Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 30: Awakening from the American Dream in "The Great Gatsby"

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed class today, especially your collaborative coroner's inquests and your group discussions on the themes of the novel.

Next Thursday, we'll be talking about motifs (i.e. recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes).
So, please think in terms of geography and weather.

Jazz Icarus (1913) by Henri Matisse
Image Source:

1. What aspects of the 1920s American society do places and settings epitomize (East Egg, West Egg, the valley of ashes, New York City, the East vs. the West)?
2. How does the weather match the emotional and narrative tone of the story (Gatsby and Daisy's reunion, their love reawakening, Gatsby's confrontation with Tom, the day of Gatsby's death)?
3. Think about the symbols in the novel (the green light, the valley of ashes, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg). What concepts do they represent?

Also, "The Great Gatsby" being a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream, we'll be tackling Gatsby's vision of the 1920's American Dream.
1.What do we understand by the American dream?
2.The houses in the novel serve as indices of social success and taste. How does the description of Gatsby's monstrously ornate house characterize his owner?
3.What led to Gatsby's downfall? How did his pure dream become corrupted?
4. Why do we sympathize with him?

Please listen to the mp3 lecture "Lecture 57 - Fitzgerald's Triumph_ Writing the American Dream" by Dr.Arnold Weinstein (Brown University) from his series "Classics of American Literature" . It's 30 min long.

Helpful Links:
1. What is an American Dream? (a part of The Library of Congress "American Memory" project) 2.
3. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire:Changing Conceptions of the American Dream

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