A List of the Great Gatsby Essay Topics
The Great Gatsby is one of those great all American tales. Written back in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Great Gatsby has gone down as one of the most important, popular, and often read books. There's a good chance that you'll have to read this essay as part of your college studies. The story centers around Jay Gatsby, a rich and eccentric millionaire, and his love for Daisy Buchanan.
It's no simple love story, however. The Great Gatsby explores numerous deep issues including idealism, gluttony, decadence, and social upheaval, all of which were important during the so-called Roaring Twenties. Due to its reflection of the times, many people consider it the quintessential novel of the 20's. Interestingly, the Great Gatsby didn't sell well during Fitzgerald's lifetime.
Anyways, here's a list of Great Great Gatsby Topics! Make sure you check with your professor to see if the topic is appropriate for your class!
- Why did the Great Gatsby sell poorly when it first came up but become recognized as a classic in the post World War II period.
- What do you think of Gatsby's view of the American Dream? How does this compare with your own view of the American Dream?
- Who is most responsible for Gatsby's death, and why?
- How would you describe the difference between East and West Egg? What roled does this difference play?
- In what ways did the Great Gatsby foreshadow the coming Great Depression?
- What role did wealth play in making people careless?
- Do you think Gatsby was truly great? Or was he more of a fool?
- How would you describe Gatsby's feelings for Daisy? Is it true love or something else?
- How important is the book's setting in New York to the story?
- How would you relate the materialism so frequently found in the story to society today?
- What is the Valley of Ashes? Is there any symbolism in the fact that Tom's mistress lives there?
- Is there a hypocrisy in the fact that Tom is having an affair, and yet is angry with his wife for having an affair?
- What is it about Daisy that makes her irresistible for Gatsby?
- What do you make of Gatsby's small funeral? Does it symbolize anything, if so what?
The Great Gatsby Essay Topics
1. Explain how the novel does or does not demonstrate the death of the American Dream. Is the main theme of Gatsby indeed “the withering American Dream”? What does the novel offer about American identity? (Reference the characteristics of the American Dream within the body of your paper.)
2. Explain how the novel demonstrates the characteristics of modernism.
3. Discuss whether or not Gatsby is a romantic hero in the modern era.
4. Discuss how the novel exemplifies the dehumanizing/corrupting nature of wealth (consider examining characters, plot, symbols, etc.). Consider doing a Marxist interpretation. Or, more generally, explain the theme of the corruption of people and society through an examination of characters in the novel who are corrupt.
5. Describe Fitzgerald’s satirical portrait of modern society using Gatsby’s parties as support.
6. Compare and contrast the homes of characters (consider Nick, Gatsby, Tom, and George/Myrtle Wilson). How does each home to (is a symbol for) its owner/renter (how does each home reflect the personality of its renter/owner)? Consider comparing and contrasting the characters, also focusing on their attitudes/ beliefs/values.
7. Argue who is/are the most admirable and/or despicable character(s) in the novel and why.
8. Compare and contrast the major female characters in the novel: , and Myrtle. How does each act towards men? What are their motivations/goals/interests/values? How are they treated by men (including the narrator/author)?
9. Show how Fitzgerald uses clothing (and the changing of costumes) to tell the reader more about the characters and/or express theme(s). Consider discussing colors, fabrics, etc.
10. Do a close reading of a passage of your choosing, explaining the passage in light of the entire novel. *Note: the passage must be approved by me first!
Example: In reference to Tom and Daisy, Nick remarks, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy; they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (180-181).Explain this passage in light of the entire novel.
11. Discuss Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism (this is a large topic that must be significantly narrowed – such as focusing on one symbol and analyzing it in detail - with a specific thesis). How does it function in the novel (consider discussing how it relates to theme, communicates information about characters, develops the plot, etc.)? Possible symbols to discuss include: colors, eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, clothing, cars, the green light, biblical allusions (God, Jesus, grail), characters’ houses, weather, water, music, celestial bodies (moon, stars, planets), nature’s bounty (flowers, shrubs, trees, fruit), etc.
12. Trace the development of the narrator, Nick Carraway – how does he change, and how are these changes significant (how do they relate to the themes of the novel)?
13. Discuss how an aspect of 1920s society appears to change throughout the novel.
14. Is what Gatsby feels for Daisy love, obsession, affection, or accumulation/objectification?What is Fitzgerald’s message here? Consider discussing whether or not Gatsby can really love, given his characteristics.
15. Who is the real person: Jay Gatsby or Jimmy Gatz? Does he become “the Platonic conception of himself”? What does that mean? Is it a peculiarly American phenomenon?
16. Discuss how The Great Gatsby is the quintessential American novel. What does it have to offer about the American identity and the American Dream?
17. Morally ambiguous characters—characters whose behavior discourages readers from identifying them as purely evil or purely good—are at the heart of many works of literature.Choose a character from the novel who is morally ambiguous and write an essay in which you explain how the character can be viewed as morally ambiguous and why his/her moral ambiguity is significant to the work as a whole.
18. Discuss the novel’s theme that the American Dream is corrupted by the desire for wealth. What does the novel and its theme offer about the American identity?
19. Discuss the novel’s theme that outward appearances can be deceptive. What does the novel and its theme offer about the American identity?
20. Create a topic of your own or alter one of the above topics. *You must have this topic approved by Ms. G before you begin working on your essay.