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F Scott Fitzgerald

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English Literature

This article explores the life and works of American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some of the most famous quotes from his novel are included in this article and the main themes his novels are centred on.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's biography

Francis Scott Fitzgerald (known as F. Scott Fitzgerald) was born on 24 September 1896 in Minnesota, United States (US) and died in California (US) on 21 December 1940. He was a novelist and wrote short stories. F. Scott Fitzgerald is now considered one of the most prominent American novelists of the 20th century. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, was an unsuccessful furniture manufacturer in Minnesota and later became a salesman in New York. His mother, Marie ‘Mollie’ McQuillan Fitzgerald, was from a high society family in St Paul’s, Minnesota, and the McQuillan financially supported the Fitzgerald family during the marriage.

Although he was born in St Paul’s, Minnesota, Fitzgerald grew up in New York and later became a student at Princeton University. He left Princeton in 1917 after an unsuccessful romantic relationship with Ginevra King, a socialite from Chicago, and joined the US army during World War I. Fitzgerald later married Zelda Sayre, an American socialite and novelist, whilst stationed with the US Army in Alabama.

Due to Fitzgerald’s poor financial prospects, Zelda initially refused his marriage proposal. She later agreed after his highly acclaimed and popular debut novel This Side of Paradise (1920) saw great commercial success. These events influenced his most prominent novel, The Great Gatsby (1925), as the protagonist, Jay Gatsby, is written to share a similar background.

Fitzgerald wrote short stories for well-known magazines such as Esquire. Through the success of his debut novel and his short story appearances in magazines, Fitzgerald was propelled into the cultural elite and befriended famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway. Interestingly, what is now one of his most famous novels, The Great Gatsby (1925), received good reviews but poor commercial success, despite the success of his debut novel and his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922).

Following the release of The Great Gatsby (1925), Fitzgerald began struggling financially, and the Great Depression of 1929 to the late 1930s exacerbated his struggle. He moved to Hollywood, California during this time to pursue an unsuccessful career in screenwriting. During this time, he struggled with alcoholism, Zelda Sayre’s mental health deterioration due to schizophrenia, and her eventual allocation to a mental health institute.

Fitzgerald's final completed novel was Tender Is the Night (1934) which he completed before his move to Hollywood. He also had penned an unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), which was completed and published by his friend Edmund Wilson, an American writer and literary critic, after Fitzgerald’s death on 21 December 1940.

Facts about F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton University and joined the US military during World War I.

  • Fitzgerald did not serve in battle in the military.

  • He coined the term ‘Jazz Age’ to describe the Roaring Twenties in the US, and he changed the world by showing a broader view of the prosperity, consumerism, and attitudes of those beyond the elite.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novel The Great Gatsby (1925).

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald did not receive great recognition for The Great Gatsby (1925) until after his death.

  • He finished writing The Great Gatsby (1925) in 1925 whilst he was in France to help his creativity.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald lived in Lond Island, New York, with his wife briefly from October 1922 to May 1924.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerlad was influenced to write The Great Gatsby (1925) during his time in Long Island, New York, where he attended lavish parties with the elite.

Works by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What are the most important works of F. Scott Fitzgerald?

This Side of Paradise, published in 1920, explores themes of love and status before and during the Roaring Twenties. The main characters are reflective of Fitzgerald's real-life encounters. Protagonist Amory Blaine, a student at Princeton University, finds love in his hometown of Minneapolis. His love, Isabelle Borge, is a young debutante, and they had encountered each other when they were younger. They separate, and Amory joins the United States Army during World War I.

Soon after his mother's death at this time, their family fortune is lost due to unfavourable investments, and Amory travels to New York City during the Roaring Twenties to start anew. Amory falls in love with flapper Rosalind Connage, but his poor finances mean she chooses to entertain the wealthier Dawson Ryder. Amory travels to visit an uncle in Maryland, where he meets Eleanor Savage and engages in a summer romance. Amory realises he has no love for Eleanor as she threatens to commit suicide the night before he plans to leave for New York City. Upon his return, Amory discovers Rosalind is engaged to Dawson Ryder.

Themes in This Side of Paradise (1920)

Marriage

The theme of marriage is central in This Side of Paradise (1920). Amory's parents' marriage was a marriage of convenience, but Amory wants to marry for love. He sees marriage as the primary way to have fulfilment in life, so his actions when pursuing Rosalind to marry her are centred around this idea.

Wealth

The themes of marriage and wealth are inseparable during this era and in this novel. Rosalind is a wealthy debutante who Amory pursues. Yet, Amory is not her financial equal or superior, so his chances of being able to marry her are extremely low, which is made especially evident when Rosalind chooses to marry the much wealthier Dawson Ryder.

