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A STEP BEYOND
TESTS AND ANSWERS
ANSWERS - TEST 1
11. Everyone wants to admire someone. Do you admire Gatsby? Is he a hero to you? If so, why? If not, why not? This essay gives you a wonderful opportunity to take sides. From one point of view, Gatsby is a crook, a bootlegger, a vulgar materialist. From another point of view, he is a dreamer, faithful to his dream to the very end. Nick sees him as "great," despite the fact that Gatsby stands for many things that Nick doesn't believe in.
To write this essay you will want to look with particular care at those passages where Nick talks about Gatsby-both near the middle of Chapter VIII, and in the closing pages of the novel. If you think that Gatsby is not a hero, you will want to pay special attention to Meyer Wolfsheim and to Gatsby's association with him. Look at the many strange phone calls from Philadelphia and Chicago and at Tom's thoughts in Chapter VII on what Wolfsheim and Gatsby did to Walter Chase.
For further details see the section on "Jay Gatsby" in The Characters. --
12. Most of us, like Fitzgerald, have ambivalent feelings about money. We want it, we are excited by it, but we don't want it to dominate our lives. What do you think Fitzgerald's attitude toward money is in this novel? Does he treat all the rich characters in the same way? Is money itself good or evil, or does it depend on who is using it and for what purpose? These are all questions an essay might explore.
You will want to look at the description of Tom and Daisy's house in Chapter I and of Gatsby's house in Chapter III. Nick's comment about Tom and Daisy's money near the end of the final chapter is helpful, as is Nick's description of Tom as a character in Chapter I. Look at the scene in Chapter V where Gatsby shows off his possessions to Daisy. Why does Daisy cry in his shirts? What does this say about her attitude toward money and about things money can buy?
There is no easy answer to this question, so don't feel that any one answer is right. Fitzgerald, as you read in The Author and His Times, said that he could hold two contradictory views at the same time. Perhaps that is what you think he does in this book? --
13. This is a good essay question for those who enjoy debating with the critics. Most readers find Nick what is called a "reliable narrator."
They share his views and read the novel from his point of view. A few critics disagree. They say Nick is immature and should be more critical of Gatsby than he is. They argue that Nick is too sentimental about Gatsby, and that it would be very dangerous for us to adopt the same attitude that Nick adopts.
In writing this essay, you will want to understand clearly Nick's attitudes toward this Eastern world and the characters who live in it. Nick expresses his attitudes mainly in the first and last chapters. Once you have explored his point of view, you should be prepared to argue either that Fitzgerald shares Nick's views and wants us to share them, too; or that we as readers are being asked to be more mature and realistic than Nick is. Gary Scrimgeour's essay "Against The Great Gatsby," (see The Critics section) makes a good case against Nick, if you're looking for some help with your argument. --
14. We have discussed this issue at length both in the section on setting and in the places in the scene-by-scene discussion where each of the settings is introduced for the first time. You will particularly want to review the opening three chapters where East Egg, West Egg, the valley of ashes, and New York City are each introduced for the first time. Ask yourself what values is each place associated with. Is Fitzgerald supporting one set of values against the others? If so, with which of the places are we most asked to identify? Why? Write about the fact that all of the characters are originally from the Midwest-an important factor in this equation of place with values. In writing your essay, you may want to compare the locations in this novel with locations in your own community. --
15. Be sure you know what a symbol is before you start. Hugh Holman's A Handbook to Literature is very helpful. Then select the symbol you want to write about and go through the novel, noting each place it is mentioned.
The green light is mentioned at the end of Chapter I, the middle of Chapter V, and on the last page of the novel. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are described in detail at the beginning of Chapter II. They are also an important part of Michaelis' description of George Wilson's state of mind in Chapter VIII.
Remember as you write that symbols don't mean just one thing. Symbols are pointers that merely suggest other things beyond themselves.