The Great Gatsby Discussion
Discussion Items • Characters • Setting • Plot • Theme • Mood/Structure • Fictional Technique • Historical Context • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s biography • Your Point of View
The Five Main Characters • Nick Carraway, Narrator • Tom Buchanan • Daisy Buchanan • Jordan Baker • Jay Gatsby
The Secondary Characters • Myrtle Wilson • George Wilson • Mr. McKee • Meyer Wolfshiem • Ewing Klipspringer • Owl Eyes • Henry C. Gatz
Nick Carraway • Representative of bourgeois middle class from the Midwest • Voice of reliability and common sense • He is “one of the few honest people I have ever known” (63) • He is honorable: “full of interior rules that act as brakes” on “his desires” (63-64)
Tom Buchanan • Old money • Football hero • Cruel, “hulking” • Predatory, without deep feelings, a womanizer • Racist, wanting the “Nordic race to be supreme” (18) • Simple, “there is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind” (131)
Daisy Fay Buchanan • Beautiful, exciting, thrilling • With “an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget” (13-14) • Romantic • Dependent • Weak • From Louisville, rich
Jordan Baker • Named for two cars of the period, the Jordan and the Baker • Enigmatic (puzzling) • Sporty, attractive • Dishonest • Girlhood friend of Daisy’s from Louisville • Now part of the corrupt East
Minor Characters Myrtle Wilson • Lower-class, vulgar • Tom’s lover • Married to George George Wilson • Owns garage in the Valley of Ashes • Dull, self-defeating • Married to Myrtle Mr. McKee • Myrtle’s friend • Photographer • Affected, no talent
Minor Characters Meyer Wolfshiem • Member of “Jewish Mafia” • Racial stereotype • Brains behind Gatsby’s business Ewing Klipspringer • Gatsby’s houseguest • Sponges off Gatsby • Does not attend funeral Owl Eyes • Comic drunk at the first party • Recognizes Gatsby’s books • Attends funeral Henry C. Gatz • Gatsby’s father • Honest • Naive
Questions At the end of the third paragraph of the novel, Nick claims, by implication, that he possesses "a sense of the fundamental decencies" (6). What do you understand him to mean by this phrase? Does Nick possess them? Are these decencies elsewhere illustrated in The Great Gatsby? Does Nick's "snobbishness" undercut his judgments? Why or why not? Give examples.
Questions Find three sentences in the novel that demonstrate Nick's changing view of the Buchanans and analyze these closely, explaining how they show Nick's feelings. When Nick shakes hands with Tom at the end, does he abandon his moral responsibility? Explain.
Questions Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose with a “short deft movement” of his “open hand” (41). In what way does this movement convey the essence of Tom’s character?
Questions What characteristics of Daisy make her especially appealing for a reader? Does her allure fade as the novel progresses? Why or why not? Give examples to support your opinions.
Questions What does Nick mean when he breaks his connection to Jordan Baker at the end of the novel by saying, ''I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor"? (186) Why is this an especially penetrating remark for the context —that is, said at that moment to that person?
Questions Show how even the most unlikely characters in the novel have some traits that make them sympathetic — for example, Meyer Wolfshiem and Myrtle Wilson. Identify these traits for Meyer Wolfshiem and Myrtle Wilson. Explain.
Questions If the characterizations in the party list at the beginning of Chapter IV demonstrate an awareness of the sort of people Gatsby's parties attract, why isn't Nick naive in expecting people to come to Gatsby's funeral after he has been murdered?
Questions How does Henry Gatz view his son? Does his father’s awe of his son influence your feelings for Gatsby?
Questions What makes Gatsby “great”?