby and Daisy. The millionaire is not motivated by greed but by love; however, he is in love with the idea of Daisy and the past in general rather than Daisy herself. 

“These colors connect the reader to the novel by making him see and feel the actual events and emotions a character has and not only an imaginative image. Gatsby’s example, which is full of lines rich of color imagery, makes the reader feel what he feels; sense what he senses; and try to be what he is. Gatsby’s figure is greatly shaped by this color imagery, validating and supporting the title of the book, colors show how great The Great Gatsby was.”

In his essay, Medina explains how Fitzgerald uses color symbolism to progress the plot and characters, using quotes from the novel as sources. For example, yellow represents Gatsby’s wealth, green symbolizes his greed and jealousy, and white symbolizes the pure, innocent idea he has of Daisy. Medina believes that these colors help readers connect more to the characters, making them feel what they feel and identify with them. 

“The central tension and conflict in the novel is not just whether Daisy will chose Gatsby or Tom but whether Nick will come to sympathize with Gatsby or not. And with this line, it’s clear that Nick does indeed sympathize with Gatsby. He realizes that old money Daisy and Tom are rotten, and that Gatsby is worth more than them. Human sympathy, thus, becomes more expansive than Nick had previously thought.”

Rashid starts off his essay by summarizing The Great Gatsby, then reveals how much of an impact tension has on the novel. Rather than the tension between Gatsby and Daisy, he believes that the tension lies in the extent to which Nick’s sympathy goes. He sympathizes greatly, going so far as to help invite people to Gatsby’s funeral (barely anyone comes, however). Rashid says this is emblematic of the “larger failures of society.”

5. ​​ Behind The Great Gatsby by William Peace

“Drawing on his own personal experience, Fitzgerald specialises in drawing characters who yearn to break into the ranks of the rich and powerful. Through his vivid depiction of the Wilsons, the unhappily married couple who run the gas station in Ash Valley, Fitzgerald captures the sense of life literally passing them by.”

Peace’s essay explores the background of Fitzgerald, the novel’s author, and how it inspired him to write it. He joined the army, fell in love with another wealthy woman named Zelda Sayre, and proposed to her; however, she rejected him, and he fell into despair. However, his later success led Zelda to accept him. Nevertheless, their relationship was rocky, as they struggled to sustain their extravagant lifestyle. Peace writes that the story, particularly the character of Daisy, is based on this period in his life. 

A significant reason for the novel’s status today is its reflection of the“American Dream” many desperately wish to achieve. Explain exactly what the American dream is and how it is represented in The Great Gatsby , particularly in the character of Gatsby. 

The title refers to Gatsby as “great”; the question is, is he truly deserving of this title? Analyze the character of Jay Gatsby, citing quotes from the novel and online sources, and determine whether you believe he is indeed “great” or not. Be sure to justify your response correctly; there is no wrong answer as long as it is well-supported. 

For your essay, compare and contrast any two characters from the novel. How are they similar? How are they different? What is their fate at the end of the story? Answer these questions in your essay and cite text evidence when analyzing a character. 

The Great Gatsby has also gained much notoriety due to its portrayal of New York City. Analyze the setting of the story and the way it is described- what is he trying to say about the city and its way of life? Compare Fitzgerald’s vision of the city to how it is seen today. 

The novel has left a longstanding impression on American literature and the world, having been adapted countless times. Write about why the novel has become a classic and how its legacy can be seen today in film, literature, television, art, and pop culture. What exactly has been its impact on society? Delve into this question in your essay to create an exciting piece of writing.

Being set in the 1920s, when racism was rife in society, The Great Gatsby is littered with racial prejudice. Discuss the presence of racism, particularly against Jewish people and African-Americans. Which characters show it? Who is the racism being subjected to? Answer these questions in your essay and use quotes to support your arguments.

Essays about The Great Gatsby

The theme of social class is prevalent in the novel. Write about how Fitzgerald views the social hierarchy of the 1920s based on the novel. Keep in mind the author’s background when writing; the book is primarily based on his own experiences. 

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead. If you’re stuck picking your next essay topic, check out our guide on how to write an essay about diversity .

how to write a great gatsby essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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It is not easy to create an essay about Gatsby, I confirm this, and I am going to share my experience with my readers. If you are required to make the great Gatsby essay, this guide will be helpful. I am a student, so I understand you well how you feel: you know about the assignment and cannot understand how to start. Yes, I was in your shoes and you should feel free to use my experience, and I hope that you will spend less time on your work than I did. I recommend reading the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald . Yes, you may say that you watched a movie but I assure you that it is different. It is great if you watched a famous movie about Gatsby with a great actor Leonardo DiCaprio but try to read the book! Believe me, it is a big difference between the book and movie as in the book, you can find much more details and descriptions that are skipped in the movie. Make sure you have received all detailed instructions from your teacher. I didn't think it is so important until I started to work on my essay and got some questions so I spent a lot of time trying to understand what to do. Eventually, I lost my hope, and I accidentally opened the requirements given by my teacher and found answers to all the questions I had. Funny, isn't it?  

