My passion for literature knows no bounds, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby has always held a special place in my heart.
As a young student, and more so when I became a teacher, I was absolutely captivated by its timeless themes of wealth, love, and the American Dream. These subjects provide an endless source of discussion and exploration for students.
Over the years, I’ve helped my fellow teachers unlock the full potential of this novel by creating lists of questions.
That’s why I’m excited to share with you not only a curated list of Great Gatsby discussion questions explicitly designed for teachers but also video resources and downloadable PDFs for your students.
In today’s article, I want to delve deep into the world of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway, exploring not only the plot and characters but also the rich symbolism and social commentary woven into every page.
Whether you’re a seasoned Gatsby enthusiast like myself or a first-time reader, these discussion questions will empower you to facilitate engaging and insightful classroom conversations. From dissecting Gatsby’s enigmatic persona to studying the moral landscape of the Jazz Age, we’ll cover it all.
So, join me on this literary journey as we embark on a quest to make The Great Gatsby not just a required reading but an unforgettable experience that sparks the imagination and critical thinking of your students.
Here Are Some Great Discussion Starters I Use For The Great Gatsby In My Classes:
Handouts where students can write notes in the margins may act as a helpful study guide.
You might choose to have your students analyze imagery, theme, symbol, word choice, characterization, plot/conflict, or point of view.
Start the ball rolling in your classroom with these questions.
1. What does the green light symbolize in the novel, and how does its meaning change throughout the story? The green light is mentioned at the beginning, middle, and end of the novel so it’s always a good subject for creating questions.
2. Discuss the concept of the American Dream as portrayed in the book. Is it attainable for the characters? You might also want students to define what they believe the American Dream is.
3. How does Nick Carraway’s narrative perspective influence our understanding of the events in the story? Do students believe that Nick may have had a different point of view if he had been a native New Yorker?
4. Analyze the character of Jay Gatsby. What motivates him, and how does his past shape his present actions? Students won’t know Gatsby’s true past until later in the novel.
5. Explore the theme of social class and status in the novel. How do characters like Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson reflect these themes? Can the students relate to these characters? Do they recognize any modern-day celebrities or influencers that have similar status or are living in similar situations?
6. Discuss the role of women in the novel, particularly Daisy and Jordan. How are they portrayed, and what does their behavior reveal about the society of the time? This is always an eye-opening question. Discuss the date when women were allowed to vote and what took so long to pass this law. What other rights today do women struggle to hold on to?
7. Explore the symbolism of the Valley of Ashes. What does it represent in the context of the story? You might want to compare workers in foreign countries, such as Taiwan, Mexico, and China, to the workers in the Valley of Ashes.
8. How does Tom Buchanan’s racism and bigotry reflect the attitudes of the 1920s? What impact does this have on the story? Racism is always a heated topic, but see if students can find similarities to Tom’s racist beliefs and commonly held beliefs in today’s society.
9. Analyze the character of George Wilson. How does his desperation drive the plot forward? Everyone feels pity for George, but perhaps bring up the subject of his accountability for his actions.
10. Discuss the role of alcohol in the novel. How does it contribute to the characters’ behavior and the unfolding of the story? Do students see a similarity between Prohibition and the war on drugs in today’s society?
11. What is the significance of the various parties and gatherings in the novel, including Gatsby’s extravagant parties? Did Fitzgerald look down on parties, or did he simply abhor the lavish lifestyle of the rich?
12. Explore the theme of illusion vs reality in The Great Gatsby. How do the characters create and maintain illusions about themselves? A chart showing the illusions of how these characters saw themselves and what their actions showed to be true might be helpful.
13. Discuss the moral ambiguity of the characters, including Nick. Are there any truly virtuous characters in the story? It’s not who SAYS that they are honest or moral, but who acts the part.
14. How does the setting of the 1920s with its hedonistic atmosphere and cultural changes influence the characters and their actions? How and why did society change between 1900 and 1920? Were there also dramatic changes in society between 2000 and 2020?
15. Analyze the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Is it genuine love, or is it based on illusion and longing for the past? Could it be both? Does Daisy love the illusion of Gatsby, while Gatsby feels genuine love for Daisy?
16. Discuss the tragic nature of Gatsby’s character. How does his fate illustrate the themes of the novel? Was Gatsby powerless to change his fate?
