Understanding The Great Gatsby Theme Disillusionment

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1 Understanding The Great Gatsby Theme Disillusionment The Modernist era was a time of great disillusionment for many writers. Because of WWI and other tragic changes in society, they had lost faith in government, religion, and even culture. As a result, the theme of disillusionment pervades much of their work. To be disillusioned means that one must have once had an illusion, or a belief about something that turned out to be false. Once the person becomes disillusioned, he or she is forced to recognize the falsehood, even when it undermines his or her core belief about the world. In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway has illusions about Gatsby, about wealth, and about the carefree lifestyle, but as the novel progresses, he is forced to see that everything he believed about money and his friend are false. Ultimately, Nick finds himself in the same situation as many Modernist writers, seeing so much falsehood for what it is, but still yearning for truth. Find five quotes that show Nick s disappointment or disillusionment. Write the quotes with the page numbers on the left. On the right, explain how Nick has experienced this loss of faith. Quotes Explain 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

2 Now write a paragraph that discusses this theme of disillusionment. How does Nick s disillusionment and awakening mirror Fitzgerald s sense of disillusionment? Are the reasons for Nick s loss of faith similar to the reasons for the general loss of faith in American culture at the time the novel was written? Finally, write a one-sentence thesis statement that you could use to write a literary analysis essay on this topic.

3 Understanding The Great Gatsby Technique Symbolism A symbol is something that represents itself, but also represents something other than itself. For instance, in The Great Gatsby, the green light on Daisy s dock across the water represents itself, because it actually exists in the world of the novel. However, the green light also represents Gatsby s desire for Daisy, and for love in general. When we first see Gatsby, he is reaching through the fog towards the green light, which establishes his motivation. Even some other passages of the novel use the color green in this symbolic way. In addition, the green light traditionally means that one is authorized to proceed, as in traffic or business. Gatsby believes that because he has accomplished so much financially and socially that he has earned the green light to pursue Daisy, despite the fact that she s now married. While he does receive some of her attention, the truth is that his desires end up unsatisfied; the green light was a false signal. Ultimately, Gatsby ends up paying an enormous price for following his desires. Find five quotes that show green lights or green imagery. Write the quotes with the page numbers on the left. On the right, explain what the green symbolizes for Gatsby or other characters. 1) Quotes Effects 2) 3) 4) 5)

4 Now write a paragraph that discusses the green light. How does Gatsby get confusing signals from the people around his, especially from Daisy? In what way is he tricked into thinking that he has a green light when he really doesn t? Are any of the other characters frustrated by their own unsatisfied desires, and by the fact that no matter how hard they try to satisfy them, they only end up disappointed? Finally, write a one-sentence thesis statement that you could use to write a literary analysis essay on this topic.

5 Understanding The Great Gatsby Theme Violence Many readers are shocked by some of the violence in a novel which otherwise seems to be a kind of love story. What is especially disturbing to many is that much of the violence is directed towards women. Some critics have seen the men s mistreatment of women as a reaction to the growing women s rights movement of the time, when women were becoming more powerful through the suffrage movement as well as their involvement in prohibition. As the political power of women grew, so did their sexual power. Marriage was being redefined, with divorce becoming more prevalent than it had been, especially among the rich. Women began wearing more revealing clothing than the earlier generation, and media figures like Mae West exemplified the powerful sexual woman who controlled men on movie screens through her boldness and flirtatiousness. Some critics think that all of this female empowerment scared men so much, especially at the thought of their social dominance being challenged, that violence towards women began to appear in books and movies as a reaction. Find five quotes that show violence towards women in the novel. Write the quotes with the page numbers on the left. On the right, identify the real reasons behind the violence. Quotes Reasons 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

6 Now write a paragraph that discusses this theme of violence towards women. How does the author depict this violence? Does it seem as if the novel condones it or condemns it? Is it possible that there are larger social reasons for this violence? Finally, write a one-sentence thesis statement that you could use to write a literary analysis essay on this topic.

7 Understanding The Great Gatsby Theme Wealth One of the reasons Nick Carraway and many of the others characters are drawn to Gatsby is because of his lavish lifestyle, with its wild weekend parties and expensive cars and houses. Scores of freeloaders attend Gatsby s parties to share his wealth and extravagance, but only three people attend his funeral to mourn his death and discuss his pain. One of the issues that the novel raises is the real usefulness of wealth. For Gatsby, wealth brings him a great deal of companions, but never really brings the friendship or love that he needs. His wealth brings him lots of distractions, entertainment, and liquor, but never real happiness. Also, considering how so many people flock around Gatsby to experience a bit of his expensive lifestyle, the reader is forced to wonder if they ever understand that his money never seemed to satisfy his real needs. Find five quotes that deal with the issue of wealth either the desire for money or the use of it. Write the quotes with the page numbers on the left. On the right, identify the effects that wealth and money have on the characters in the novel. Quotes Effects 1) 2) 3) 4) 5)

8 Now write a paragraph that discusses the theme of wealth in the novel. What does the novel seem to say about wealth? Is having so much money inherently a bad thing or a good thing? Does the real value of money depend on how the characters use it? Does wealth sometimes hinder any character from reaching their goals, rather than helping? Finally, write a one-sentence thesis statement that you could use to write a literary analysis essay on this topic.

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