Are you looking for a literature project that will engage your students and bring to life the era of the Jazz Age? Look no further than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby!
This beloved novel offers a captivating—and oftentimes challenging—an opportunity for your students to explore The Roaring Twenties culture and connect with timeless big ideas and themes.
Planning an effective unit requires careful thought, but having all the resources ready beforehand can make it easier. In this blog post, we’ll provide an overview of what teachers must consider when planning their unit on The Great Gatsby.
The Storyline The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald set in the 1920s. It tells the story of Jay Gatsby, a wealthy and mysterious man who lives in a large mansion in Long Island, New York. He is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an old flame from his past, whom he believes to be his only chance at true love and happiness. Through his obsession with Daisy, Jay Gatsby becomes involved in a tangled web of lies and deceit as he attempts to win her back.
As the book progresses, the reader is presented with themes such as class divisions, money’s influence on social mobility, and pursuing the American dream. Ultimately, we witness Jay Gatsby’s fall from grace and understand that everything that glitters is not always gold.
Themes of The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a classic tale by F. Scott Fitzgerald which brings up several important themes.
Love and Obsession
Jay Gatsby is deeply in love with Daisy Buchanan, his former flame from the past. This love has become his obsession as he endeavours to win Daisy back, disregarding all other aspects of his life.
The theme of class divisions is heavily explored through the characters’ lives in the novel. Jay Gatsby comes from a lower-class family but can gain wealth and social standing, while Daisy remains firmly rooted in the upper class. This creates tension between them as their respective classes are challenging to reconcile.
The Pursuit of the American Dream
Jay Gatsby embodies the pursuit of what Americans call “the American dream.” He works diligently to put himself in a position of wealth, power, and influence to make his dreams come true. Jay’s story serves as a reminder that money cannot buy everything, including happiness and love.
Characters of The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald contains various memorable and engaging characters essential to the story.
Jay Gatsby is the titular character and protagonist of the novel. He is a wealthy, mysterious figure who lives in a large mansion in Long Island, New York. He is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an old flame from his past, and dreams of winning her back at all costs.
Daisy Buchanan is an upper-class socialite living in East Egg who is the object of Jay’s obsession. She is married but has feelings for Jay, which causes her to become entangled in his grand schemes to win her back.
Tom Buchanan is Daisy’s husband and a former college acquaintance of Jay’s. He perceives Jay as inferior due to his lower-class upbringing and attempts to keep him away from his wife by any means necessary.
Nick Carraway is the narrator and a secondary character in the novel. He was also once acquainted with Jay growing up in Minnesota and decided to move out East to Long Island when he learned of his old friend’s fame and wealth. Nick is an observer throughout the story and a moral compass for its other characters.
Teaching Opportunities with The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald that provides various teaching opportunities in and out of the classroom.
Love and Obsession
With themes of love and obsession at its core, teachers can use The Great Gatsby to discuss how it can be difficult to reconcile strong emotions with rational thought. They can also explore the idea of obsession being an unhealthy way to pursue what one desire.
The novel challenges readers to think about class divides by using the characters’ backgrounds of varying social statuses as an example. This allows students to discuss the complexity of class divisions and their effects on relationships.
The Pursuit of the American Dream
Jay Gatsby’s journey towards chasing his version of “the American Dream” is an excellent example for students to explore what dreams mean for them and ways to achieve realistic goals without compromising their values or morals.
Lesson Plan One
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to understand and evaluate the complexity of love and obsession in The Great Gatsby and identify how their emotions and values can factor into relationships.
The Great Gatsby is a classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a man whose obsessive pursuit of his dream leads him down destructive paths. As we read and discuss the novel together, we can explore this theme of love and obsession further.
Main Teaching Points
- Explain how self-destructive emotions drive Jay Gatsby to win over Daisy Buchanan’s affection.
- Discuss how solid feelings towards something or someone make it difficult to think logically or rationally.
- Examine the impact that our values have on our relationships with others
- Analyze themes such as influence, power, manipulation, and trust regarding Jay’s relationship with Daisy Buchanan.
After discussing these topics, students should reflect on their current relationships and consider whether their values influence them positively or negatively. They should ask thought-provoking questions such as “Am I making decisions based on my morals, or am I surrendering my autonomy to please someone else?” Please encourage students to write insights from this reflection activity in their notebooks.
Lesson Plan Two
At the end of this lesson, students can analyse class divide issues presented in The Great Gatsby and recognize similar situations outside literature.
The Great Gatsby accurately portrays class divides during its era, which still exists today, even if they are more nuanced than before. We will examine characters such as Jay Gatsby, who come from lower social statuses yet ultimately aspire for more wealth and privilege due to what society tells him he needs for respectability. We can gain further insight into complex themes such as wealth inequality and institutionalised classism through discussion.
Main Teaching Points
- Describe how class divisions had shaped past societies (including during the Jazz Age when The Great Gatsby was set)
- Evaluate dynamics between different classes: prejudice against lower classes, affluence providing opportunities for certain people, etc.
- Analyze characters like Daisy Buchanan, who may not view lower classes through an equitable lens despite her status playing a part in why she has more privilege than others.
Students should reflect on their privileges about socioeconomic status by being mindful of any unfair advantages they may possess based on where they come from. Ask them:
- “Do you think your financial resources allow you access to certain opportunities that others without these resources wouldn’t have? If so, do you think it is unjust? Why or why not?” Guide them towards using these reflections to inspire action towards promoting equity in society instead of simply feeling guilt over any privilege they might have recognized within themselves.
Similar Books to The Great Gatsby
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
These three websites provide a wealth of resources to help teach The Great Gatsby.
The Prestwick House blog offers comprehensive lesson plans, activities and assessments for teaching the novel, such as discussion questions and writing prompts.
Teachit’s English Literature page provides valuable contextual information about the book and includes study aids like quick quizzes and essay plans.
The Great Gatsby Collection on the Tes website contains creative materials such as worksheets that look at the novel’s characters, themes, symbols and language and exam briefs that help students prepare for their GCSE examinations on the text.