17. Explore the use of color symbolism throughout the book, such as the colors green, white, and yellow. The novel uses many different colors as symbols, but these three seem to be the most prominent.
18. How does the novel comment on the concept of time, especially through Gatsby’s obsession with the past? Is it true love that Gatsby feels or simply an obsession?
19. Consider the significance of the final paragraphs of the novel. What message or moral can be drawn from Nick’s reflections on Gatsby’s life and death? Nick suggests that the future is inaccessible but also that the past cannot be recreated. Does this mean that all we have is today?
20. Compare and contrast the characters of Tom and Gatsby. How do their values and actions differ, and what do they represent in the story? Are Tom and Gatsby similar to one another, or are they complete opposites?
These discussion questions will help students explore the various themes, characters, and symbols in The Great Gatsby and engage in meaningful literary analysis.
Other Questions and Topics I Like to Use for Discussion Time
The overall moral of The Great Gatsby is that the American Dream is an illusion. For example, despite having all the money he could ever want and being famous, Gatsby will never be happy because this still is not enough for Daisy.
By using this statement, we open the door to a host of additional questions and topics.
1. Why did Daisy not choose Gatsby? There are multiple answers to this question, none of them wrong.
2. How does The Great Gatsby relate to current society? Students should find lots of similarities including wealth inequity, moral decay, and unrequited love.
3. Did Daisy really love Gatsby? This is a complex and highly debated question that is sure to get students involved.
4. Why didn’t Daisy attend Gatsby’s funeral? Was she protecting herself, or was she unaware that he had been murdered?
5. Why does Daisy stay with Tom if she is aware of his infidelity? This is another excellent topic about not only how society has changed, but also how women’s rights have expanded over the years.
6. Is Nick Carraway gay? (Or is Nick Carraway infatuated with Gatsby?) Some might find this topic too sensitive, but it’s become a common talking point.
7. What is Nick trying to say in the closing paragraph? Oh, those boats beating on against the current.
8. Why does Daisy cry over Gatsby’s shirts? This certainly isn’t what it seems, but most students won’t understand the underlying meaning.
9. What does Daisy Buchanan symbolize? Does Daisy symbolize purity and innocence or irresponsibility and carelessness?
10. Is the American Dream obtainable today, or is it still an illusion? Can the American Dream lead to genuine happiness and fulfillment, or is it an empty promise that ultimately leads to tragedy and disillusionment?
11. What does Nick Carraway symbolize? Nick is both narrator and observer, but doesn’t he symbolize much, much more?
12. Is Jay Gatsby great? What makes Jay Gatsby great?
13. Is “The Great Gatsby” an appropriate title? Is Fitzgerald’s title sincere or ironic? Fitzgerald had other title options before deciding on “The Great Gatsby”. The other original titles were: “Under the Red, White and Blue,” “Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires,” “Gold-Hatted Gatsby,” and “Trimalchio in West Egg.” Is Fitzgerald’s final choice appropriate?
Further Questions for Deeper Introspection
These study questions can help readers delve deeper into the complex characters in this novel and their significance in The Great Gatsby.
1. What role does Tom Buchanan’s wealth and social status play in shaping his character and actions throughout the novel? How does his sense of entitlement affect those around him?
2. What role does Jordan Baker play in the novel’s exploration of dishonesty and deception? How does her reputation as a professional golfer reflect the theme of appearances versus reality in the story?
3. Who was Klipspringer? What would you call Klipspringer today? Friend? Leech?
4. What is the symbolic significance of Owl Eyes as a character who appears at Gatsby’s parties and later at Gatsby’s funeral? How does he represent a deeper layer of understanding within the novel?
5. Who was Mr. McKee? Was Mr. McKee gay?
6. How does George Wilson’s character evolve throughout the novel? What factors contribute to his transformation from a mild-mannered mechanic to a desperate and vengeful individual?
7. Analyze Tom’s relationships with Daisy and Myrtle. How do these relationships reveal different aspects of his character? What do they signify about his attitudes towards women and marriage?
8. Analyze Jordan’s relationship with Nick Carraway. How does their connection evolve throughout the novel? What does it reveal about her character?
9. How are women portrayed in The Great Gatsby in general? This was the decade when US laws allowed women to vote. Did the author portray women as being empowered in this novel?
