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Themes. The Decline of the American Dream in the 1920’s

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  • The Decline of the American Dream in the 1920’s
  • Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. The reckless jubilance that led to decadent parties and wild jazz music—epitomized in by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night
  • The rise of the stock market in the aftermath of the war led to a sudden increase in the national wealth and a newfound materialism. People began to spend and consume at unprecedented levels. A person from any social background could, potentially, make a fortune, but the American aristocracy—families with old wealth—scorned the newly rich industrialists and speculators. Additionally, the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919, which banned the sale of alcohol, created a thriving underworld designed to satisfy the massive demand for bootleg liquor among rich and poor alike.
  • Gatsby’s dream of loving Daisy is ruined by the difference in their respective social statuses, his resorting to crime to make enough money to impress her, and the rampant materialism that characterizes her lifestyle. Additionally, places and objects in The Great Gatsby have meaning only because characters instill them with meaning: the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg best exemplify this idea
  • Gatsby longs to re-create a vanished past—his time in Louisville with Daisy—but is incapable of doing so. When his dream crumbles, all that is left for Gatsby to do is die; all Nick can do is move back to Minnesota, where American values have not decayed


  • 2. The Hollowness of the Upper Class
  • In the novel, West Egg and its denizens represent the newly rich, while East Egg and its denizens, especially Daisy and Tom, represent the old aristocracy. Fitzgerald portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste. Gatsby, for example, lives in a monstrously ornate mansion, wears a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as the insincerity of the Sloanes’ invitation to lunch. In contrast, the old aristocracy possesses grace, taste, subtlety, and elegance, epitomized by the Buchanans’ tasteful home and the flowing white dresses of Daisy and Jordan Baker.
  • What the old aristocracy possesses in taste, however, it seems to lack in heart, as the East Eggers prove themselves careless, inconsiderate bullies who are so used to money’s ability to ease their minds that they never worry about hurting others. The Buchanans exemplify this stereotype when, at the end of the novel, they simply move to a new house far away rather than condescend to attend Gatsby’s funeral. Gatsby, on the other hand, whose recent wealth derives from criminal activity, has a sincere and loyal heart, remaining outside Daisy’s window until four in the morning in Chapter 7 simply to make sure that Tom does not hurt her. Ironically, Gatsby’s good qualities (loyalty and love) lead to his death, as he takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting Daisy be punished, and the Buchanans’ bad qualities (fickleness and selfishness) allow them to remove themselves from the tragedy not only physically but psychologically.
recall and remember
  • THESIS – Roadmap to your paper. Where are you going with it. Answers the prompt in 1-2 clear sentences.
  • INTRODUCTION – Make it catchy. Hook the reader. REMEMBER hook starters:
    • General statement, startling fact, literary element, imagery,
  • Body Paragraphs: pull specific instances from the text, our society, history, etc.
  • TRASISTIONS – Don’t forget about these.
    • (HAND BACK TRANSITIONS – you can use this list while you write)
  • Gatsby Vocab used = +2 pts.
interpretive essay review
Interpretive Essay Review
  • Understand major themes from Gatsby
  • Study Gatsby Symbolism Chart
  • Study Gatsby Vocab
  • Review Transition Words
  • Your Goal: To interpret intended messages. This will help you better understand and appreciate the power of important works.
  • From a prompt you will identify the topic, purpose, and audience.

Vocab Ch. 1-3

Supercilious (adj.) – having or showing arrogant superiority to those one views as unworthy.

Complacent (adj.) – often without awareness or some potential danger or defect; self-satisfied.

Apathetic (adj.) – not interested or concerned; indifferent or unresponsive

Permeate (V) -to pass into or through every part of; to penetrate through the pores; to be diffused through; pervade; saturate.

Cordial (Adj.) -courteous and gracious; friendly; warm.


Vocab Ch. 4-6

Sporadic (adj.) – appearing or happening at irregular intervals in time; occasional

Valor (n.) – heroic courage; bravery

Juxtaposition -

Desolate (adj.) – barren or laid waste; devastated; deserted; uninhabited; lonely


Vocab Ch. 7-9

Inexplicable (Adj.) – incapable of being explained

Vicarious (Adj.) -taking the place of another person or thing; acting or serving as a substitute.

Laden (Adj.) -burdened; loaded down.

Surmise (V) -to think or infer without certain or strong evidence; conjecture; guess.

Superfluous(Adj.) -being more than is sufficient or required; excessive; unnecessary or needless.

rubric found on pg 1126 of your textbook
RUBRIC* Found on pg. 1126 of your textbook
  • FOCUS AND COHERENCE – focuses consistently on a clear thesis.
  • ORGANIZATION – shows effective organization throughout with smooth transitions.
  • DEVELOPMENT OF IDEAS – Have specific ideas and explains them clearly with textual support.
  • VOICE – uses formal tone.
  • CONVENTIONS – control of written language

If you are unable to pull up the You Tube 2013 trailer in DAEP, follow the 2nd prompt:

  • For each Gatsby vocabulary word used correctly in the essay = +2 points.
thursday 1 10 gatsby interpretive essay
Thursday 1/10Gatsby Interpretive Essay
  • Pick one symbol or theme highlighted in the 2013 Gatsby trailer and relate this aspect of the trailer to both the novel and the American Dream.


“American Dream” Crossover OER’s are due.

Gatsby Symbolism Charts are due tomorrow.

thursday 01 10 in class timed write
Thursday 01/10In Class Timed Write…
  • What does the novel have to say about achieving the American Dream?  In what ways do the themes of dreams & wealth relate to the pursuit of the ideal American life?

** GATSBY CHARTS ARE DUE TOMORROW. You should have them almost complete and we have finished enough of the book for you to complete them.