Study Questions: The Great Gatsby
1. What is the point of view in this novel? How would you characterize the narrative voice?
2. Nick's story is told in retrospect. What do we know about his attitude toward Gatsby in the very first chapter?
3. Describe Nick's past. What is important about the information he gives us?
4. What are the major differences between East Egg and West Egg?
5. Write brief character analyses of Tom Buchanan, Daisy Buchanan, and Jordan Baker.
6. Besides the obvious conflict between Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom, what other conflicts do you see in the novel?
7. In what way(s) is the theme of "innocence" illustrated in the novel?
8. Conversely, how does Fitzgerald illustrate the opposite of innocence: experience?
9. What is the significance of the "valley of ashes"?
10. What is the significance of "the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg"?
11. What "type" of woman is Myrtle Wilson? Be specific, and find examples from the text to support your answer.
12. At one point in the novel Nick writes: "I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life" (40). What do you think he means?
13. What is odd about Gatsby's parties?
14. What is so fascinating about Gatsby? In what ways does he exemplify the "American Dream"?
15. Is there anything tragic about Gatsby?
16. Is there anything tragic about any of the other characters?
17. On page 86, Nick says to Gatsby: "Your place looks like the world's fair." What is significant about this statement? Beyond the bright gaudiness that the statement implies, what else might Nick mean?
18. On page 101 Nick writes: "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams--not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion." What does he mean?
19. Compare the homes of Gatsby, Nick, the Buchanans, and the Wilsons. How does each relate to the personality of its owners?
20. What is significant about Gatsby's reply to the "ambitious young reporter" on p.103? What does this tell you about Gatsby?
21. Why does Fitzgerald delay revealing Gatsby's true identity until midway through the novel?
22. Look up the term "monomaniac." Is Gatsby a monomaniac? Why or why not?
23. What does Dan Cody represent to Gatsby? In what way is Cody important to Gatsby's future?
24. Why is Daisy "appalled by West Egg"? (see pp. 113-114) Go beyond the obvious in responding to this question
25. Talk about the significance of Gatsby's remark to Nick: "Can't repeat the past? Why of course you can!"
26. Nick guesses that in pursuing Daisy, Gatsby is trying to recover something from his past (116-117). What is he trying to recover?
27. Reread page 118. What do you think Nick is reminded of? What exactly is the "elusive rhythm," the "fragment of lost words"?
28. Why does Gatsby fire his servants and quit throwing parties?
29. Why don't things work out between Daisy and Gatsby? (One obvious reason is the death of Myrtle--what are the less obvious, "deeper" reasons?)
30. Explain the significance of Nick's remembering, when offered a drink, "'that today's my birthday.' I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous menacing road of a new decade" (142-143).
31. Why does Nick despise Gatsby? On the other hand, why does Nick admire Gatsby?
32. Explain the significance of Daisy and Tom's dinner of cold fried chicken and ale (not the food itself, but the situation).
33. "'Jay Gatsby' had broken up like glass against Tom's hard malice" (155). Why?
34. Explain the significance of the following passage: "Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves . . ." (157)
35. Why is Nick "on Gatsby's side" at the end of the novel?
36. What famous American does Gatsby's SCHEDULE and "General Resolves" (181) bring to mind?
37. Why does Nick say that his story is a story about the West?
38. In what ways is The Great Gatsby a story about America?