How to Start the Great Gatsby Essay?

How to start an essay ? I guess this is the most popular question students have after they get this assignment and as I already mentioned before, your first step is to read the book. I suggest taking a pencil and paper and taking some notes during reading. It will help you to structurize everything better, plus you will be able to find some citations to use in your future essay much easier. At the beginning of your work, you have to make a good plan. Yes, like the most of the students, I hate planning, but they say it is the only way to fulfill the assignment within a deadline. So, count how many days you have, and make your own detailed plan of writing. Needless to say, every student may have their individual plan depending on their skills. It is my own plan:  

  • Reading a book (with notes) - 2 days
  • Choosing a good topic and brainstorming all my ideas - 1 day
  • Writing my work (approximately 1000 word essay ) - 3 days
  • Proofreading the finished paper - 1 day.

You can count easily - I spent around a week to create my own document. I spent more days because I lost a lot of time trying to find answers to questions that were just in my hands! It means you will need about 8-10 days to create a great work. I know some students practice writing their academic papers on the last night, and this is a very bad idea. All you can get is just a low grade.

Tips on Selecting the Great Gatsby Essay Topics

It is great when your teacher provides you with a list of interesting themes to write your great Gatsby essay. Sometimes, students have to choose their own topics. I appeared in the second situation, and I had to surf the Internet to find the great Gatsby essay topics. I found around 10 topics that turned my attention, and later selected one. Here is the list:

  • Was Gatsby in love with Daisy or he was deeply in love only with an idea of her?
  • In what ways Jay Gatsby is great. Does he deserve to be called great?
  • Symbolism in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel “The Great Gatsby”.
  • A movie based on the book The Great Gatsby.
  • American dream essay in the novel The Great Gatsby.
  • How the writer shows the contrast between poor and rich?
  • The idea of the American Dream in Fitzgerald's novel.
  • Who can be blamed for the death of Gatsby?
  • The concept of happiness and wealth in The Great Gatsby.
  • Does love mean something in The Great Gatsby?

Hints on Creating a Successful Paper Without a Headache

From my own experience, it is not so hard to structure your work properly; these are the main steps I took:

  • I divided my work into three main paragraphs: the introduction, main part, and conclusion;
  • I used essay transition words to tie together paragraphs of my paper;
  • I wrote a detailed outline of the future document. At the start, it seemed to me just a waste of time, but it was helpful!
  • When I have finished the paper, I proofread it thoroughly to find mistakes. If honestly, I am not strong in grammar, so I used Grammarly software to check and correct errors.

How to Find the Great Gatsby Essay Examples?

When you are going to write a paper, reading successful examples can help you to find your own ideas and thoughts on how to create your paper. I spent some time searching the great Gatsby essay examples on the Internet and I did find some good examples that turned my attention. It is a sample I want to share with my readers. F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, The Great Gatsby shows us the American dream from different perspectives. We meet Jay Gatsby - a man who follows his dream too hard and is unable to understand his life of riches is false. In the novel, the author shows to us how crazy the desire of power and wealth is, how Jay destroys himself. Jay Gatsby truly believes his money makes him great. The man believes he could get anything he wants with his money. Gatsby even tries to fix his failures from the past with it. Gatsby tries to “buy” the love of Daisy who is obsessed with wealth and power just like him. Gatsby attempts to get anything to satisfy his desires, but he can't find happiness in his money. Gatsby loses the sense of his life. This is true - if a human can't reach happiness, the whole life seems boring and empty. Jay Gatsby's fate eventually was destroyed by money and power he always wished for. This story shows us the Jazz Age period in the United States, and the author portrayed all events and characters with detail and elaboration. Nick Carraway who just moved to New York, becomes neighbors with mysterious and rich Jay Gatsby who grabs readers' attention from the beginning. With Daisy Buchanan character, Fitzgerald shows us people of that time were seeking the American dream. Daisy cheats her husband with rich Gatsby because she loves money and luxury things. This behavior evokes negative emotions in readers and gives a lot of food for thoughts if to try to compare modern Americans and their values with those described in the book. Fitzgerald defines the American dream as a strong desire for imperialism and individualism. Though this dream is distorted, it's like Jay's dream to be with Daisy who betrays her lovely husband just because of her desire for money, luxury, and splendor. With this novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to create something extraordinary but simple. The book grabs your attention from the beginning and keeps in tension until the end. We don't like Daisy, Gatsby or even Nick but we are deeply involved in the book because the author succeeds to grab readers' attention. He showed us people can be so much empty and lonely that they are unable to find their dream and they even push it away when they finally move to it. Such a short story, but it's full of dreams and desires. I truly hope my experience was helpful. Writing is hard work, and it is worth the result. Feel free to use my advice or delegate this essay to StudyCrumb  to get a high grade!  