The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) is set in 1913 and follows protagonist Anthony Patch, a former Harvard student and presumptive heir to his family's fortune. Following Harvard, he lives in New York City and marries Gloria Gilbert, a flapper. The couple is eventually at odds as their extravagant, pleasure-seeking behaviours catch up with them. There follows a dispute as to whether Anthony should be disinherited from his family's fortune. He joins the United States Army during World War I and, during his service, has an affair. The inheritance dispute eventually settles, and Anthony is permitted to obtain the inheritance. These occurrences led to the couples' moral and physical deterioration, though they have abundant wealth.

Themes in The Beautiful and the Damned (1922)

Wealth

Anthony and Gloria are members of the upper social class, so they have the financial security and attitude to wealth attributed to their class. The couple lives in extravagance and flaunts their wealth, but their mismanagement of money leaves them in a difficult position when Anthony's inheritance is questioned. Anthony does not use his wealth productively or utilise the opportunities that come will his social status. He is an example of how the dependence on his privileged youth and his inheritance does not necessarily mean he has the work ethic needed to use these tools to the best of his ability.

Beauty

In the Jazz Age, beauty was a central theme. The wealthy organised beautiful parties and dressed lavishly for them. During the Jazz Age, performers, such as flappers, relied on their beauty as much as their skill to carry them in their profession. Fitzgerald believed people were so easily distracted by beauty and materialism that morality and productivity were secondary thoughts, if they were even thought of at all.

Gloria's youth and beauty make Anthony also feel young and beautiful. Gloria is so preoccupied with enjoying the benefits that come with her beauty and youth that once she decides to focus on her acting career, she is too old to take on her desired role. After their rocky experience when Anthony's inheritance is in question, the couple still holds beauty and leisure higher than, for example, their education and careers. Although their wealth is secured at the end of the novel, the couple is miserable as they are morally unfulfilled and have lost their beauty with time.

The Great Gatsby (1925) follows narrator Nick's experience moving from the Midwest to New York City in 1922 as he chases his ambitions of becoming a bond salesman. Nick encounters protagonist Jay Gatsby who is still infatuated with distant cousin Daisy. Jay Gatsby accrued wealth and status to win Daisy's love, as they had had a romantic fling when they were younger.

The novel details themes of the American Dream, wealth, marriage, and love. Gatsby is initially seen as an example of the American Dream as he came from humble beginnings, although he lied about his origins once he had reached the upper levels of society. We later discover Gatsby had accrued some of his wealth by illegal means.

Gatsby and Daisy have a brief affair, but an accident occurs on their drive to Daisy's home in East Egg. Daisy is behind the wheel when she accidentally runs over Myrtle Wilson, the woman Daisy's husband Tom is having an affair with. Gatsby decides to take the blame, and Myrtle's husband George Wilson, assumes he is Myrtle's lover. George Wilson shoots Gatsby dead. Few people attend the funeral a few days later. Nick decides to leave New York and return to the Midwest. Daisy and Tom stay married.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shadow of a man and a woman dressed in the 1920s fashion, StudySmarterRoaring Twenties couple, pixabay.com

The American Dream

The American Dream, which was a popular idea in the 1920s, was centred around the belief that anyone, regardless of social class, could achieve prosperity and wealth as long as they worked hard and were determined. An important part of the American Dream was that you upheld decent moral values during your pursuit; otherwise, you would not truly be able to achieve it.

In The Great Gatsby (1925), Nick Carraway travels to New York to better his fortune and obtain material wealth. He pursues his American Dream but learns that the people he sees as examples of the American Dream are not the best examples. Gatsby has climbed up the social ladder and obtained wealth for himself, but he has used illegal means to do so by selling bootleg alcohol.

Flaunting wealth – old money versus new money

The Roaring Twenties were a tumultuous time where those of the upper classes flaunted their wealth with lavish parties. Gatsby, who is new money and is surrounded by both new and old money, brazenly flaunts his wealth as he lives in a huge, ornate mansion. In contrast, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who both come from old money and old aristocracy, are more elegant and subtle in their tastes.

Moral decline

Tom and Daisy, who are part of the upper class, are portrayed as heartless because they don't attend Gatsby's funeral but instead move away to a new house. Gatsby, who is part of the nouveau riche and was not born into the upper class, shows more care and loyalty as he takes the blame for Myrtle's accidental death when it was Daisy who was responsible. This shows the moral decline the upper classes witnessed during this era, particularly when superficiality and selfishness were prioritised over loyalty and love.

