Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Research and report on the social history of “the jazz age,” the period in America between 1919 and 1929.

2. Research and report on the expatriate literary scene in Paris during the same period, 1919-1929. One good source is Ernest Hemingway’s collection of autobiographical vignettes, A Moveable Feast, in which such writers as Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein appear as characters.

3. Read a story or novel by Ernest Hemingway and compare it to a Fitzgerald story or novel written at the same time. What are the stylistic differences? How does each author’s style reflect his choice of subject material?

4. Honesty is an important theme in The Great Gatsby. At the end of chapter 3, Nick says of himself, “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” Can you cite examples from the text to support his self-assessment? How would Nick define honesty? Do any of the other characters live up to Nick’s ideals of honesty? Choose three characters whom Nick considers dishonest and describe how their dishonesty manifests itself.

5. Nick generally portrays himself as an objective observer of Gatsby’s final summer. Is there any evidence that he is more dazzled by Gatsby’s way of life than he pretends? Consider his infatuation with Jordan, the seemingly inordinate amount of time he spends with Gatsby and the Buchanans, and the fact that he is writing about the summer’s events after they have ended in tragedy.

6. The plot of The Great Gatsby is structured around Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy Buchanan. While well-rounded as characters, the women in the novel (Daisy, Jordan, Myrtle Wilson) serve primarily as romantic foils for the male characters (Gatsby, Nick, Tom Buchanan), as flesh-and-blood incarnations-or distortions-of each man’s concept of the American dream. In general, however, Fitzgerald was a pioneer at portraying independent, intelligent female characters, and he is often credited with inventing the “flapper” of the 1920s. Read some of his early short stories in Flappers and Philosophers or The Basil and Josephine Stories, and examine the role of women in these stories.

7. The Great Gatsby is a book about images; Gatsby conceptualizes the perfect man and sets about molding himself into this ideal form. Late in his career, Fitzgerald worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood-capital of an industry whose images were targeted for mass consumption and whose stars often served as models for the American public. Read Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, or his Pat Hobby Stories, and compare their Hollywood setting to the setting of The Great Gatsby. How does a character’s environment help shape his or her self-image?