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Daniel Howard is an Essay Writing guru. He helps students create essays that will strike a chord with the readers.

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83 The Great Gatsby : Best Topics and Examples

Looking for some creative titles for The Great Gatsby essay? There are many themes to explore about this novel. We offer you The Great Gatsby essay examples about symbolism, character analysis, the style of the novel, and many other topics.

📙 The Great Gatsby – Essay Writing Tips

🏆 the great gatsby essay titles – top 15, 🍸 catchy essay topics for the great gatsby, ❓ great gatsby essay questions, 🎁 other the great gatsby essay titles.

The Great Gatsby, the masterpiece written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, will help you dive into the Roaring Twenties’ wealth atmosphere. This is a story of a millionaire Jay Gatsby and his passion for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan

Your professor may ask you to analyze topics such as decadence, money, American Dream, or symbolism in your The Great Gatsby Essay. But what if you have no idea what to write? Well, below, you can find some tips and essay samples that you may use to compose your papers

Tip #1. Analyze symbolism in The Great Gatsby

First, let’s define what symbolism is. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, symbolism is “practice of using symbols, especially by investing things with a symbolic meaning or by expressing the invisible or intangible using visible or sensuous representations.” The Great Gatsby story is full of symbols. And here are just two examples of them:

  • The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg painted on a billboard in the Valley of Ashes. You can find a lot of The Great Gatsby essay samples that draw the conclusion that Eckleburg represents God. However, let’s ask a few more questions. Why do these eyes have no mouth or arms, or legs? Does this mean that Eckleburg can only watch people transgressions without any ability to punish them as a God-like entity? Does this billboard mean anything?
  • Use of color in Fitzgerald’s story. If you carefully read the novel, you might notice the use of a few colors throughout the book. They are green, gray, gold, and yellow. Think, what do these colors can symbolize and represent these ideas in your paper.

Tip #2. Think about point of view in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is written in the first-person point of view. Nick Carraway, one of the main characters, tells us about the life and thoughts of Gatsby. In your writing, you can imagine how different the novel would be if it were told in the third-person point of view.

You also can provide some examples if the story was told from Gatsby’s perspective.

Tip #3. Assess how the book relates to the American Dream

If you look through the vast majority The Great Gatsby essay titles, you can find out plenty of samples that address the validity of high society or the social class divide. Gatsby had achieved the American Dream by building his wealth. However, he’s still not satisfied with the shallowness of the upper class and wants something more.

In your paper, you can argue why does one can never attain the American Dream, and why dreamers always want more.

Tip #4. Analyze the characters and their relations

Fitzgerald put each character into the novel for a particular reason. And your job is to analyze what they represent and why they are in the story. For example, Tom represents evil, while Daisy represents innocence. Another aspect you should examine is relationships between Daisy and Gatsby, Tom and Daisy, Nick and Gatsby.

Tip #5. Examine the tone of the novel

When we talk about the tone of the story, we mean how the author describes the events and characters. In your paper, decide what the tone of the novel is and analyze how it affects the readers’ attitude to characters and events.

Now, check The Great Gatsby essay examples below and use the acquired ideas to write your own paper!