Tender is the Night (1934) is considered Fitzgerald's final entirely written novel. It is set in the French Riviera in the South of France amongst American expatriates. Rosemary Hoyt, a young Hollywood actress, is a protagonist who falls for the young psychiatrist and Yale alumnus Richard 'Dick' Diver. Nicole Diver, whose character is based on Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, is Dick's wife.

After a turbulent series of events, including Nicole's mental health breakdown being witnessed by guests at a party and duelling between guests, several people leave the French Riviera. Rosemary, Dick and Nicole are amongst those who leave the Riviera. The three travel to Paris, and Dick rejects Rosemary's advances, though he confirms he loves her. Dick travels back to America after his father's death and then to Rome. He has a brief affair with Rosemary, who is based in Rome. The affair ends messily, and as Dick becomes increasingly dependent on alcohol, his marriage with Nicole deteriorates. Dick is disgraced in social circles, and Nicole has an affair with Tommy Barban, later divorcing Dick to marry him.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Fruit markets in the French Riviera, StudySmarterFrench Riviera, pixabay.com

Mental Illness and psychiatry

The illnesses treated in this novel are nervous disorders and alcoholism. In the 1920s and 1930s, which is when this novel was set, homosexuality was considered a mental illness, which is addressed in the novel. Dick looks after Nicole as they try to manage her mental health. However, Nicole is a burden to him because of this.

The American Dream

The American Dream is a theme that runs through several of Fitzgerald's works. In Tender is the Night (1934), Dick symbolises the American Dream as he is driven to achieve success through morally sound means. However, as Fitzgerald believed was a prevalent theme in the Roaring Twenties, the temptation of excessive indulgences led Dick not to achieve everything he set out to do as he became distracted by it all.

The Last Tycoon (1941) follows narrator and protagonist Cecelia Brady as a student in New York City and the daughter of Pat Brady, a renowned Hollywood producer. Screenwriter Wylie White introduces himself and his friend, failed producer Mr Schwartz, on the plane to Los Angeles. The plane is grounded in Nashville, Tennessee, due to complications, and Mr Schwartz decides to no longer continue on the trip to Los Angeles. Cecelia and Wylie continue to Los Angeles and are soon informed that Mr Schwartz committed suicide.

The novel also explores the relationship between Pat Brady and Stahr, Cecelia's father's business partner. To her father's disapproval, Cecelia takes a liking to Stahr. The deteriorating relationship between them leads to Brady hiring a professional killer. The killer is unsuccessful, and Stahr hires a hitman for Brady in retaliation. Stahr has second thoughts about the hitman hired on his plane back to New York City from Los Angeles, but his plane crashes. The hitman successfully kills Brady, and Cecelia is left without a father and a lover.

Hollywood and the film industry

This novel shows Stahr's struggle with his craft. He works obsessively on producing films, yet they are not always a financial success, impacting the trajectory of his studio's success and his professional and personal life become unstable. Fitzgerald himself had attempted to become a screenwriter earlier in his life, but he was not successful. In this novel, Fitzgerald draws inspiration from his time as a failing screenwriter and his knowledge of how Hollywood works.

Love and betrayal

Cecelia and Stahr have a love affair of which Cecelia's father disapproves. Like her father, Pat Brady is Stahr's associate and a film producer himself, which worsens their already tense business relationship. Pat feels a betrayal that Stahr and Cecelia are getting closer, and he also feels more bitter about how his business partner conducts himself. These feelings of mistrust and discontent lead to Brady first hiring a hitman for Stahr, and then later Stahr hiring a hitman for Brady. Stahr's survival spurs him to hire a hitman for Brady, but he cannot call it off at the last minute as his plane crashes. The hitman kills Brady, and Cecelia is left without her love and her father, left to suffer alone with the men closest to her heart.

What are the main themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels?

F. Scott Fitzgerlad's novels have a recognizable thematic pattern. What are the major themes around which his novels revolve?

Class

The class considerations between F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mother and his father were thought to influence events in his writing. Fitzgerald was involved in both the middle-class society and the more elite echelons of society. He wanted to receive recognition from the upper-class elites, but he also saw the lack of meaning in their attitude of excessive consumption and displays of wealth. This theme is especially evident in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) and This Side of Paradise (1920). Whilst Fitzgerald was disgusted by the attitude of the upper class, he was credited with showcasing the realities of the 1920s, also known as the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties.

