About The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby brings to life America’s Jazz Age, when, as The New York Times puts it, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession.” Nick Carraway, a Yale graduate and veteran of the Great War, moves to Long Island in the spring of 1922, eager to leave his native Middle West behind. He rents a tiny house in West Egg, dwarfed by a mansion owned by the most celebrated host of the season, Jay Gatsby. Everyone loves to drink and dance at Gatsby’s legendary parties, and everyone loves to gossip about Gatsby’s secret past. Directly across the bay in the tonier town of East Egg lies the home of Nick’s beautiful cousin and her millionaire husband: Daisy and Tom Buchanan. When Nick starts dating Daisy’s friend, the famed but deceitful golfer Jordan Baker, he finds himself caught up in a different romance: Gatsby begs for a reintroduction to Daisy. Gatsby and Daisy fell in love years ago, but the war and Tom Buchanan came between them. As the love triangle of Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby resurfaces – and Tom’s mistress, Myrtle, grows desperate with jealousy – Nick finds himself missing the plains of the Middle West, where hope can thrive in a wider landscape.
About So We Read On
“Forget great. The Great Gatsby is the greatest—even if you didn’t think so when you had to read it in high school. I didn’t think so back then either.” So begins So We Read On, Maureen Corrigan’s irresistibly engaging, acutely insightful examination of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece—“the Great American Novel we think we’ve read but probably haven’t.”
Conceived nearly a century ago by a man who died believing himself a failure, The Great Gatsby is now universally revered, and reading it is a rite of passage for millions. But how well do we really know this beloved classic? As Fresh Air critic, Georgetown professor, and Gatsby lover extraordinaire Corrigan adeptly points out, while Fitzgerald’s masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully comprehend its power. Through On the Same Page, we invite the community to re-discover this American classic.
Discussion Question Suggestions
- The Great Gatsby features an epigraph by “Thomas Parke D’Invilliers” (a writer invented by Fitzgerald) about winning a lover by any means. How does this short poem set the scene for the novel to come? Why do you think Fitzgerald would open The Great Gatsby with a fictional epigraph, rather than a real quote or poem? Doesn’t this contradict Corrigan’s suggestions that the novel really is not about Daisy and Gatsby?
- “‘Can’t repeat the past?’ [Gatsby] cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’”. Discuss Gatsby’s attempts to recreate history. Why is he so eager to go back to life before he went to war, when he was a young officer in love with Daisy? What has Gatsby lost and gained since those days in Louisville?
- Gatsby says about Daisy, “Her voice is full of money.” Discuss how class and money affects the romances in the novel. Would Daisy be just as alluring without her status? Would Gatsby or Tom be attractive without their fortunes?
- Nick observes, “I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all,” since none of its characters are from the East. How have ideas about the “West” changed since Fitzgerald’s day? What is particularly “Western” about each of these characters: Nick, Tom, Gatsby, Daisy, and Jordan? Do you agree with Nick that they are “unadaptable to Eastern life”? Why or why not? How does the division between East Egg and West Egg compare to differences between the American East and West?
- The novel is filled with so much symbolism, but ends with probably the greatest symbol seen in the book with Nick thinking about “Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.” Consider the symbol of the green light—what dreams and hopes does the light stand for? Is Gatsby’s “extraordinary gift for hope” an asset or a hindrance to his ambition?
- Is Gatsby great? In what way? How might he not be great? Does his greatness evolve over the course of the novel? What is the difference, in this text, between perceived greatness and actual greatness?
- If this was your first time reading The Great Gatsby, discuss what you knew about this American classic before you began reading, and how it met or defied your expectations. If you’ve read the novel before, think back to the first time you read it, and discuss how the novel has changed for you over time. Do you understand it differently today than you did in the past?
- Corrigans’s analysis of race and immigration in The Great Gatsby echoes stories from today’s headlines. Does the book offer any insights to these still volatile topics and the part they play in forming the American character?
- Does Corrigan’s enthusiastic devotion to the novel color her analysis? Is she blind to faults in the text? Does Maureen Corrigan change your perceptions of Gatsby? Do you agree/disagree with her conclusions?
Suggestions to Enhance Your Book Club
- Come to your book club meeting dressed like your favorite Gatsby character! If you don’t happen to own a pink suit like Gatsby’s, consider donning a partygoer’s pearls, Daisy’s white dress, Owl-eyes’ oversized glasses, Jordan’s golf gloves, Tom’s riding pants, or any other accessory inspired by the Jazz Age.
- In a nod to the Prohibition era, serve your book club’s refreshments – whether you’re pouring mint juleps or lemonade – in teacups.
- Get your book club members in a jazzy mood ─ greet them with “Ain’t We Got Fun,” a song played during Gatsby and Daisy’s romantic reunion.
- Learn the history of the house that might have been the inspiration for Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s East Egg mansion, which was condemned in 2011.
For more information and discussion questions, please see: http://books.simonandschuster.net/The-Great-Gatsby/F-Scott-Fitzgerald/9780743273565/reading_group_guide.