  • Fitzgerald’s American Dream in The Great Gatsby & Winter Dreams To my mind, Winter Dream is a perfect example of the American Dream, since the main hero, Dexter, implemented each point of it, he was persistent and very hard-working, he was a very sensible and […]
  • The Great Gatsby Reflection Paper Throughout the novel the major character Nick who was the narrator managed to bring out the main themes of the novel as well as developing other characters.
  • The Great Gatsby: Analysis and Feminist Critique The feminist critique is an aspect that seeks to explore the topic of men domination in the social, economic, and political sectors.
  • The Great Gatsby All these characteristics of America during 1920 are evident and inherent in the main character, Jay Gatsby, in the novel The Great Gatsby. This is one of the themes in the novel The Great Gatsby.
  • Fairy Tale Traits in The Great Gatsby Basing on the several evident parameters, for instance, the character traits, the behavior of prince and princess, and gender distinctions amongst others, Fitzgerald’s masterwork stands out as a variation and sophisticated version of the fairy […]
  • The Idea of Love in The Great Gatsby and the Parallels or Contrasts That Can Be Drawn With the Presentation of Love in The Catcher in the Rye Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Jerome Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, it is possible to state that the notion of love is presented there similarly even though the texts are absolutely different and […]
  • Jay Gatsby and Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’: Comparative Valjean’s life contains a series of misfortunes in the sense that he has to hide his true identity. Most of the people in his life were there just for convenience and for the fact that […]
  • Jay Gatsby & Gean Valjean: Characters Comparison This essay compares and contrasts the characters of Gatsby and Jean Valjean in the Les Miserable novels and films. Gatsby strikes the readers as a na ve and lovesick individual though his character is negative.
  • Jay Gatsby & Eponine From Les Miserables: Compare & Contrast Gatsby is the main character in the book “The Great Gatsby,” while Eponine is one of the characters in the book “Les Miserables”.
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald & His American Dream In the novel “Tender is the Night,” Fitzgerald describes the society in Riviera where he and his family had moved to live after his misfortune of late inheritance.
  • Tom and Gatsby: Compare and Contrast Essay In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald pays attention to the relationships between both Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan and Daisy Buchanan. Scott Fitzgerald’s book is mainly focused on the relationship of Daisy with Gatsby and Tom, […]
  • Why is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby a Satire? Another aspect of satire in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the wealth associated with Gatsby, as the reader observes in chapter two.
  • Female Characters in A Streetcar Named Desire & The Great Gatsby: Comparative It can be seen in the case of Stella and Daisy wherein in their pursuit of what they think is their “ideal” love, they are, in fact, pursuing nothing more than a false ideal that […]
  • Daisy Buchanan: “I Did Love Him Once, but I Loved You, Too” Another scene shows Daisy’s immoral behavior when she is in the room with Gatsby, Jordan, and Nick. This view shows Daisy’s lustful side in that she pushes Jordan to do the same and is out […]
  • Time as a Theme in The Great Gatsby The embodiment of these negative aspects comes in the form of Gatsby and his life, which in the end is seen as hollow and empty, just as the morals and values of the characters seen […]
  • Babylon Revisited & The Great Gatsby: Motifs & Themes When he pleads his case to the guardians of Honoria, his sister-in-law Marion, and her husband, he continually evades his escapades of the past and recounts his hard work and sincerity of the present.
  • The American Dream in The Great Gatsby After spending some time in this neighborhood, Nick finally attends Gatsby’s exuberant parties only to realize that Gatsby organizes these parties to impress Daisy, Nick’s cousin, and wife to Tom.
  • The Ethicality of an Action Jay Gatsby As well, an action is “wrong” if it results in the opposite of happiness to the people. Mill’s utilitarian theory can be used to assess the ethically of Jay Gatsby’s action, as presented in the […]
  • Gatsby & Jean Valjean He is a mysterious person, and no one exactly knows his origins and the ways he used to acquire his fortune.
  • Gatsby & Nick in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is a novel of vibrant characters, and paradox is one of the main themes of the book. Even though Daisy and Tom are married, Nick agrees to help Gatsby be with the […]
  • ‘The Great Gatsby’: Tom and Blanche Like Tom, Blanche in the book of Street Car Named Desire, is loyal to her sister who is the only member of her family that we come across.
  • The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald In the novel, the fictional village of West Egg is perhaps one of the key items that symbolize the life of the new millionaires in the city.
  • Silver & Gold: Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Although the color palette presented in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is rich, the problem of differing social status is most vividly described in the novel through the use of golden and silver colors that stand […]
  • Nick as the Narrator in The Great Gatsby Therefore, his connection with the Gatsby’s story is that he is depended upon to serve as the mouthpiece of the older generation as he metaphorically transcends through time to retell the Great Gatsby tale accurately […]
  • The Dilemmas of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby is a story of a young man in the early twentieth century who seems to know what he wants in the way of that dream and what to do to achieve it.
  • Political Satire in American Literature Scott Fitzgerald was one of the more famous satirists of the time, particularly in his production of the work The Great Gatsby.
  • The Great Gatsby’ by Scott Fitzgerald Literature Analysis This is one of the details that can be identified. This is one of the issues that can be singled out.
  • ‘The Great Gatsby’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ Literature Comparison Stella is a devoted wife struggling to make her marriage work, even though her husband Stanley, subjects her to a lot of pain and suffering.
  • American Culture in the Novel “The Great Gatsby” In The Great Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald documents these changes through an in-depth exploration of cultural changes such as the rise in consumerism, materialism, greed for wealth, and the culture of loosening morals in the 1920s […]
  • The Great Gatsby and Winter Dreams by Scott Fitzgerald In this analysis, the researcher will try to confirm the argument that the Great Gatsby was a continuation of the Winter Dreams.
  • “The Great Gatsby” Film by Baz Luhrmann The Great Gatsby is a film that stars Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan, and the Southern Belle Daisy. The influence of the past comes out throughout the course of the film.
  • Daisy’s Character Study in “The Great Gatsby” The argument is that the author attempts to describe her as a pure and innocent female to ensure that the reader understands the perspective of Jay, but particular aspects of her true identity are revealed […]
  • Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” Jay Gatsby’s tragic flaw is related to his na ve way of thinking that implies his belief in the ability to buy true feelings.
  • “The Great Gatsby” Novel by Francis Scott Fitzgerald However, what the reader should acknowledge is that the author manages to present a wholesome and clear image of the issues and occurrences that defined the United States throughout the 1920s.
  • Alvarez’ “In the Time of the Butterflies” & Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” The shallowness, the injustice, the strive for wealth and power, brutality, and greed are the common themes, developed and explored in the books by Julia Alvarez “In the Time of The Butterflies” and by F.
  • Jay Gatsby, Jean Valjean and Henry Fleming: The Compare and Contrast Analyses of the Characters The way the characters of the main protagonists are revealed in the novel is one of the most important things in every piece of literature.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald: Betrayal, Romance, Social Politics and Feminism This work seeks to outline the role of women in the development of the plot of the book and in relation to the social issues affecting women in contemporary society.
  • First-Person Narrative in Bowen’s ”The Demon Lover,” Updike’s ”A&P,” Fitzgerald’s ”The Great Gatsby” In this work, the unworked, repressed experience of the First World War is personified and embodied in the image of the ghost of a person who died in this war.
  • First-Person Narrative in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” Joyce’s “The Boarding House,” Bowen’s “The Demon Lover” In Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Joyce’s short story “The Boarding House,” and the Scottish poem The Demon Lover, the first-person narrative is used differently to achieve the authors’ objectives and create a comprehensive picture of […]
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Baz Luhrmann The filmmakers never stop depicting Gatsby’s wealth and his otherness. He throws money around and he is a topic of heated debates in the society.
  • What Money Cannot Buy: ‘The Great Gatsby’ Book by F. S. Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby is a book that unveils the instrumental role of the social aspect of life among people; which not only concentrates on the economic part of it.
  • Greene’s “Our Man in Havana” and “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald It is imperative to realize that the purpose of the paper is not to carry out a critical analysis of the plays but to carry out a comparison of the attributes in which they relate […]
  • Characters in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” The author presents challenges faced in the society as a result of the mixture racial and gender discrimination that a young black girl goes through in search of her dream and personal identity.
  • “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald Who will take care of the dead creatures seems not to be in Tom’s order of what to bother him and together with the wife is comfortable enjoying their wealth while the creatures are rotting […]
  • Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and the American Dream “The America Dream’ is a longstanding common belief of the American population that in the United States, people are free to realize the full potential of their labor and their talents and every person in […]
  • Novel Analysis: The Great Gatsby and Siddhartha Hesse’s Siddhartha seems complementary to The Great Gatsby as Brahman, the main role in Siddhartha, finds contentment in self-realization and not in money, sensuality, and love.
  • Jay Gatsby: The Great Fool or the Unfortunate Genius The main idea of the work is to show the unfairness of the fate of a poor young man who cannot marry the girl he loves.
  • The Corrupted American Dream and Its Significance in “The Great Gatsby” The development of the American dream and its impact on the society of the United States is a pertinent topic of discussion for various authors.
  • “The Great Gatsby Directed” by Baz Luhrmann This is due to the fact that the film is an indirect adaptation of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s book “The Great Gatsby”.
  • Women’s Role in “The Great Gatsby” by Fitzgerald Though the women in the novel are depicted as careless, treacherous, and selfish, the author uses them to underscore the power of the will to rebel against societal norms in pursuit of happiness.
  • The Clock as a Symbol in “The Great Gatsby” By incorporating metaphorical elements that allude to the fleeting nature of time, “the Great Gatsby” emphasizes the idea of the futility of life and the inescapability of the past and its mistakes.
  • “The Great Gatsby”: The American Dream in the Jazz Age The Jazz Age is a period in the history of the United States of America from the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression due to the remarkable popularity of […]
  • Analysis of the Shirt Scene in “The Great Gatsby” Film Although the shirts mean nothing to Gatsby without Daisy, the audience watches Gatsby’s facial expression display a great deal of empathy and love whenever Daisy seems distressed, especially in this scene when she begins to […]
  • What Destroyed Gatsby’s Dreams in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald?
  • How Far Does “The Great Gatsby” Demonstrate a View of the American Dream?
  • What Is a Good Thesis Statement for“The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Is “The Great Gatsby” Main Message?
  • Is “The Great Gatsby” a Real Story?
  • How “The Great Gatsby” Is a Replica of America?
  • Why Is “The Great Gatsby” So Famous?
  • What Are the Four Major Themes in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Does “The Great Gatsby” Explore the Ideas of Illusion Versus Reality?
  • How Does “The Great Gatsby” Compare to the Life of Fitzgerald?
  • What Going From West to East Meant for the Characters in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald?
  • How Does “The Great Gatsby” Portray the Death of the American Dream?
  • How Does Tom Buchanan Represent 1920’s Society in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How and Why Does F. Scott Fitzgerald Use Nick Carraway as His Narrator of “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How New Money and Women Are Marginalized in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Part Does Social Class Play in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Makes “The Great Gatsby” a Classic?
  • Does Fitzgerald Condemn the American Dream in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Does the Green Light Symbolize in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Women Are Portrayed in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Techniques Does Fitzgerald Use to Convey the Main Themes in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • Why Did Fitzgerald Write “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Does Nick Carraway Narrate “The Great Gatsby”?
  • What Is “The Great Gatsby” Actually About?
  • What Social Problems Are Exposed in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Multiple Incidents Develop the Plot Line in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • Does Money Buy Love in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • How Has Fitzgerald Used Cars as a Motif in “The Great Gatsby”?
  • Is “The Great Gatsby” Still Relevant Today?
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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20 The Great Gatsby Essay Topics