'They were careless people. Tom and Daisy-- they smashed up things and...then retreated back into their money..band let other people clean up the mess they had made.'—Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby (1925)

Nick's commentary highlights how Tom and Daisy, both born into the upper class, disregard how their negative actions affect others. They use their wealth and status to do what they want without repercussions or taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

'Amory wondered how people could fail to notice that he was a boy marked for glory.'—This Side of Paradise (1920)

Having grown up amongst the upper class with some privilege and with family investments to support him, Amory believes he is superior to others. His ego meant his peers did not truly welcome him, and this affected his feelings of superiority, but those feelings still remained.

Love and romance

F. Scott Fitzgerald explored relationships alongside the other themes in his works. He presented these relationships in the reality of the time his novels were set in. For example, The Great Gatsby (1925), set in the Roaring Twenties, explores love and romance in marriages and relationships and how these dynamics change when considering money and class. Fitzgerald used his relationship with his wife and the dynamics between his parents to influence his writing, and many of his books reflect these relationships and the ordeals he experienced.

'I married him because I thought he was a gentleman, she said finally. 'I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn't fit to lick my shoe.'—Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby (1925)

Myrtle's friends recall that she loved George, her husband, so she married him. She refutes this and claims George lied to her about his wealth, claiming he was wealthier than he was. Their marriage is rocky, as Myrtle has an affair with the wealthy Tom Buchanan, though her husband loves her. We see here how marriages in the novel do not always involve requited love, and money and class play greater roles than love in the example of marriage we read about.

'I'm afraid I'm in love with you,' said Dick, 'and that's not the best thing that could happen.'—Dick Diver in Tender is the Night (1934)

Dick begins to fall in love with Rosemary, but he is still in love with Nicole. He experiences indecision and conflict in loving Rosemary and Nicole whilst trying not to hurt them.

The American Dream

The American Dream of the 1920s centres around the idea that you could achieve success and improve your social status and wealth through hard work. This theme is explored in The Great Gatsby (1925) as the narrator, Nick Carraway, represents the hope of someone at the beginning of the American Dream. The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, represents what seems to be the end realisation of the American Dream.

In This Side of Paradise (1920), protagonist Amory Blaine attempts to achieve success in life through the way that seems most plausible to him: conformity. In his pursuit of the American Dream, Amory goes to Princeton, joins clubs that would help him conform, and gets a normal job. He eventually realises true success lies in becoming his person. The experience of failing in their pursuit of finding fulfilment through the American Dream is something both Gatsby and Amory share.

'An aristocracy founded sheerly on money postulates wealth in the particular.'—The Beautiful and the Damned (1922)

This quote highlights how the aristocracy's wealth results in them being treated differently compared to the average person. This contrasts with the American Dream – that anyone can work their way up to wealth and improved social standing regardless of status. One would have to earn their accolades, wealth, and respect, rather than it being handed down to them because they are born in the wealthy upper class.

Famous quotes by F. Scott Fitzgerald

He became aware that he had not an ounce of real affection for Isabelle, but her coldness piqued him…if he didn’t kiss her, it would worry him…It would interfere vaguely with his idea of himself as a conqueror.—Book 1, Chapter 3, This Side of Paradise (1920).

Amory does not have true feelings of love for Isabelle. He is more concerned with how he appears and with appeasing his ego. Amory maintaining this outlook of himself as a 'conqueror' is more important than being truthful with himself about his feelings.

Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.—Chapter 9, Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby (1925).

Meyer Wolfsheim, who assisted Gatsby in his illegal alcohol business, says this to Nick. Wolfsheim showed his friendship with Gatsby by helping him gain wealth through their illegal alcohol business.

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.—Chapter 4, Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby (1925).

Nick sees 'the pursued' as people like Gatsby who are well-known and desired. 'The pursuing' refers to himself, as he was pursuing his love interest, Jordan, during his time in New York. 'The busy' are always occupied with something, such as Tom Buchanan, who is often away for business. 'The tired' don't do very much at all, such as Daisy Buchanan.

He was born sleepless, without a talent for rest or the desire for it. -Chapter 1, The Last Tycoon (1941).

This quote speaks about Stahr and his obsession and dedication to his work in the film industry. This obsession without financial success leads to the deterioration of his professional and personal life.

Amory wondered how people could fail to notice that he was a boy marked for glory. -Book 1, Chapter 1, This Side of Paradise (1920).

Amory is 'marked for glory' despite having shown no talents or abilities that would suggest that. The surroundings he has been brought up in have led him to believe he is almost entitled to achieve glory and recognition.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Key takeaways

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on 24 September 1896 in Minnesota, United States (US) and died in California (US) on 21 December 1940.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald did not receive significant recognition for The Great Gatsby (1925) until after his death.