10. Examine Owl Eyes’ fascination with Gatsby’s library and his reaction to the books. How does this fascination with literature reflect the broader theme of the power and limitations of knowledge in the novel?
11. Analyze the symbolism of George Wilson’s garage and home in the Valley of Ashes. How do these settings reflect his social and economic status, as well as his aspirations and frustrations?
12. Which of the characters in The Great Gatsby seems the most real or relatable? Of the characters in the novel, with whom can you relate most? Why?
13. Nick says he’s the most honest and nonjudgmental character ever. Is this true? Do you agree? Why or Why not?
14. What does Gatsby’s mansion represent? Would he have bought it if it were NOT across from Daisy’s dock?
15. Why did virtually no one want to attend Gatsby’s funeral? Who did finally attend the funeral?
Resources for Teachers
I’ve written so much over the years about this intricate and fascinating novel that I decided to create additional resources for teachers.
You can help your students unlock the secrets of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless classic, The Great Gatsby, with my comprehensive study videos and downloadable PDFs. These resources are designed to empower teachers and engage students like never before.
As students dive into each chapter of the novel, our expert educators provide in-depth analyses, character breakdowns, thematic explorations, and thought-provoking discussion questions.
The meticulously crafted PDFs offer supplementary materials, lesson plans, and activities that will enrich your teaching and inspire insightful classroom discussions.
Whether you’re a seasoned educator or just beginning your literary journey, our study materials are your key to unlocking the full potential of this iconic novel in the classroom.
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Specific Questions About Each Character
While questions about symbolism and motifs are important, it’s been my experience that most students participate more when asked about individual characters.
A few questions that come to mind include:
1. Does Daisy love and care about her daughter Pammy?
2. How does Gatsby plan on dealing with Pammy? Does Gatsby even realize that she exists?
3. Why did Gatsby throw those amazing parties? Why does he stop?
4. Does Daisy have an affair with Gatsby?
5. Do you agree with Nick that Gatsby was worth “the whole lot of them put together”? Why or Why not?
6. What did Gatsby mean when he said her voice was full of money?
7. Who was Meyer Wolfsheim? How did he “make” Gatsby?
8. Why didn’t Gatsby share his wealth with his father?
9. Why would Gatsby’s father come to his son’s funeral when Gatsby never bothered to keep in touch?
10. Why does Nick Carraway lose interest in Jordan Baker?
Questions About the Author
I believe that prereading about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tumultuous life and the times he lived in can help students gain a better understanding of how and why he wrote this novel.
Some good questions about the author include:
1. Fitzgerald wrote, “You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.” What did he have to say about Gatsby?
2. The Great Gatsby was a commercial failure in Fitzgerald’s lifetime. Why? And why did it become popular only after his death?
3. What makes The Great Gatsby a classic American novel? How has it managed to maintain a place in important literature nearly 100 years later?
4. Is the character Nick Carraway a reflection of the author’s life, or is Fitzgerald more like Jay Gatsby?
5. In what ways does “The Great Gatsby” serve as a critique of the society and culture of the Roaring Twenties? What aspects of the era are mirrored in the novel’s characters and events?
6. How does F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own experiences and background, such as his life in the Jazz Age and his marriage to Zelda Fitzgerald, influence the themes and characters in “The Great Gatsby”?
One Final Thought Before You Go
I hope this set of questions regarding The Great Gatsby has enhanced your own list of questions that you may have prepared.
In conclusion, it’s clear that this iconic novel continues to captivate readers and offer profound insights into the human condition.
Engaging students in meaningful literary discussions is at the heart of effective teaching, and my carefully crafted study materials, including video analyses and downloadable PDF resources, are here to support you in this endeavor.
To make your teaching of The Great Gatsby even more enriching and impactful, I invite you to delve into my comprehensive study videos, and access our supplementary PDFs. These resources will empower you to create dynamic and thought-provoking classroom experiences, inspiring your students to explore the novel’s themes, characters, and symbolism with depth and enthusiasm.
Don’t miss this opportunity to elevate your teaching and provide your students with a deeper understanding of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
Click Here to discover our premium study materials and take your lessons to the next level. Let’s embark on this literary journey together, empowering the next generation of readers and thinkers. Your students deserve nothing less.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.