Hailed as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, The Great Gatsby is a story that explores love, betrayal, and the pursuit of the American dream in the 1920s.

If you have been asked to write an essay on this classic novel, you might be a little nervous trying to figure out what you should include. However, don’t worry! This guide will walk you through the process of writing an excellent Gatsby essay and provide 20 The Great Gatsby essay topic ideas.

Essay Writing Essentials

Before you can write an essay on The Great Gatsby, you need to understand the basics of essay writing. This includes developing a clear thesis, supporting your claims with evidence from the book, and crafting a solid conclusion.

Writing a Thesis

A thesis statement details the overall point or argument you intend to make in the essay. Therefore, a thesis statement must be clear, specific, and arguable. A thesis statement will be best placed at the end of your first paragraph or as a way to wrap up your introduction if it is multiple paragraphs.

Some examples of well-written thesis statements for a The Great Gatsby include:

“While The Great Gatsby appears to be a novel about love, in reality, it is a scathing critique of the American dream.”

“Though Jay Gatsby is wealthy and well-liked, he is ultimately a tragic figure because he cannot escape his past.”

“The relationships in The Great Gatsby are all ultimately doomed because the characters are not honest with each other or themselves.”

Developing Supporting Claims for the Body

To support your thesis statement, you will need to include evidence from the novel in the form of quotes and analysis. It is vital that you choose passages that directly relate to your thesis and that you explain how these quotes support your argument.

One way to find quotes that support your thesis is to look for passages that seem particularly significant or interesting to you. Then, once you have a few potential quotes in mind, try to come up with a sentence or two explaining how the quote supports your argument. This will help you determine if the quote is actually relevant to your essay or if you need to keep looking.

It can also be helpful to go back to your list of potential thesis statements and look for quotes that could support each one. This way, you can get a sense of which quotes will be most beneficial for your essay before writing.

Crafting a Strong Conclusion

Your conclusion should briefly summarize the main points of your essay and reiterate your thesis statement. You might also want to leave the reader with something to think about or a call to action if you feel strongly about the issue you have been discussing.

A strong conclusion might look something like this:

“Though Gatsby’s pursuit of the American dream is ultimately fruitless, his efforts are nonetheless admirable. His willingness to fight for what he wants, even in the face of overwhelming odds, is something that we can all learn from.”

Citing and Formatting Essays About Books

In addition to using evidence from the novel to support your claims, you will also need to cite any sources you use in your essay. This includes any quotes or paraphrases from The Great Gatsby and any outside sources you might have used.