  • He left Princeton in 1917 after an unsuccessful romantic relationship with Ginevra King, a socialite from Chicago, and he joined the US army during World War I. Fitzgerald later married Zelda Sayre, an American socialite and novelist stationed in Alabama whilst in the US Army.

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fifth and final novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), was incomplete upon his death, but his friend Edmund Wilson completed the novel.

  • The major themes explored by Fitzgerald in his novels are class, love and romance and the American Dream.

  • Following the release of The Great Gatsby (1925), Fitzgerald began struggling financially, and the Great Depression of 1929 to the late 1930s exacerbated his struggle.

F Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, US. He was later raised and lived in New York. He lived in Paris briefly. Much later in his life, he lived in Hollywood, California, where he died.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novel The Great Gatsby (1925).

 F. Scott Fitzgerald finished writing The Great Gatsby (1925) in 1925.

F. Scott Fitzgerlad was influenced to write The Great Gatsby (1925) during his time in Long Island, New York, where he attended lavish parties with the elite.

Fitzgerald coined the term ‘Jazz Age’ to describe the Roaring Twenties in the US, and he changed the world by showing a broader view of the prosperity, consumerism and attitudes of those beyond the elite. 

Final F Scott Fitzgerald Quiz

Question

What is the main message of The Great Gatsby?

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Answer

The main message of The Great Gatsby (1925) centres on the decline of the American Dream in the 1920s. It is the dream that focuses on material excess, the pursuit of money and pleasure, instead of the pursuit of more noble goals, such as love. 

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What does Gatsby say about his background?

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Answer

Gatsby lies about his background and says he is the son of wealthy Midwesterners and he went to Oxford.

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Question

What is the historical significance of the Great Gatsby?


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Answer

The historical context of The Great Gatsby (1925) is that it is set in the Jazz Age, also known as the Roaring Twenties. It was during the postwar economic boom of the 1920s in America. This was the era of Prohibition in the United States (1920-1933).

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How did Gatsby change throughout the story?


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We see Gatsby’s change in the story through Nick’s perception of him. At first, Nick sees him as a very wealthy man, then Nick sees him as stuck in the past, and then Nick sees him striving for a future that is not attainable.

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Question

Is Great Gatsby a true story?


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Answer

The Great Gatsby (1925) is not a true story. It is a fictional story but it is based partly on F.Scott Fitzgerald’s experiences in Long Island in 1922 and his relationship with socialite Ginevra King and the parties he attended and people he met. 

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Question

What role does class (social status) play in Gatsby’s romance with Daisy?

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Answer

Gatsby improves his social status by accruing wealth through the years because he wants to win Daisy back as when they met during his time in the army, he didn’t have the financial means to pursue her.

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What were the principles of the American Dream in the 1920s?

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Answer

The American Dream in the 1920s, you could obtain success in life through hard work, regardless of your social status or family history. 

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Which era is The Great Gatsby (1925) set in and did every class experience this era in the same way (why/why not)?

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Answer

The Great Gatsby (1925) is set in the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties. Not every class experienced this era the same way because this book focuses on the upper echelons of society. Not everyone experienced the same levels of prosperity as the upper class.

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How could you describe the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties?

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Answer

An era of the popularisation of jazz music and dance, an era of decadence, luxury and excess consumption.

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How does Nick describe Daisy and Tom at the end of the story?

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Nick describes them as being people who ‘smashed up things and…let other people clean up the mess they had made’.

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When is The Great Gatsby set?

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1922

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What city is The Great Gatsby set in?

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New York

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What person is The Great Gatsby narrated in?

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First person

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Who narrates The Great Gatsby?

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Nick Carraway

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Why does Gatsby stare at the green light at the end of Daisy's dock?

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Answer

Because it represents his hopes and dreams for getting Daisy back.

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What are some of the key themes in The Great Gatsby?

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Answer

The American Dream, Love and Dysfunctional Marriages, and Money and Corruption.

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Who is Tom Buchanan having an affair with?

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Myrtle Wilson

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Who really hits Myrtle with a car?

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Daisy

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Can you name some of the symbols Fitzgerald uses in The Great Gatsby?

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Answer

The green light, and Gatsby's bright yellow car.

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Who wrote The Great Gatsby?

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F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What kind of narrator could we regard Nick Carraway as?

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Unreliable narrator

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Who reveals many of Gatsby's secrets to Nick?

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Jordan Baker

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Can you name some of Gatsby's key traits?

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Idealistic. Naive. Romantic. Nostalgic.

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Why does Myrtle Wilson enter into a relationship with Tom?

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Answer

To improve her social status.

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What does the American Dream mean?

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Answer

The American Dream is the idea that anyone, regardless of background or circumstances, can succeed in America if they work hard.

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