Citing Sources

When citing a quote from The Great Gatsby, you will need to include the page number in parentheses after the quote. For example:

“Daisy’s voice was sad ‘I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'” (10).

If you are paraphrasing or summarizing a passage from The Great Gatsby, you will just need to include the page number in parentheses after the paraphrase. For example:

Gatsby’s wealth is often seen as a symbol of his success, but it is also clear that money cannot buy happiness. (21)

If you cite an outside source, you will need to include both the author’s name and the page number (or, for sources that don’t use page numbers, the section or chapter number) in parentheses after the quote. For example:

“The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as a masterpiece of American fiction” (Baldwin 3).

Formatting an Essay About a Book

When formatting your essay, there are a few key things you need to keep in mind. First, all mentions of the book’s title need to be italicized or underlined. Second, your essay should have one-inch margins on all sides.

Your essay should also have a title page that includes the title of your essay, your name, and the name of your class. If you are writing a longer essay (5 or more pages), you may need to also include a header on each page. It’s best to speak with your instructor to clarify any specific formatting requirements for the assignment.

Now that you know how to write an essay on The Great Gatsby, you can start brainstorming potential topics for your paper. If you are having trouble, consider using or adapting one of the following topics.

  • How does Gatsby’s wealth (or lack thereof) impact his relationships?
  • How does Gatsby’s pursuit of the American dream ultimately fail?
  • What role do women play in The Great Gatsby?
  • How are the parties that Gatsby throws symbolic of his own emptiness?
  • How does Fitzgerald use symbolism to comment on the state of the American dream?
  • What role does fate play in The Great Gatsby?
  • Is Gatsby a tragic hero? If so, why?
  • How is The Great Gatsby an example of the “Lost Generation”?
  • What role does the past play in The Great Gatsby?
  • How do the relationships between men and women change throughout the novel?
  • How is The Great Gatsby a commentary on the class divisions in American society?
  • What role does morality play in The Great Gatsby?
  • How do the characters in The Great Gatsby represent different aspects of the American dream?
  • What role does money play in The Great Gatsby?
  • Is Gatsby a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
  • How is Nick Carraway’s role as narrator important to the novel?
  • How does Fitzgerald use setting to comment on the characters and events in The Great Gatsby?
  • What role do secrets play in The Great Gatsby?
  • How is The Great Gatsby a commentary on the corruption of the American dream?
  • What theme(s) are explored in The Great Gatsby?

These topics should provide any student assigned an essay on The Great Gatsby with plenty to write about. If you need further help, consider using or adapting one of these topics for your own paper.

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How to Write a Motif Essay on "The Great Gatsby"

Laura leddy turner.

A well-written motif essay for

A motif is a recurring image, word, object or phrase that helps tie together different parts, such as subplots, in a literary work. A motif essay explains the meaning behind a selected motif and how the author used the motif to drive a specific message of the work. In his novel “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald used a variety of motifs to shape his story into a social commentary on 1920s America and the distinctly different ways it was experienced by those in the lower, middle and upper classes. A successful motif essay for "The Great Gatsby" will identify and analyze a motif, offer a theory for the motif’s message, prove that its message remains consistent throughout the book, and consider why Fitzgerald chose to convey that particular message.

Explore this article

  • Choosing the Motif
  • Developing and Analyzing the Motif
  • Fitzgerald's Motive for Using Motifs
  • Defending the Motif

1 Choosing the Motif

One method for identifying a strong motif in "The Great Gatsby" is to reflect on the story -- with the book closed. What are the first things that come to mind about the setting, the plot and the characters, including Gatsby himself? Making a list of these items without looking through the book allows the writer of the essay to recognize which elements of the story made the most impact. These elements can potentially be developed into motifs. For example, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock often creates a lasting visual image for readers of "The Great Gatsby." From the element of the green light, the writer may develop an essay based on color or light as a motif.

2 Developing and Analyzing the Motif

Once the writer has put together a list of potential motifs, research begins in the book for references to those motifs. While perusing the book, the writer may discover other potential motifs to add to the list. The writer should note where the motifs have been used and in what context. Motifs may be used to suggest a mood, signal an underlying personality trait shared by more than one character, or foreshadow similar outcomes to different situations. Once consistent examples of several motifs have been found, the writer should choose one motif to develop. Analyze the motif for variables that could indicate different meanings or messages. If, for example, color has been chosen as a motif for “The Great Gatsby," the essay should indicate the meanings suggested by various colors. If light were chosen as a motif, the type and degree of light as well as absence of light should be analyzed for meaning.

3 Fitzgerald's Motive for Using Motifs

Fitzgerald’s frequent use of motifs and symbolism in “The Great Gatsby” resulted in memorable prose, but also served to add subtlety to his statements about life in “The Jazz Age,” a term Fitzgerald coined to reference the 1920s. At the time of the novel’s writing, the author was part of the same high society whose flaws he was intent on exposing in the book. A motif essay on "The Great Gatsby" should consider that motifs would likely be used to hint at those negative elements within New York’s upper class which Fitzgerald chose not to point a direct finger at. Motifs may be used to allude to greed, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, selfishness, alcoholism and elitism.

4 Defending the Motif

Once the motif has been analyzed and a theory developed by the writer for the motif’s message, the essay must provide evidence to substantiate the theory. If, for example, the writer theorizes that light represents hope in "The Great Gatsby," an example from the text in which lack of light represents hopelessness should be included in the essay. The writer also should consider drawing upon the culture of the 1920s and Fitzgerald’s personal life to provide supporting evidence for the motif’s message. "The Great Gatsby" is considered to be, at least in part, autobiographical, and Fitzgerald himself once said of the character Jay Gatsby, “… he started out as a man I knew and then changed into myself.”

  • 1 The Literature Network: F. Scott Fitzgerald

About the Author

Laura Leddy Turner began her writing career in 1976. She has worked in the newspaper industry as an illustrator, columnist, staff writer and copy editor, including with Gannett and the Asbury Park Press. Turner holds a B.A. in literature and English from Ramapo College of New Jersey, with postgraduate coursework in business law.

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  1. Essays on The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby Essay Topic Examples. Whether you want to analyze the American Dream, compare and contrast characters, vividly describe settings and characters, persuade readers with your viewpoints, or share personal experiences related to the story, these essay ideas provide a diverse perspective on the themes and complexities within the book.

  2. The Great Gatsby: Suggested Essay Topics

    Suggested Essay Topics. 1. In what sense is The Great Gatsby an autobiographical novel? Does Fitzgerald write more of himself into the character of Nick or the character of Gatsby, or are the author's qualities found in both characters? 2.

  3. The Great Gatsby: Mini Essays

    As a man, he dreams of Daisy, and for a while he wins her, too. In a world without a moral center, in which attempting to fulfill one's dreams is like rowing a boat against the current, Gatsby's power to dream lifts him above the meaningless and amoral pleasure-seeking of New York society. In Nick's view, Gatsby's capacity to dream ...

  4. Writing Lessons From Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'

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  5. Best Great Gatsby Character Analysis

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  6. 88 Perfect Essay Topics on The Great Gatsby

    Welcome to The Great Gatsby Essay Topics page prepared by our editorial team! Here you'll find a large collection of essay ideas on the novel! Literary analysis, themes, characters, & more. Get inspired to write your own paper! We will write a custom essay specifically. for you for only 11.00 9.35/page.

  7. How to Write an Essay on The Great Gatsby

    About. This How to Write an Essay about The Great Gatsby document provides you with a step- by-step guide to drafting your essay, valuable contextual information on what to include in your essay ...

  8. How to Write a Compare/Contrast Essay for The Great Gatsby

    Make sure to address your larger argument in each body paragraph as you draw out the similarities and differences between the two characters. Don't get caught in the weeds as you tease out the many differences and similarities in each character pair. Always link back to the bigger picture.

  9. PDF AP English III Great Gatsby Essay Prompts

    The Great Gatsby AP Essay Prompts Choose one of the essay prompts below. Write a thoughtful, focused, and organized response. Your essay should focus on the novel as evidence— this means quoting directly from the novel at least twice. Your essay will be graded using the AP style rubric (available for viewing on my website) on how well

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  12. The Great Gatsby Sample Essay

    This sample essay demonstrates the full range of A-level skills needed to meet the assessment objectives at the highest level. "They're a rotten crowd." I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together." How does Fitzgerald convey a "rotten crowd" in The Great Gatsby and to what effect?

  13. Essays About The Great Gatsby: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

    The Great Gatsby is a classic American tale; if you are writing essays about The Great Gatsby, find interesting essay examples and writing prompts in our guide. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925) revolves around a young man named Nick Carraway and his interactions with his New York neighbors, including the mysterious millionaire ...

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  23. How to Write a Motif Essay on "The Great Gatsby"

    A motif is a recurring image, word, object or phrase that helps tie together different parts, such as subplots, in a literary work. A motif essay explains the meaning behind a selected motif and how the author used the motif to drive a specific message of the work. In his novel "The Great Gatsby," ...

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    understand why it's worth writing that essay. A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive, and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves.