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Essays on The Great Gatsby

The great gatsby essay topic examples.

Whether you want to analyze the American Dream, compare and contrast characters, vividly describe settings and characters, persuade readers with your viewpoints, or share personal experiences related to the story, these essay ideas provide a diverse perspective on the themes and complexities within the book.

Argumentative Essays

Argumentative essays require you to analyze and present arguments related to the novel. Here are some topic examples:

  • 1. Argue whether the American Dream is achievable or illusory, as depicted in The Great Gatsby .
  • 2. Analyze the moral ambiguity of Jay Gatsby and the consequences of his relentless pursuit of the American Dream.

Example Introduction Paragraph for an Argumentative Essay: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a tale of ambition, decadence, and the elusive American Dream. This essay delves into the complex theme of the American Dream, exploring whether it remains attainable or has transformed into a tantalizing illusion, luring individuals like Jay Gatsby into its enigmatic embrace.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for an Argumentative Essay: In conclusion, the analysis of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby invites us to reevaluate our perceptions of success and fulfillment. As we contemplate the fate of Jay Gatsby and the characters entangled in his world, we are challenged to define our own version of the American Dream and the sacrifices it may entail.

Compare and Contrast Essays

Compare and contrast essays enable you to examine similarities and differences within the novel or between it and other literary works. Consider these topics:

  • 1. Compare and contrast the characters of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, exploring their contrasting worldviews and motivations.
  • 2. Analyze the similarities and differences between the portrayal of the Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises .

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Compare and Contrast Essay: The characters and settings in The Great Gatsby and other literary works offer a rich tapestry for comparison and contrast. This essay embarks on a journey to compare and contrast the enigmatic Jay Gatsby and the brash Tom Buchanan, delving into their contrasting values, aspirations, and roles within the novel.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Compare and Contrast Essay: In conclusion, the comparison and contrast of Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan illuminate the divergent paths individuals can take in pursuit of their desires. As we consider the consequences of their choices, we are prompted to reflect on the complexities of ambition and morality.

Descriptive Essays

Descriptive essays allow you to vividly depict settings, characters, or events within the novel. Here are some topic ideas:

  • 1. Describe the opulent parties at Gatsby's mansion, emphasizing the decadence and extravagance of the Jazz Age.
  • 2. Paint a detailed portrait of Daisy Buchanan, focusing on her beauty, charm, and the allure she holds for Gatsby.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay: The Great Gatsby immerses readers in the lavish world of the Roaring Twenties. This essay embarks on a descriptive exploration of the extravagant parties at Gatsby's mansion, capturing the opulence and hedonism of the era, as well as the illusions they create.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Descriptive Essay: In conclusion, the descriptive portrayal of Gatsby's parties serves as a vivid snapshot of the Jazz Age's excesses and the fleeting nature of indulgence. Through this exploration, we are reminded of the allure and transience of the materialistic pursuits that captivated the characters of the novel.

Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essays involve arguing a point of view related to the novel. Consider these persuasive topics:

  • 1. Persuade your readers that Nick Carraway is the moral compass of the story, serving as the voice of reason and morality.
  • 2. Argue for or against the idea that Gatsby's love for Daisy is genuine and selfless, despite his questionable methods.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Persuasive Essay: The Great Gatsby presents a tapestry of characters with complex moral dilemmas. This persuasive essay asserts that Nick Carraway emerges as the moral compass of the story, guiding readers through the labyrinth of decadence and disillusionment in the Jazz Age.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Persuasive Essay: In conclusion, the persuasive argument regarding Nick Carraway's role as the moral compass underscores the importance of ethical navigation in a world characterized by excess and moral ambiguity. As we reflect on his influence, we are compelled to consider the enduring value of integrity and virtue.

Narrative Essays

Narrative essays offer you the opportunity to tell a story or share personal experiences related to the themes of the novel. Explore these narrative essay topics:

  • 1. Narrate a personal experience where you encountered the allure of materialism and extravagance, similar to the characters in The Great Gatsby .
  • 2. Imagine yourself as a character in the Jazz Age and recount your interactions with Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan.

Example Introduction Paragraph for a Narrative Essay: The themes of The Great Gatsby resonate with the allure of a bygone era. This narrative essay delves into a personal encounter with the seductive pull of materialism and extravagance, drawing parallels to the characters' experiences in the novel.

Example Conclusion Paragraph for a Narrative Essay: In conclusion, the narrative of my personal encounter with the allure of materialism reminds us of the timeless nature of the themes in The Great Gatsby . As we navigate our own desires and ambitions, we are encouraged to contemplate the balance between aspiration and morality.

Pink Suit in The Great Gatsby

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"The Great Gatsby": Theme and Symbols

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The Portrayal of Female Characters in F.s. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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April 10, 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Novel; Fiction, Tragedy

Jay Gatsby , Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, Jordan Baker, Meyer Wolfsheim, George B. Wilson, Trimalchio, Mr. Gatz

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "The Great Gatsby" with multiple motivations in mind. Firstly, he sought to critique the materialistic excesses and moral decay of the Roaring Twenties, a period of post-World War I prosperity. Fitzgerald aimed to expose the disillusionment and hollowness behind the glittering facade of the American Dream. Additionally, he drew inspiration from his own experiences and observations of the wealthy elite and their decadent lifestyles. Through the character of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald explored themes of unrequited love, longing, and the pursuit of an unattainable ideal. Ultimately, Fitzgerald's intent was to capture the essence of an era and offer a profound commentary on the human condition.

The story revolves around Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a married woman with whom he had a romantic past. Narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man from the Midwest, the novel delves into the opulent and extravagant lives of the wealthy elite in Long Island. As Gatsby throws lavish parties in the hope of rekindling his relationship with Daisy, the narrative explores themes of love, wealth, illusion, and the disillusionment that comes with the pursuit of the American Dream.

The American Dream , decadence, idealism, resistance to changes, social excess, caution.

The influence of "The Great Gatsby" extends far beyond its initial publication in 1925. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has become a literary classic, revered for its exploration of themes such as wealth, love, and the elusive American Dream. It remains relevant due to its timeless portrayal of human desires, societal decadence, and the consequences of relentless pursuit. The book's vivid characters and atmospheric prose have inspired countless writers and artists, shaping the landscape of American literature. With its commentary on the dark underbelly of the Jazz Age, "The Great Gatsby" continues to captivate readers, serving as a cautionary tale and a poignant reflection of the human condition.

1. During F. Scott Fitzgerald's lifetime, approximately 25,000 copies of the book were sold. However, since then, it has gained immense popularity, selling over 25 million copies and establishing itself as one of the most renowned American novels. 2. The Great Gatsby did not have its original title as the author considered various options, ranging from "Under the Red, White and Blue" to "The High-Bouncing Lover." These alternative titles were potentially revealing too much about the content prematurely. 3. In 1926, just a year after its publication, the book was adapted into a film, demonstrating its quick transition from page to screen. 4. Fitzgerald's cause of death is believed to have been tuberculosis rather than a heart attack. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 44. 5. The price of this famous novel at the time of its publication in 1925 was $2, representing its value in that era. 6. The Great Gatsby did not immediately receive critical acclaim upon release. However, it has since garnered recognition and praise, becoming a significant literary work.

"The Great Gatsby" has made a significant impact on various forms of media, captivating audiences across generations. The novel has been adapted into several films, with notable versions including the 1974 adaptation starring Robert Redford and the 2013 adaptation featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. These cinematic interpretations have brought the story to life visually, further immersing audiences in the opulent world of Jay Gatsby. Additionally, the novel has been referenced and alluded to in countless songs, television shows, and even video games, solidifying its cultural significance. Its themes of love, wealth, and the pursuit of the American Dream continue to resonate and inspire creative works in popular culture.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.’” “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.” “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.” “I hope she'll be a fool -- that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

Studying "The Great Gatsby" holds great importance due to its enduring relevance and literary significance. The novel offers profound insights into themes such as wealth, love, social class, and the corruption of the American Dream. Its exploration of the Jazz Age exposes the allure and emptiness of a materialistic society, making it a compelling study of human desires and societal decay. F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterful prose and symbolic imagery provide rich material for analyzing character development, narrative techniques, and social commentary. Moreover, delving into the novel's historical context allows for a deeper understanding of the cultural and societal shifts of the 1920s.

The inclusion of "The Great Gatsby" as an essay topic for college students stems from its exploration of themes like the American Dream, the juxtaposition of poverty and wealth, and the destructive allure of corruption. The character of Gatsby embodies the American spirit and can be paralleled to contemporary individuals fixated on materialism and fame as measures of romantic success. Furthermore, this literary masterpiece holds a significant place in American literature, as F. Scott Fitzgerald skillfully weaves socio-cultural elements into each sentence, providing a timeless portrayal of American life that resonates across generations. The choice to analyze and write about "The Great Gatsby" allows students to delve into these thought-provoking themes and examine their relevance to society.

1. Stallman, R. W. (1955). Conrad and The Great Gatsby. Twentieth Century Literature, 1(1), 5–12. (https://doi.org/10.2307/441023) 2. John Jerrim, Lindsey Macmillan, (2015). Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?, Social Forces, Volume 94, Issue 2. (https://academic.oup.com/sf/article/94/2/505/2583794) 3. Robert C. Hauhart (2013) Religious Language and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby’s Valley of Ashes, ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, 26:3 (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0895769X.2013.798233) 4. Burnam, T. (1952). The Eyes of Dr. Eckleburg: A Re-Examination of “The Great Gatsby.” College English, 14(1), 7–12. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/371821) 5. Tom Phillips (2018) Passing for White in THE GREAT GATSBY: A Spectroscopic Analysis of Jordan Baker, The Explicator, 76:3. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00144940.2018.1489769?scroll=top&needAccess=true&role=tab) 6. Matterson, S. (1990). The Great Gatsby and Social Class. In: The Great Gatsby. The Critics Debate. Palgrave, London. (https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-349-20768-8_9) 7. Licence, A. (2008). Jay Gatsby: martyr of a materialistic society: Amy Licence considers religious elements in The Great Gatsby. The English Review, 18(3), 24+. (https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA173676222&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=09558950&p=LitRC&sw=w&userGroupName=anon%7E5a84816e) 8. Khodamoradpour, Marjan and Anushiravani, Alireza, (2017) Playing the Old Tunes: A Fiskean Analysis of Baz Luhrmann's 2013 Cinematic Adaptation of the Great Gatsby. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Volume 71. (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3020752) 9. Anderson, H. (1968). THE RICH BUNCH IN" THE GREAT GATSBY". Southern Quarterly, 6(2), 163. (https://www.proquest.com/openview/6a9e704a476d873aada2d2529821b95a/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=2029886)

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Life in West Egg and East Egg

Resurfacing gatsby’s past, a deadly crash and a shooting, setting and historical context, publication history, legacy, and adaptations, the meaning of the great gatsby.

Robert Redford in The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby , novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald , published in 1925 by Charles Scribner’s Sons. Set in Jazz Age New York , it tells the story of Jay Gatsby , a self-made millionaire, and his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy young woman whom he loved in his youth .

Commercially unsuccessful when it was first published, The Great Gatsby —which was Fitzgerald’s third novel—is now considered a classic of American fiction and has often been called the Great American Novel.

Young woman with glasses reading a book, student

  • Who is Jay Gatsby, and what are the parties like at his house?
  • How does Tom Buchanan react to the relationship that his wife, Daisy, has with Gatsby?
  • What shocking event occurs when Daisy, seated beside Gatsby, is driving his car, and how does it affect everyone involved?
  • How does The Great Gatsby capture the essence of the Jazz Age?
  • How did The Great Gatsby ’s popularity change over time?
  • What is the significance of West Egg vs. East Egg, and which wins in the end?

These AI-generated questions have been reviewed by Britannica’s editors.

Plot summary

The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway , a Yale University graduate from the Midwest who moves to New York after World War I to pursue a career in bonds . He recounts the events of the summer he spent in the East two years later, reconstructing his story through a series of flashbacks not always told in chronological order.

In the spring of 1922, Nick takes a house in the fictional village of West Egg on Long Island , where he finds himself living among the colossal mansions of the newly rich. Across the water in the more refined village of East Egg live his cousin Daisy and her brutish, absurdly wealthy husband Tom Buchanan. Early in the summer Nick goes over to their house for dinner, where he also meets Jordan Baker, a friend of Daisy’s and a well-known golf champion, who tells him that Tom has a mistress in New York City . In a private conversation, Daisy confesses to Nick that she has been unhappy. Returning to his house in West Egg, he catches sight of his neighbor Jay Gatsby standing alone in the dark and stretching his arms out to a green light burning across the bay at the end of Tom and Daisy’s dock.

Early in July Tom introduces Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who lives with her spiritless husband George Wilson in what Nick calls “a valley of ashes”: an industrial wasteland presided over by the bespectacled eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which stare down from an advertising billboard. Meeting her at the garage where George works as a repairman, the three of them go to Tom and Myrtle’s apartment in Manhattan. They are joined by Myrtle’s sister and some other friends who live nearby, and the evening ends in heavy drunkenness and Tom punching Myrtle in the nose when she brings up Daisy. Nick wakes up in a train station the morning afterward.

As the summer progresses, Nick grows accustomed to the noises and lights of dazzling parties held at his neighbor’s house, where the famous and newly rich turn up on Saturday nights to enjoy Gatsby’s well-stocked bar and full jazz orchestra. Nick attends one of these parties when personally invited by Gatsby and runs into Jordan, with whom he spends most of the evening. He is struck by the apparent absence of the host and the impression that all of his guests seem to have dark theories about Gatsby’s past. However, Nick meets him at last in a rather quiet encounter later in the evening when the man sitting beside him identifies himself as Gatsby. Gatsby disappears and later asks to speak to Jordan privately. Jordan returns amazed by what he has told her, but she is unable to tell Nick what it is.

Nick begins seeing Jordan Baker as the summer continues, and he also becomes better acquainted with Gatsby. One afternoon in late July when they are driving into Manhattan for lunch, Gatsby tries to dispel the rumors circulating around himself, and he tells Nick that he is the son of very wealthy people who are all dead and that he is an Oxford man and a war hero. Nick is skeptical about this. At lunch he meets Gatsby’s business partner Meyer Wolfsheim, the man who fixed the World Series in 1919 (based on a real person and a real event from Fitzgerald’s day). Later, at tea, Jordan Baker tells Nick the surprising thing that Gatsby had told her in confidence at his party: Gatsby had known Nick’s cousin Daisy almost five years earlier in Louisville and they had been in love, but then he went away to fight in the war and she married Tom Buchanan. Gatsby bought his house on West Egg so he could be across the water from her.

At Gatsby’s request, Nick agrees to invite Daisy to his house, where Gatsby can meet her. A few days later he has them both over for tea, and Daisy is astonished to see Gatsby after nearly five years. The meeting is at first uncomfortable, and Nick steps outside for half an hour to give the two of them privacy. When he returns, they seem fully reconciled , Gatsby glowing with happiness and Daisy in tears. Afterward they go next door to Gatsby’s enormous house, and Gatsby shows off its impressive rooms to Daisy.

As the days pass, Tom becomes aware of Daisy’s association with Gatsby. Disliking it, he shows up at one of Gatsby’s parties with his wife. It becomes clear that Daisy does not like the party and is appalled by the impropriety of the new-money crowd at West Egg. Tom suspects that Gatsby is a bootlegger, and he says so. Voicing his dismay to Nick after the party is over, Gatsby explains that he wants Daisy to tell Tom she never loved him and then marry him as though the years had never passed.

Gatsby’s wild parties cease thereafter, and Daisy goes over to Gatsby’s house in the afternoons. On a boiling hot day near the end of the summer, Nick arrives for lunch at the Buchanans’ house; Gatsby and Jordan have also been invited. In the dining room, Daisy pays Gatsby a compliment that makes clear her love for him, and, when Tom notices this, he insists they drive into town.

Daisy and Gatsby leave in Tom’s blue coupe, while Tom drives Jordan and Nick in Gatsby’s garish yellow car. On the way, Tom stops for gas at George Wilson’s garage in the valley of ashes, and Wilson tells Tom that he is planning to move west with Myrtle as soon as he can raise the money. This news shakes Tom considerably, and he speeds on toward Manhattan, catching up with Daisy and Gatsby.

The whole party ends up in a parlor at the Plaza Hotel, hot and in bad temper . As they are about to drink mint juleps to cool off, Tom confronts Gatsby directly on the subject of his relationship with Daisy. Daisy tries to calm them down, but Gatsby insists that Daisy and he have always been in love and that she has never loved Tom. As the fight escalates and Daisy threatens to leave her husband, Tom reveals what he learned from an investigation into Gatsby’s affairs—that he had earned his money by selling illegal alcohol at drugstores in Chicago with Wolfsheim after Prohibition laws went into effect. Gatsby tries to deny it, but Daisy has lost her resolve, and his cause seems hopeless. As they leave the Plaza, Nick realizes that it is his 30th birthday.

Gatsby and Daisy leave together in Gatsby’s car, with Daisy driving. On the road they hit and kill Myrtle, who, after having a vehement argument with her husband, had run into the street toward Gatsby’s passing car, thinking it was Tom. Terrified, Daisy continues driving, but the car is seen by witnesses. Coming behind them, Tom stops his car when he sees a commotion on the road. He is stunned and devastated when he finds the body of his mistress dead on a table in Wilson’s garage.

Wilson accusingly tells him it was a yellow car that hit her, but Tom insists it was not his and drives on to East Egg in tears. Back at the Buchanans’ house in East Egg, Nick finds Gatsby hiding in the garden and learns that it was Daisy who was driving, though Gatsby insists that he will say it was he if his car is found. He says he will wait outside Daisy’s house in case Tom abuses Daisy.

The next morning Nick goes over to Gatsby’s house, where he has returned, dejected . Nick advises him to go away, afraid that his car will be traced. He refuses, and that night he tells Nick the truth about his past: he had come from a poor farming family and had met Daisy in Louisville while serving in the army, but he was too poor to marry her at the time. He earned his incredible wealth only after the war (by bootlegging , as Tom discovered).

Reluctantly, Nick leaves for work, while Gatsby continues to wait for a call from Daisy. That afternoon, George Wilson arrives in East Egg, where Tom tells him that it was Gatsby who killed his wife. Wilson makes his way to Gatsby’s house, where he finds Gatsby in his pool. Wilson shoots Gatsby and then himself. Afterward the Buchanans leave Long Island. They give no forwarding address. Nick arranges Gatsby’s funeral, although only two people attend , one of whom is Gatsby’s father. Nick moves back to the Midwest, disgusted with life in the East.

Set in the Jazz Age (a term popularized by Fitzgerald), The Great Gatsby vividly captures its historical moment: the economic boom in America after World War I, the new jazz music, the free-flowing illegal liquor. As Fitzgerald later remarked in an essay about the Roaring Twenties , it was “a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure.”

According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, the 1920s witnessed “a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure.”

The brazenly lavish culture of West Egg is a reflection of the new prosperity that was possible during Prohibition , when illegal schemes involving the black-market selling of liquor abounded. Such criminal enterprises are the source of Gatsby’s income and finance his incredible parties, which are probably based on parties Fitzgerald himself attended when he lived on Long Island in the early 1920s.

The racial anxieties of the period are also evident in the novel; Tom’s diatribe on The Rise of the Colored Empires —a reference to a real book published in 1920 by the American political scientist Lothrop Stoddard—points to the burgeoning eugenics movement in the United States during the early 20th century.

essay of the great gatsby

Fitzgerald finished The Great Gatsby in early 1925 while he was living in France, and Scribner’s published it in April of the same year. Fitzgerald struggled considerably in choosing a title, toying with Trimalchio and Under the Red, White and Blue , among others; he was never satisfied with the title The Great Gatsby , under which it was ultimately published.

The illustration for the novel’s original dust jacket was commissioned by Fitzgerald’s editor Maxwell Perkins seven months before he was in possession of the finished manuscript. It was designed by Francis Cugat, a Spanish-born artist who did Hollywood movie posters, and depicts the eyes of a woman hanging over the carnival lights of Coney Island . The design was well-loved by Fitzgerald, and he claimed in a letter to Perkins that he had written it into the book, though whether this refers to the eyes of Doctor Eckleburg or something else is uncertain. Cugat’s painting is now one of the most well-known and celebrated examples of jacket art in American literature .

While Fitzgerald considered The Great Gatsby to be his greatest achievement at the time it was published, the book was neither a critical nor a commercial success upon publication. Reviews were mixed, and the 20,000 copies of its first printing sold slowly. It was printed one more time during Fitzgerald’s life, and there were still copies unsold from this second printing when he died in 1940.

The Great Gatsby was rediscovered a few years later and enjoyed an exponential growth in popularity in the 1950s, soon becoming a standard text of high-school curricula in the United States. It remains one of Scribner’s best sellers, and it is now considered a masterpiece of American fiction. In 2021 it entered the public domain in the United States.

There have been several film adaptations of the novel, most notably a production directed by Jack Clayton in 1974, starring Robert Redford as Gatsby, and one in 2013 directed by Baz Luhrmann , starring Leonardo DiCaprio .

essay of the great gatsby

Above all, The Great Gatsby has been read as a pessimistic examination of the American Dream . At its center is a remarkable rags-to-riches story, of a boy from a poor farming background who has built himself up to fabulous wealth. Jay Gatsby is someone who once had nothing but who now entertains rich and celebrated people in his enormous house on Long Island. However, even though Gatsby’s wealth may be commensurate with the likes of Tom Buchanan’s, he is ultimately unable to break into the “distinguished secret society” of those who were born wealthy. His attempt to win Daisy Buchanan, a woman from a well-established family of the American elite, ends in disaster and his death.

This tension between “new money” and “old money” is represented in the book by the contrast between West Egg and East Egg. West Egg is portrayed as a tawdry, brash society that “chafed under the old euphemisms,” full of people who have made their money in an age of unprecedented materialism. East Egg, in contrast, is a refined society populated by America’s “staid nobility,” those who have inherited their wealth and who frown on the rawness of West Egg. In the end, it is East Egg that might be said to triumph: while Gatsby is shot and his garish parties are dispersed, Tom and Daisy are unharmed by the terrible events of the summer.

The Great Gatsby is memorable for the rich symbolism that underpins its story. Throughout the novel, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is a recurrent image that beckons to Gatsby’s sense of ambition. It is a symbol of “the orgastic future” he believes in so intensely, toward which his arms are outstretched when Nick first sees him. It is this “extraordinary gift for hope” that Nick admires so much in Gatsby, his “heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.” Once Daisy is within Gatsby’s reach, however, the “colossal significance” of the green light disappears. In essence, the green light is an unattainable promise, one that Nick understands in universal terms at the end of the novel: a future we never grasp but for which we are always reaching. Nick compares it to the hope the early settlers had in the promise of the New World. Gatsby’s dream fails, then, when he fixates his hope on a real object, Daisy. His once indefinite ambition is thereafter limited to the real world and becomes prey to all of its corruption.

The valley of ashes—an industrial wasteland located between West Egg and Manhattan—serves as a counterpoint to the brilliant future promised by the green light. As a dumping ground for the refuse of nearby factories, it stands as the consequence of America’s postwar economic boom, the ugly truth behind the consumer culture that props up newly rich people like Gatsby. In this valley live men like George Wilson who are “already crumbling.” They are the underclasses that live without hope, all the while bolstering the greed of a thriving economy. Notably, Gatsby does not in the end escape the ash of this economy that built him: it is George Wilson who comes to kill him, described as an “ashen” figure the moment before he shoots Gatsby.

Over the valley of ashes hover the bespectacled eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which appear on the advertising billboard of an oculist. These eyes almost become a moral conscience in the morally vacuous world of The Great Gatsby ; to George Wilson they are the eyes of God. They are said to “brood” and “[keep] their vigil” over the valley, and they witness some of the most corrupt moments of the novel: Tom and Myrtle’s affair, Myrtle’s death, and the valley itself, full of America’s industrial waste and the toiling poor. However, in the end they are another product of the materialistic culture of the age, set up by Doctor Eckleburg to “fatten his practice.” Behind them is just one more person trying to get rich. Their function as a divine being who watches and judges is thus ultimately null , and the novel is left without a moral anchor.

The Great Gatsby: Essay Samples

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📝 The Great Gatsby: Essay Samples List

Below you’ll find a large collection of The Great Gatsby essay and research paper samples. Feel free to use any of them to inspire your own writing!

  • Gatsby & Nick in The Great Gatsby Essay Genre : Essay Words : 1763 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby
  • Gatsby & Jean Valjean: Compare & Contrast Essay Genre : Essay Words : 1259 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
  • The Ethicality of an Action Jay Gatsby Genre : Assessment paper Words : 833 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson
  • The American Dream in The Great Gatsby: Essay Genre : Essay Words : 619 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson
  • Babylon Revisited & The Great Gatsby: Motifs & Themes Genre : Essay Words : 1216 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
  • Time as a Theme in The Great Gatsby: Essay Genre : Essay Words : 896 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson
  • Daisy Buchanan: Quotes Analysis Essay Genre : Essay Words : 1077 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker
  • Female Characters in The Streetcar Named Desire & The Great Gatsby: Comparative Essay Genre : Essay Words : 1639 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • Why Is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby a Satire? Genre : Essay Words : 680 Focused on : The Great Gatsby genre Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Mr. McKee
  • Jay Gatsby & Tom Buchanan: Compare & Contrast Genre : Essay Words : 812 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald & His American Dream Genre : Essay Words : 1815 Focused on : F.S. Fitzgerald’s biography Characters mentioned : Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • Jay Gatsby & Eponine from Les Miserables: Compare & Contrast Essay Genre : Essay Words : 812 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • Jay Gatsby and Valjean in ‘Les Miserables’: Comparative Essay Genre : Essay Words : 769 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway
  • Love in The Great Gatsby & The Catcher in The Rye: Comparative Essay Genre : Analytical essay Words : 1059 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan
  • The Great Gatsby: Analysis and Feminist Critique Genre : Essay Words : 1365 Focused on : The Great Gatsby analysis Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson
  • Fairy Tale Traits in The Great Gatsby Genre : Essay Words : 1146 Focused on : The Great Gatsby analysis & context Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • The Great Gatsby: Book Review Genre : Book review Words : 701 Focused on : The Great Gatsby context Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan
  • The Great Gatsby: Book Review & Reflection Genre : Essay Words : 587 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle Wilson, George Wilson, Jordan Baker
  • Fitzgerald’s American Dream in The Great Gatsby & Winter Dreams Genre : Argumentative essay Words : 1119 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan
  • Silver & Gold: Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Genre : Essay Words : 889 Focused on : The Great Gatsby color symbolism Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker
  • Nick as the Narrator in The Great Gatsby Genre : Essay Words : 2473 Focused on : The Great Gatsby characters Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway
  • The Dilemmas of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby Genre : Essay Words : 687 Focused on : The Great Gatsby themes Characters mentioned : Jay Gatsby
  • Political Satire in American Literature Genre : Essay Words : 788 Focused on : The Great Gatsby genre Characters mentioned : Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby
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Study Guide Menu

  • Short Summary
  • Summary (Chapter 1)
  • Summary (Chapter 2)
  • Summary (Chapter 3)
  • Summary (Chapter 4)
  • Summary (Chapter 5)
  • Summary (Chapter 6)
  • Summary (Chapter 7)
  • Summary (Chapter 8)
  • Summary (Chapter 9)
  • Symbolism & Style
  • Quotes Explained
  • Essay Topics
  • Essay Samples
  • Questions & Answers
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

The Great Gatsby is the quintessential Jazz Age novel, capturing a mood and a moment in American history in the 1920s, after the end of the First World War. Rather surprisingly, The Great Gatsby sold no more than 25,000 copies in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lifetime. It has now sold over 25 million copies.

If Fitzgerald had stuck with one of the numerous working titles he considered for the novel, it might have been published as Trimalchio in West Egg (a nod to a comic novel from ancient Rome about a wealthy man who throws lavish parties), Under the Red, White and Blue , or even The High-Bouncing Lover (yes, really).

How did this novel come to be so widely acclaimed and studied, and what does it all mean? Before we proceed to an analysis of Fitzgerald’s novel, here’s a quick summary of the plot.

The Great Gatsby : plot summary

Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, is a young man who has come to New York to work on the stock exchange. He lives on the island of West Egg, where his neighbour is the wealthy Jay Gatsby, who owns a mansion.

One evening, Nick is dining with his neighbours from East Egg, Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom is having an affair, and goes to answer the phone at one point; Daisy follows him out of the room, and their fellow guest, a woman named Jordan Baker, explains to Nick about Tom’s mistress.

A short while after this, Nick is with Tom when Tom sets up a meeting with his mistress, Myrtle, the wife of a garage mechanic named Wilson. Nick attends a party with Tom and Myrtle; Tom hits his mistress when she mentions Daisy’s name.

In the summer, Gatsby throws a number of lavish parties at his mansion. He meets Jordan Baker again and the two are drawn to each other. Nobody seems to know the real Gatsby, or to be able to offer much reliable information about his identity. Who is he?

Gatsby befriends Nick and drives him to New York. Gatsby explains that he wants Nick to do him a favour: Jordan Baker tells him that Daisy was Gatsby’s first love and he is still in love with her: it’s the whole reason Gatsby moved to West Egg, so he could be near Daisy, even though she’s married to Tom. Gatsby wants Nick to invite both him and Daisy round for tea.

When they have tea together, Gatsby feels hopeful that he can recover his past life with Daisy before she was married. However, he knows that Daisy is unlikely to leave Tom for him. When she expresses a dislike for his noisy parties, he scales down his serving staff at his house and tones down the partying.

When they are all at lunch together, Tom realises that Daisy still loves Gatsby. Tom goads Gatsby as he realises he’s losing his mistress and, now, his wife. While staying together in a suite at the Plaza Hotel, Daisy tells Tom that she loves both men.

On their way back home, Gatsby’s car accidentally hits and kills Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s mistress, who has rushed out into the road after her husband found out about her affair. Tom finds her body and is distraught. Nick learns that Daisy, not Gatsby, was driving the car when Myrtle was killed.

Gatsby also tells Nick that he had built himself up from nothing: he was a poor man named James Gatz who made himself rich through the help of a corrupt millionaire named Dan Cody.

The next day, Nick finds Gatsby dead in his own swimming pool: Wilson, after his wife was killed by Gatsby’s car, turned up at Gatsby’s mansion to exact his revenge. Wilson’s body is nearby in the grass. The novel ends with Nick winding up Gatsby’s affairs and estate, before learning that Tom told Wilson where he could find Gatsby so he could take revenge.

The Great Gatsby : analysis

The Great Gatsby is the best-known novel of the Jazz Age, that period in American history that had its heyday in the 1920s. Parties, bootleg cocktails (it’s worth remembering that alcohol was illegal in the US at this time, under Prohibition between 1920 and 1933), and jazz music (of course) all characterised a time when Americans were gradually recovering from the First World War and the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-20).

One reason The Great Gatsby continues to invite close analysis is the clever way Fitzgerald casts his novel as neither out-and-out criticism of Jazz Age ‘values’ nor as an unequivocal endorsement of them. Gatsby’s parties may be a mere front, a way of coping with Daisy’s previous rejection of him and of trying to win her back, but Fitzgerald – and his sympathetic narrator, Nick Carraway – do not ridicule Gatsby’s behaviour as wholly shallow or vacuous.

Fitzgerald’s choice to have a first-person narrator, rather than a more detached and impersonal ‘omniscient’ third-person narrator, is also significant. Nick Carraway is closer to Gatsby than an impersonal narrator would be, yet the fact that Nick narrates Gatsby’s story, rather than Gatsby telling his own story, nevertheless provides Nick with some detachment, as well as a degree of innocence and ignorance over Gatsby’s identity and past.

Nick Carraway is both part of Gatsby’s world and yet also, at the same time, an observer from the side-lines, someone who is not rich and extravagant as many in Gatsby’s circle are, yet someone who is ushered into that world by an enthusiastic Jay Gatsby, who sees in Carraway a man in whom he can confide.

Nevertheless, Fitzgerald deftly sets the world of West Egg, with Gatsby’s mock-chateau and swimming pool, against the rather grittier and grimier reality for most Americans at the time. If Gatsby himself symbolises the American dream – he has made himself a success, absurdly wealthy with a huge house and a whole retinue of servants, having started out in poverty – then there are plenty of reminders in The Great Gatsby that ‘the American dream’ remains just that, a dream, for the majority of Americans:

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

This is the grey, bleak, industrial reality for millions of Americans: not for them is the world of parties, quasi-enchanted gardens full of cocktails and exotic foods, hydroplanes, and expensive motorcars.

Yet the two worlds are destined to meet on a personal level: the Valley of Ashes (believed to be modelled on Corona dump in Queens, New York, and inspired by T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land ) is where Wilson’s garage is located. The dual tragedy of Gatsby’s and Wilson’s deaths at the end of the novel symbolises the meeting of these two worlds.

The fact that Gatsby is innocent of the two crimes or sins which motivate Wilson – his wife’s adultery with Tom and Daisy’s killing of Myrtle with Gatsby’s car – hardly matters: it shows the subtle interconnectedness of these people’s lives, despite their socioeconomic differences.

What’s more, as Ian Ousby notes in his Introduction to Fifty American Novels (Reader’s Guides) , there is more than a touch of vulgarity about Gatsby’s lifestyle: his house is a poor imitation of a genuine French chateau, but he is no aristocrat; his car is ‘ridiculous’; and his very nickname, ‘the Great Gatsby’, makes him sound like a circus entertainer (perhaps a magician above all else, which is apt given the magical and enchanted way Carraway describes the atmosphere and detail at Gatsby’s parties).

And ultimately, Gatsby’s lavish lifestyle fails to deliver happiness to him, too: he doesn’t manage to win Daisy back to him, so at the same time Fitzgerald is not holding up Gatsby’s ‘success’ uncritically to us.

Is Gatsby black? Although he is known for having been played in film adaptations by Robert Redford and Leonardo DiCaprio, and the novel does not state that Gatsby is an African American, the scholar Carlyle V. Thompson has suggested that certain clues or codes in the novel strongly hint at Gatsby being a black American who has had to make his own way in the world, rising from a poor socio-economic background, and not fully accepted by other people in his social circle because of racial discrimination.

Whether we accept or reject this theory, it is an intriguing idea that, although Fitzgerald does not support this theory in the novel, that may have been deliberate: to conceal Gatsby’s blackness but, as it were, hide it in plain sight.

In the last analysis, The Great Gatsby sums up the Jazz Age, but through offering a tragedy, Fitzgerald shows that the American dream is founded on ashes – both the industrial dirt and toil of millions of Americans for whom the dream will never materialise, and the ashes of dead love affairs which Gatsby, for all of his quasi-magical properties, will never bring fully back to life.

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10 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby”

I regret the several hours wasted in slogging through this low-prole distraction.

You might want to start with something like Dick and Jane.

One of my favorite novels. I have always loved this book. No matter how may times I read it, more is revealed.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels. Thank you for the detailed analysis! I can also add that Fitzgerald includes lots of symbols in the novel. To my mind, one of the most vivid symbols is a giant billboard with the face of Doctor TJ Eckleburg which is towering over the Valley of Ashes. These eyes are watching the dismal grey scene of poverty and decay. I guess the billboard symbolizes the eyes of God staring at the Americans and judging them. In case seomeone is interested in symbols in The Great Gatsby, there is a nice article about it. Here: https://custom-writing.org/blog/symbols-in-the-great-gatsby

While I could imagine and accept a modern film version of Gatsby as black, I really can’t espouse the notion that Fitzgerald had that in mind. If you know anything about American society in the 1920s, you’d know that you didn’t have to be black or of some other minority to be outside the winner’s circle. US society may still have tons of problems accepting that all people are created equal, but back then, they weren’t even thinking about blacks et al very much. They were quite happy to ostracize Italians, Irish, Catholics, etc, without batting an eye.

This is such a widely misunderstood book, by scholars as well as regulars.

Daisy was the victim of love. She would’ve married Jay while he was in the army. Also, Jay’s so-called symbolic “reaching” is nothing more than him trying to understand self love, to attain it, to unravel the “mystery! ” of it. But he never realizes he’s totally in love with himself, which is his biggest issue other than preying on Daisy’s real love.

And Nick ” Carraway” …. Care-a-way, care-a-way… What self-appointed moral man witnesses nakedly two married plotters sceam against a neighbor they like, or any person in serious need of legal, emotion aid, AND DOES NOTHING. Yeah, care a way, Nick, just not your way! And Come On!! who the hell doesn’t judge others….that’s the ENTIRE POINT OF EVERY BOOK AND LIFE.

WHAT preyed on Gatsby preys upon every person everywhere. Influences of life and choices we make because if them. Gatsby’s such an interesting, centralized , beloved character because he represents everyone’s apparent embracement of the childhood notion, ” we can have it all and make our own consequences, and if not, let’s see if I can manipulate time successfully. Gatsby’s us the full human demonstration of self love at all costs and quite deliberately finding a way disguise and masquerade and mutate and thus deny this very fact while simultaneously trying to make it MAGICAL AND MYSTICAL.

ARTISTS, from geniuses to so-called laypeople, are all simple people with very basic emotions. That’s where ALL starts. They are not Gods, nor do they desire misunderstanding. Frankly, they just wanna see if you have any common sense. Once you get passed that, all literature resembles EVERY aspect of life.

A terrific novel and not bad adaptation as a movie by DiCaprio, I thought! While some of the comments on here are a little excessive, there is much to be said for the symbolism in the book. I rather like the fact that ‘West Egg’ and ‘East Egg’ surely hints at questioning who is the ‘good egg’ and who is ‘the bad egg’. The place names are so unusual that this must be deliberate (‘bad egg’ has been around since at least 1855) and we’re left to wonder just what is good and bad here. No character comes out smelling of roses in this story, which – for me – makes the novel utterly compelling.

Well said, Ken. It’s the subtlety of the characterisation which makes it for me – I know a lot of critics and readers praise the prose style, but I think it’s the way Fitzgerald uses Carraway’s narration to reveal the multifaceted (and complex) nature of Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and even himself that is so masterly. I’ve just finished analysing the opening paragraphs of the novel and will post that up soon!

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The Great Gatsby

F. scott fitzgerald, ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

The Great Gatsby: Introduction

The great gatsby: plot summary, the great gatsby: detailed summary & analysis, the great gatsby: themes, the great gatsby: quotes, the great gatsby: characters, the great gatsby: symbols, the great gatsby: literary devices, the great gatsby: quizzes, the great gatsby: theme wheel, brief biography of f. scott fitzgerald.

The Great Gatsby PDF

Historical Context of The Great Gatsby

Other books related to the great gatsby.

  • Full Title: The Great Gatsby
  • Where Written: Paris and the US, in 1924
  • When Published: 1925
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: Long Island, Queens, and Manhattan, New York in the summer of 1922
  • Climax: The showdown between Gatsby and Tom over Daisy
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for The Great Gatsby

Puttin' on the Fitz. Fitzgerald spent most of his adult life in debt, often relying on loans from his publisher, and even his editor, Maxwell Perkins, in order to pay the bills. The money he made from his novels could not support the high-flying cosmopolitan life his wife desired, so Fitzgerald turned to more lucrative short story writing for magazines like Esquire. Fitzgerald spent his final three years writing screenplays in Hollywood.

Another Failed Screenwriter. Fitzgerald was an alcoholic and his wife Zelda suffered from serious mental illness. In the final years of their marriage as their debts piled up, Zelda stayed in a series of mental institutions on the East coast while Fitzgerald tried, and largely failed, to make money writing movie scripts in Hollywood.

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The Great Gatsby

Introduction to the great gatsby, summary of the great gatsby.

After a few months, Tom introduces Nick to his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle is married George Wilson, who is not as lively or joyful as Tom. According to Nick, George is “a valley of ashes”. He also compares George to an industrial wasteland supervised by Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. They meet her at the garage where George works as a repairman. Tom, Nick, and Myrtle go to her apartment in Manhattan. Myrtle’s sister and some other friends join them. As they are heavily drunk, they fall into an argument . Tom punches Myrtle in the nose when she talks about Daisy and insults her. Nick also wakes up in a train station.

Nick becomes even more suspicious about this mystery character and decides to learn more about him through Jordan.  Nick continues to see Jordan Baker. He also gets acquainted with Jay Gatsby at the same time. During one of the drives for lunch in Manhattan, Gatsby tries to dismiss the rumors that has been reaching Nick. Jay tells Nick that his parents were very wealthy people and were dead. He studied in Oxford and discharged as a war hero after World War 1. Nick doesn’t believe Jay at this point. At lunch, Nick is introduced to Gatsby’s business partner, Meyer Wolfsheim. Meyer is known to fix the World Series in 1919. (This character was based on a real person and a real event from the author’s time). Nick meets Jordan Baker. She reveals Nick about her conversation with Gatsby. Gatsby knew Daisy, Nick’s cousin five years before. While he lived in Louisville, Jay and Daisy were in love. When Jay left to fight in the war, Daisy married Tom Buchanan. Gatsby bought his current mansion on West Egg to be across the water to see Daisy from distance.

Gatsby request Nick to invite Daisy to his house so that he can meet her. After a few days Jay Gatsby, invited by Nick, meets Daisy over tea. Daisy is surprised to see Gatsby after five years gap. Initially, they are quiet and hesitant, making the meeting extremely awkward. Nick observes this and leaves them alone for some time. He believes that by giving them a little privacy, they might talk and sort things out. Surprisingly, when Nick returns, Jay and Daisy speak without any uneasiness in the environment. Jay Gatsby is beaming with happiness; and Daisy is crying happy tears. Later, they head to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby begins to show all his rooms and artifacts to her.

Few days pass, with Daisy and Jay Gatsby meeting frequently, Tom comes to know about Daisy’s meeting with Gatsby. He doesn’t like it. One day, Tom unwillingly attends Jay Gatsby’s party with Daisy. Daisy feels uncomfortable at the party. She is disgusted by the bad behavior of the rich crowd at West Egg. Tom assumes that Gatsby has a business of selling goods illegally. He accuses Jay Gatsby at the party and also shares his frustration with Nick after the party. Gatsby tries to ignore all the fight and asks Daisy to leave Tom. He begs her to tell the truth to Tom that she does not love him. Gatsby asks Daisy to marry him after they separate. He confesses that he had never stopped loving Daisy.

Hearing the news Tom is visibly mad and speeds towards Manhattan. He catches up with Daisy and Gatsby. They go to a parlor at the Plaza Hotel, while Tom is still disturbed by hearing George’s and Myrtle’s moving news. While having a drink Tom confronts Gatsby about his and Daisy’s relationship. Daisy tries her best to calm them down. However, Gatsby begs Daisy to reveal the truth of their love. When Tom continues to threaten Jay Gatsy, Daisy threatens to leave Tom. Out of prejudice, Tom tells them that he had been investigating Gatsby. He concludes that Jay Gatsby was selling illegal alcohol at drugstores in Chicago with Wolfsheim. Gatsby denies the allegations and tries to diffuse the situation. However, Daisy loses hope. They leave the Plaza, just as Nick turns 30, without celebrating his birthday.

While returning, Daisy drives Gatsby’s car. On the way they accidentally hit Myrtle. Just before the accident Myrtle and George had a severe argument. She runs toward the street thinking Tom is still driving Gatsby’s car. While Jay Gatsby and Daisy see Myrtle they don’t stop. Daisy is afraid to stop and is caught by a couple of witnesses. Tom who is following them from Plaza stops his car after seeing the accident scene and the crowd on the road. Tom is shocked and heartbroken after seeing Myrtle’s dead body in Wilson’s garage. Wilson reveals to Tom that a yellow car was responsible for the accident. Tom tells that the car was not his and leaves to East Egg while mourning. When Nick sees Jay Gatsby at the Buchanans’ mansion he comes to know that Daisy caused the accident. However, Gatsby tells him that he will take the blame if his car is found. Jay also decides to be at Daisy’s house as a guard to protect her from Tom.

Major Themes in The Great Gatsby

Major characters in the great gatsby,  writing style of the great gatsby ‎, analysis of literary devices in the great gatsby.

In the first example, the passage shows the description of a person while the second presents the description of Port Roosevelt. In both descriptions, Fitzgerald has used senses of sound, sight, and hearing extensively.

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Book Guides


Maybe you've just finished The Great Gatsby and need some guidance for unpacking its complex themes and symbols. Or maybe it's been awhile since you last read this novel, so you need a refresher on its plot and characters. Or maybe you're in the middle of reading it and want to double check that you're not missing the important stuff. Whatever you need - we've got you covered with this comprehensive summary of one of the great American novels of all time!

Not only does this complete The Great Gatsby summary provide a detailed synopsis of the plot, but it'll also give you: capsule descriptions for the book's major characters, short explanations of most important themes, as well as links to in-depth articles about these and other topics.

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Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book. To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

The Great Gatsby Summary: The Full Plot

Our narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to the East Coast to work as a bond trader in Manhattan. He rents a small house in West Egg, a nouveau riche town in Long Island. In East Egg, the next town over, where old money people live, Nick reconnects with his cousin Daisy Buchanan, her husband Tom, and meets their friend Jordan Baker.

Tom takes Nick to meet his mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle is married to George Wilson, who runs a gas station in a gross and dirty neighborhood in Queens. Tom, Nick, and Myrtle go to Manhattan, where she hosts a small party that ends with Tom punching her in the face.

Nick meets his next-door neighbor, Jay Gatsby, a very rich man who lives in a giant mansion and throws wildly extravagant parties every weekend, and who is a mysterious person no one knows much about.

Gatsby takes Nick to lunch and introduces him to his business partner - a gangster named Meyer Wolfshiem.

Nick starts a relationship with Jordan. Through her, Nick finds out that Gatsby and Daisy were in love five years ago, and that Gatsby would like to see her again.

Nick arranges for Daisy to come over to his house so that Gatsby can "accidentally" drop by. Daisy and Gatsby start having an affair.

Tom and Daisy come to one of Gatsby's parties. Daisy is disgusted by the ostentatiously vulgar display of wealth, and Tom immediately sees that Gatsby's money most likely comes from crime.

We learn that Gatsby was born into a poor farming family as James Gatz. He has always been extremely ambitious, creating the Jay Gatsby persona as a way of transforming himself into a successful self-made man—the ideal of the American Dream.

Nick, Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and Jordan get together for lunch. At this lunch, Daisy and Gatsby are planning to tell Tom that she is leaving him. Gatsby suddenly feels uncomfortable doing this in Tom's house, and Daisy suggests going to Manhattan instead.

In Manhattan, the five of them get a suite at the Plaza Hotel where many secrets come out. Gatsby reveals that Daisy is in love with him. Tom in turn reveals that Gatsby is a bootlegger, and is probably engaged in other criminal activities as well. Gatsby demands that Daisy renounce Tom entirely, and say that she has never loved him. Daisy can't bring herself to say this because it isn't true, crushing Gatsby's dream and obsession. It's clear that their relationship is over and that Daisy has chosen to stay with Tom.

That evening, Daisy and Gatsby drive home in his car, with Daisy behind the wheel. When they drive by the Wilson gas station, Myrtle runs out to the car because she thinks it's Tom driving by. Daisy hits and kills her, driving off without stopping.

Nick, Jordan, and Tom investigate the accident. Tom tells George Wilson that the car that struck Myrtle belongs to Gatsby, and George decides that Gatsby must also be Myrtle's lover.

That night, Gatsby decides to take the blame for the accident. He is still waiting for Daisy to change her mind and come back to him, but she and Tom skip town the next day. Nick breaks up with Jordan because she is completely unconcerned about Myrtle's death.

Gatsby tells Nick some more of his story. As an officer in the army, he met and fell in love with Daisy, but after a month had to ship out to fight in WWI. Two years later, before he could get home, she married Tom. Gatsby has been obsessed with getting Daisy back since he shipped out to fight five years earlier.

The next day, George Wilson shoots and kills Gatsby, and then himself.

The police leave the Buchanans and Myrtle's affair out of the report on the murder-suicide.

Nick tries to find people to come to Gatsby's funeral, but everyone who pretended to be Gatsby's friend and came to his parties now refuses to come. Even Gatsby's partner Wolfshiem doesn't want to go to the funeral. Wolfshiem explains that he first gave Gatsby a job after WWI and that they have been partners in many illegal activities together.

Gatsby's father comes to the funeral from Minnesota. He shows Nick a self-improvement plan that Gatsby had written for himself as a boy.

Disillusioned with his time on the East coast, Nick decides to return to his home in the Midwest.


Other Ways to Study the Plot of The Great Gatsby

See what happens when in actual chronological order and without flashbacks in our Great Gatsby timeline .

Read our individual The Great Gatsby chapter summaries for more in-depth details about plot, important quotes and character beats, and how the novel's major themes get reflected:

Learn the significance behind the novel's title , its beginning , and its ending .

List of the Major Characters in The Great Gatsby

Click on each character's name to read an in-depth article analyzing their place in the novel.

Nick Carraway —our narrator, but not the book's main character. Coming East from the Midwest to learn the bond business, Nick is horrified by the materialism and superficiality he finds in Manhattan and Long Island. He ends up admiring Gatsby as a hopeful dreamer and despising the rest of the people he encounters.

Jay Gatsby —a self-made man who is driven by his love for, and obsession with, Daisy Buchanan. Born a poor farmer, Gatsby becomes materially successful through crime and spends the novel trying to recreate the perfect love he and Daisy had five years before. When she cannot renounce her marriage, Gatsby's dream is crushed.

Daisy Buchanan —a very rich young woman who is trapped in a dysfunctional marriage and oppressed by her meaningless life. Daisy has an affair with Gatsby, but is ultimately unwilling to say that she has been as obsessed with him as he has with her, and goes back to her unsatisfying, but also less demanding, relationship with her husband, Tom.

Tom Buchanan —Daisy's very rich, adulterous, bullying, racist husband. Tom is having a physically abusive affair with Myrtle Wilson. He investigates Gatsby and reveals some measure of his criminal involvement, demonstrating to Daisy that Gatsby isn't someone she should run off with. After Daisy runs over Myrtle Wilson, Tom makes up with Daisy and they skip town together.

Jordan Baker —a professional golfer who has a relationship with Nick. At first, Jordan is attractive because of her jaded, cynical attitude, but then Nick slowly sees that her inveterate lying and her complete lack of concern for other people are deal breakers.

Myrtle Wilson —the somewhat vulgar wife of a car mechanic who is unhappy in her marriage. Myrtle is having an affair with Tom, whom she likes for his rugged and brutal masculinity and for his money. Daisy runs Myrtle over, killing her in a gruesome and shocking way.

George Wilson —Myrtle's browbeaten, weak, and working class husband. George is enraged when he finds out about Myrtle's affair, and then that rage is transformed into unhinged madness when Myrtle is killed. George kills Gatsby and himself in the murder-suicide that seems to erase Gatsby and his lasting impact on the world entirely.


Other Ways to Study Great Gatsby Characters

Need a refresher on all the other people in this book? Check out our overview of the characters or dive deeper with our detailed character analyses .

Get some help for tackling the common assignment of comparing and contrasting the novel's characters .

Start gathering relevant character quotes to beef up your essay assignments with evidence from the text.

List of the Major Themes in The Great Gatsby

Get a broad overview of the novel's themes , or click on each theme to read a detailed individual analysis.

Money and Materialism —the novel is fascinated by how people make their money, what they can and can't buy with it, and how the pursuit of wealth shapes the decisions people make and the paths their lives follow. In the novel, is it possible to be happy without a lot of money? Is it possible to be happy with it?

Society and Class —the novel can also be read as a clash between the old money set and the nouveau riche strivers and wannabes that are trying to either become them or replace them. If the novel ends with the strivers and the poor being killed off and the old money literally getting away with murder, who wins this class battle?

The American Dream —does the novel endorse or mock the dream of the rags-to-riches success story, the ideal of the self-made man? Is Gatsby a successful example of what's possible through hard work and dedication, or a sham whose crime and death demonstrate that the American Dream is a work of fiction?

Love, Desire, and Relationships —most of the major characters are driven by either love or sexual desire, but none of these connections prove lasting or stable. Is the novel saying that these are destructive forces, or is just that these characters use and feel them in the wrong way?

Death and Failure —a tone of sadness and elegy (an elegy is a song of sadness for the dead) suffuses the book, as Nick looks back at a summer that ended with three violent deaths and the defeat of one man's delusional dream. Are ambition and overreach doomed to this level of epic failure, or are they examples of the way we sweep the past under the rug when looking to the future?

Morality and Ethics —despite the fact that most of the characters in this novel cheat on their significant others, one is an accidental killer, one is an actual criminal, and one a murderer, at the end of the novel no one is punished either by the law or by public censure. Is there a way to fix the lawless, amoral, Wild East that this book describes, or does the replacement of God with a figure from a billboard mean that this is a permanent state of affairs?

The Mutability of Identity —the key to answering the title's implied questions (What makes Gatsby great? Is Gatsby great?) is whether it is possible to change oneself for good, or whether past history and experiences leave their marks forever. Gatsby wants to have it both ways: to change himself from James Gatz into a glamorous figure, but also to recapitulate and preserve in amber a moment from his past with Daisy. Does he fail because it's impossible to change? Because it's impossible to repeat the past? Or both?

Other Ways to Study Great Gatsby Themes

Often, themes are represented by the a novel's symbols. Check out our overview of the main symbols in The Great Gatsby , or click on an individual symbol for a deeper exploration of its meaning and relevance:

  • The green light at the end of Daisy's dock
  • The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg
  • The valley of ashes

Themes are also often reinforced by recurring motifs. Delve into a guide to the way motifs color and enrich this work.


The Bottom Line

  • Use our analysis, gathered quotations , and description for help with homework assignments, tests, and essays on this novel.

What's Next? More Great Gatsby Analysis and Study Guides!

Understand how the book is put together by looking at its genre, narrator, and setting .

Learn the background of and context for the novel in our explanations of the history of the composition of the book and the biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald .

Get a sense of how the novel has been adapted by reading about its many film versions .

Read an overview of how to write analytical essays about the characters in the Great Gatsby before diving into the nitty-gritty for each main character (including the question of if Jay Gatsby really is great ).

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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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The Great Gatsby Essays

Foreshadowing destiny olivia verma, the great gatsby.

<blockquote>[G]audy ... primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. ... [T]he air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and...

The Eulogy of a Dream James Boo

The central theme of <I>The Great Gatsby</I> is the decay of the American Dream. Through his incisive analysis and condemnation of 1920s high society, Fitzgerald (in the person of the novels narrator, Nick Carraway) argues that the...

Materialism Portrayed By Cars in The Great Gatsby Joanna Cruz

"But as I walked down the steps I saw that the evening was not quite over. Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene (58)."

After the first of Gatsby's parties that Nick attends, Fitzgerald dedicates two...

Role of Narration in The Great Gatsby Steven Rice

Renowned author F. Scott Fitzgerald became "the most famous chronicler of 1920s America, an era that he dubbed 'the Jazz Age.'" (Phillips 1). His fame grew in part from his widely published short stories, and also from the art of his novel, The...

A Great American Dream Jens Shroyer

The Great Gatsby and "Babylon Revisited," both by F. Scott Fitzgerald, are stories about the emptiness and recklessness of the 1920s. Each story has its distinctions, but Fitzgerald's condemnation of the decade reverberates through both....

Restless in West Egg Anonymous

To many Americans, wealth and happiness are inextricably intertwined. After all, the democratic ideals of our country are predicated on the notion of the âself-madeâ? man. Ironically, it is sometimes the striving for wealth or the striving for...

The Death of a Dream Martha E. Andrietti

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is regarded as a brilliant piece of literature that offers a vivid peek into American life in the 1920's. The central characteristics of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920's society are shown through the decay...

The Fall of the American Dream Josh Weiss

The figurative as well as literal death of Jay Gatsby in the novel The Great Gatsby symbolizes a conclusion to the principal theme of the novel. With the end of the life of Jay Gatsby comes the end of what Fitzgerald views as the ultimate American...

Jay Gatsby's Representation of America Josh Weiss

It was literary critic Lionel Trilling who quite aptly described the collective entity Jay Gatsby when he wrote, "Jay Gatsby [stands] for America itself." Jay Gatsby lives his life entrenched in unfathomable wealth. His true roots are rather...

Decay of American Greatness Michael Jin

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a shining example of the principle that the most powerful messages are not told but rather shown. Although the novel is written in the form of largely impartial narration by Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald's...

Through A Lens, Darkly: The Use of Eye Imagery to Illustrate the Theme of an Extinct God in The Great Gatsby Anonymous

Throughout history, the eye has always been an emblem of the deities. In the Egyptian pantheon, there is Horus, god of light, who is signified by his famous Eye; in the Roman pantheon, there is Juno, associated with the many-eyed peacock; and in...

Obsession Anonymous

In his book The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the psychology of love's fantasies and realities through the character of Jay Gatsby. During their five-year separation, Gatsby pines for his love, Daisy Buchanan, rearranging his entire...

Daisy and Her Men: Analysis of Character in The Great Gatsby Ashley Smith

Throughout literature, there are countless characters whose only positive attributes seem to be the fact that they are utterly detestable - the reader loves to hate them. From Shakespeare's conniving Iago to Dickens' endlessly cruel Estella, these...

The African American Dream B. L. Fox

Social class plays a dominant role in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In fact the title character is living proof that the American dream really exists. Readers recognize the importance Fitzgerald places on social class throughout the...

The Shift From Realism to Modernism Anonymous

During the modernist era, artists gradually moved away from realism towards themes of illusion, consciousness, and imagination. In the visual arts, realism evolved into cubism and expressionism. This movement is paralleled in literature, as...

Gatsby and Henry: Obsession Viewed in Two Different Lenses Ruth Tangonan

Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby revolve around one primary character who serves as a vessel that reveals the major theme of the book. The Great Gatsby chronicles Jay Gatsby's pursuit of love, while...

Money! Money! Money! Christopher R. DeConinck

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, as Jay Gatsby delves into his pursuit of wealth and need for materialism, his hopes and aspirations become shattered in a world of unobtainable and unreachable possibilities. While Jay Gatsby confidently...

The Bildungsroman Form in The Great Gatsby Sagar Shah

Maturation and personal evolution of main characters typify the bildungsroman, a distinct novelistic form. The growth of characters Tom Buchanan, George Wilson, Jay Gatsby make F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and important example of the...

The significance of the end of Chapter 1 of "The Great Gatsby" Anonymous

Luminosity and spiritual longing for something that had vanished a long ago are probably the two main characteristics of the last two paragraphs in Chapter 1 of “The Great Gatsby”. The scene takes place shortly after Nick's return from dinner at...

The Great Gatsby and the Decline of the American Dream Anonymous

F. Scott Fitzgerald explores the decline of the American Dream in one of his most famous novels, The Great Gatsby. Although this book only takes place over a few months, it represents the entire time period of the 1920s, in which society, mainly...

Gatsby's Fall from Greatness Anonymous

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby completes a decline from his carefully crafted image of greatness to his exposed, unsightly, and lonely death. The story of the novel is really the deconstruction of this image, and the...

Modernism and The Great Gatsby Bonnie Christine Smith

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has been hailed as one of the greatest literary works of Modernism. The Great Gatsby set the tone for the movement that defined American literature in the early decades well into the present day. The...

Fitzgerald's Prediction and the Great Depression Anonymous

Famed American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald could not have anticipated what was on the horizon when he penned The Great Gatsby in 1925. Fitzgerald was no prophet, but he seemed to have an innate sensibility that allowed him to step outside of...

House Versus Home in The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman Anonymous

In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, both authors use their characters’ living space, the house, as a metaphor for the attainability of the American Dream of security, wealth, and...

essay of the great gatsby

'The Great Gatsby' Themes

Wealth, class, and society, love and romance, the loss of idealism, the failure of the american dream.

essay of the great gatsby

  • M.F.A, Dramatic Writing, Arizona State University
  • B.A., English Literature, Arizona State University
  • B.A., Political Science, Arizona State University

The Great Gatsby , by F. Scott Fitzgerald, presents a critical portrait of the American dream through its portrayal of the 1920s New York elite. By exploring themes of wealth, class, love and idealism, The Great Gatsby raises powerful questions about American ideas and society.

The Great Gatsby 's characters represent the wealthiest members of 1920s New York society . Despite their money, however, they are not portrayed as particularly aspirational. Instead, the rich characters' negative qualities are put on display: wastefulness, hedonism, and carelessness.

The novel also suggests that wealth is not equivalent to social class. Tom Buchanan comes from the old money elite, while Jay Gatsby is a self-made millionaire. Gatsby, self-conscious about his "new money" social status, throws unbelievably lavish parties in hopes of catching Daisy Buchanan's attention. However, at the novel's conclusion, Daisy chooses to stay with Tom despite the fact that she genuinely loves Gatsby; her reasoning is that she could not bear to lose the social status that her marriage to Tom affords her. With this conclusion, Fitzgerald suggests that wealth alone does not guarantee entrance into the upper echelons of elite society.

In The Great Gatsby , love is intrinsically tied to class. As a young military officer, Gatsby fell quickly for debutante Daisy, who promised to wait for him after the war. However, any chance at a real relationship was precluded by Gatsby's lower social status. Instead of waiting for Gatsby, Daisy married Tom Buchanan, an old-money East Coast elite. It is an unhappy marriage of convenience: Tom has affairs and seems just as romantically uninterested in Daisy as she is in him.

The idea of unhappy marriages of convenience isn’t limited to the upper class. Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, is a spirited woman in a seriously mismatched marriage to a suspicious, dull man. The novel suggests that she married him in hopes of being upwardly mobile, but instead the marriage is simply miserable, and Myrtle herself ends up dead. Indeed, the only unhappy couple to survive "unscathed" is Daisy and Tom, who eventually decide to retreat into the cocoon of wealth despite their marital problems.

In general, the novel takes a fairly cynical view of love. Even the central romance between Daisy and Gatsby is less a true love story and more a depiction of Gatsby's obsessive desire to relive—or even redo —his own past. He loves the image of Daisy more than the woman in front of him . Romantic love is not a powerful force in the world of The Great Gatsby .

Jay Gatsby is perhaps one of the most idealistic characters in literature. Nothing can deter him from his belief in the possibility of dreams and romance. In fact, his entire pursuit of wealth and influence is carried out in hopes of making his dreams come true. However, Gatsby's single-minded pursuit of those dreams—particularly his pursuit of the idealized Daisy—is the quality that ultimately destroys him. After Gatsby's death, his funeral is attended by just three guests; the cynical "real world" moves on as though he'd never lived at all.

Nick Carraway also represents the failures of idealism through his journey from naïve Everyman observer to burgeoning cynic. At first, Nick buys into the plan reunite Daisy and Gatsby, as he believes in the power of love to conquer class differences. The more involved he becomes in the social world of Gatsby and the Buchanans, however, the more his idealism falters. He begins to see the elite social circle as careless and hurtful. By the end of the novel, when he finds out the role Tom cheerfully played in Gatsby’s death, he loses any remaining trace of idealization of elite society.

The American dream posits that anyone, no matter their origins, can work hard and achieve upward mobility in the United States. The Great Gatsby questions this idea through the rise and fall of Jay Gatsby. From the outside, Gatsby appears to be proof of the American dream: he is a man of humble origins who accumulated vast wealth. However, Gatsby is miserable. His life is devoid of meaningful connection. And because of his humble background, he remains an outsider in the eyes of elite society. Monetary gain is possible, Fitzgerald suggests, but class mobility is not so simple, and wealth accumulation does not guarantee a good life.

Fitzgerald specifically critiques the American dream within the context of the Roaring Twenties , a time when growing affluence and changing morals led to a culture of materialism. Consequently, the characters of The Great Gatsby equate the American dream with material goods, despite the fact that the original idea did not have such an explicitly materialistic intent. The novel suggests that rampant consumerism and the desire to consume has corroded the American social landscape and corrupted one of the country's foundational ideas.

  • 'The Great Gatsby' Overview
  • The Great Gatsby and the Lost Generation
  • 'The Great Gatsby' Characters: Descriptions and Significance
  • What is the role of women in 'The Great Gatsby'?
  • 'The Great Gatsby' Plot Summary
  • 'The Great Gatsby' Quotes Explained
  • Critical Overview of "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's Inspiration for 'The Great Gatsby'
  • 'The Great Gatsby' Study Questions
  • The Lost Generation and the Writers Who Described Their World
  • Why Was "The Great Gatsby" Banned?
  • 'The Great Gatsby' Vocabulary
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The Big List of Essay Topics for High School (120+ Ideas!)

Ideas to inspire every young writer!

What one class should all high schools students be required to take and pass in order to graduate?

High school students generally do a lot of writing, learning to use language clearly, concisely, and persuasively. When it’s time to choose an essay topic, though, it’s easy to come up blank. If that’s the case, check out this huge round-up of essay topics for high school. You’ll find choices for every subject and writing style.

  • Argumentative Essay Topics
  • Cause-and-Effect Essay Topics
  • Compare-Contrast Essay Topics
  • Descriptive Essay Topics
  • Expository and Informative Essay Topics
  • Humorous Essay Topics

Literary Essay Topics

  • Narrative and Personal Essay Topics
  • Personal Essay Topics
  • Persuasive Essay Topics

Research Essay Topics

Argumentative essay topics for high school.

When writing an argumentative essay, remember to do the research and lay out the facts clearly. Your goal is not necessarily to persuade someone to agree with you, but to encourage your reader to accept your point of view as valid. Here are some possible argumentative topics to try. ( Here are 100 more compelling argumentative essay topics. )

  • The most important challenge our country is currently facing is … (e.g., immigration, gun control, economy)
  • The government should provide free internet access for every citizen.
  • All drugs should be legalized, regulated, and taxed.
  • Vaping is less harmful than smoking tobacco.
  • The best country in the world is …
  • Parents should be punished for their minor children’s crimes.
  • Should all students have the ability to attend college for free?
  • Should physical education be part of the standard high school curriculum?

Should physical education be part of the standard high school curriculum?


  • Schools should require recommended vaccines for all students, with very limited exceptions.
  • Is it acceptable to use animals for experiments and research?
  • Does social media do more harm than good?
  • Capital punishment does/does not deter crime.
  • What one class should all high schools students be required to take and pass in order to graduate?
  • Do we really learn anything from history, or does it just repeat itself over and over?
  • Are men and women treated equally?

Cause-and-Effect Essay Topics for High School

A cause-and-effect essay is a type of argumentative essay. Your goal is to show how one specific thing directly influences another specific thing. You’ll likely need to do some research to make your point. Here are some ideas for cause-and-effect essays. ( Get a big list of 100 cause-and-effect essay topics here. )

  • Humans are causing accelerated climate change.
  • Fast-food restaurants have made human health worse over the decades.
  • What caused World War II? (Choose any conflict for this one.)
  • Describe the effects social media has on young adults.

Describe the effects social media has on young adults.

  • How does playing sports affect people?
  • What are the effects of loving to read?
  • Being an only/oldest/youngest/middle child makes you …
  • What effect does violence in movies or video games have on kids?
  • Traveling to new places opens people’s minds to new ideas.
  • Racism is caused by …

Compare-Contrast Essay Topics for High School

As the name indicates, in compare-and-contrast essays, writers show the similarities and differences between two things. They combine descriptive writing with analysis, making connections and showing dissimilarities. The following ideas work well for compare-contrast essays. ( Find 80+ compare-contrast essay topics for all ages here. )

  • Public and private schools
  • Capitalism vs. communism
  • Monarchy or democracy
  • Dogs vs. cats as pets

Dogs vs. cats as pets

  • Paper books or e-books
  • Two political candidates in a current race
  • Going to college vs. starting work full-time
  • Working your way through college as you go or taking out student loans
  • iPhone or Android
  • Instagram vs. Twitter (or choose any other two social media platforms)

Descriptive Essay Topics for High School

Bring on the adjectives! Descriptive writing is all about creating a rich picture for the reader. Take readers on a journey to far-off places, help them understand an experience, or introduce them to a new person. Remember: Show, don’t tell. These topics make excellent descriptive essays.

  • Who is the funniest person you know?
  • What is your happiest memory?
  • Tell about the most inspirational person in your life.
  • Write about your favorite place.
  • When you were little, what was your favorite thing to do?
  • Choose a piece of art or music and explain how it makes you feel.
  • What is your earliest memory?

What is your earliest memory?

  • What’s the best/worst vacation you’ve ever taken?
  • Describe your favorite pet.
  • What is the most important item in the world to you?
  • Give a tour of your bedroom (or another favorite room in your home).
  • Describe yourself to someone who has never met you.
  • Lay out your perfect day from start to finish.
  • Explain what it’s like to move to a new town or start a new school.
  • Tell what it would be like to live on the moon.

Expository and Informative Essay Topics for High School

Expository essays set out clear explanations of a particular topic. You might be defining a word or phrase or explaining how something works. Expository or informative essays are based on facts, and while you might explore different points of view, you won’t necessarily say which one is “better” or “right.” Remember: Expository essays educate the reader. Here are some expository and informative essay topics to explore. ( See 70+ expository and informative essay topics here. )

  • What makes a good leader?
  • Explain why a given school subject (math, history, science, etc.) is important for students to learn.
  • What is the “glass ceiling” and how does it affect society?
  • Describe how the internet changed the world.
  • What does it mean to be a good teacher?

What does it mean to be a good teacher?

  • Explain how we could colonize the moon or another planet.
  • Discuss why mental health is just as important as physical health.
  • Describe a healthy lifestyle for a teenager.
  • Choose an American president and explain how their time in office affected the country.
  • What does “financial responsibility” mean?

Humorous Essay Topics for High School

Humorous essays can take on any form, like narrative, persuasive, or expository. You might employ sarcasm or satire, or simply tell a story about a funny person or event. Even though these essay topics are lighthearted, they still take some skill to tackle well. Give these ideas a try.

  • What would happen if cats (or any other animal) ruled the world?
  • What do newborn babies wish their parents knew?
  • Explain the best ways to be annoying on social media.
  • Invent a wacky new sport, explain the rules, and describe a game or match.

Explain why it's important to eat dessert first.

  • Imagine a discussion between two historic figures from very different times, like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Retell a familiar story in tweets or other social media posts.
  • Describe present-day Earth from an alien’s point of view.
  • Choose a fictional character and explain why they should be the next president.
  • Describe a day when kids are in charge of everything, at school and at home.

Literary essays analyze a piece of writing, like a book or a play. In high school, students usually write literary essays about the works they study in class. These literary essay topic ideas focus on books students often read in high school, but many of them can be tweaked to fit other works as well.

  • Discuss the portrayal of women in Shakespeare’s Othello .
  • Explore the symbolism used in The Scarlet Letter .
  • Explain the importance of dreams in Of Mice and Men .
  • Compare and contrast the romantic relationships in Pride and Prejudice .

Analyze the role of the witches in Macbeth.

  • Dissect the allegory of Animal Farm and its relation to contemporary events.
  • Interpret the author’s take on society and class structure in The Great Gatsby .
  • Explore the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.
  • Discuss whether Shakespeare’s portrayal of young love in Romeo and Juliet is accurate.
  • Explain the imagery used in Beowulf .

Narrative and Personal Essay Topics for High School

Think of a narrative essay like telling a story. Use some of the same techniques that you would for a descriptive essay, but be sure you have a beginning, middle, and end. A narrative essay doesn’t necessarily need to be personal, but they often are. Take inspiration from these narrative and personal essay topics.

  • Describe a performance or sporting event you took part in.
  • Explain the process of cooking and eating your favorite meal.
  • Write about meeting your best friend for the first time and how your relationship developed.
  • Tell about learning to ride a bike or drive a car.
  • Describe a time in your life when you’ve been scared.

Write about a time when you or someone you know displayed courage.

  • Share the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you.
  • Tell about a time when you overcame a big challenge.
  • Tell the story of how you learned an important life lesson.
  • Describe a time when you or someone you know experienced prejudice or oppression.
  • Explain a family tradition, how it developed, and its importance today.
  • What is your favorite holiday? How does your family celebrate it?
  • Retell a familiar story from the point of view of a different character.
  • Describe a time when you had to make a difficult decision.
  • Tell about your proudest moment.

Persuasive Essay Topics for High School

Persuasive essays are similar to argumentative , but they rely less on facts and more on emotion to sway the reader. It’s important to know your audience, so you can anticipate any counterarguments they might make and try to overcome them. Try these topics to persuade someone to come around to your point of view. ( Discover 60 more intriguing persuasive essay topics here. )

  • Do you think homework should be required, optional, or not given at all?
  • Everyone should be vegetarian or vegan.
  • What animal makes the best pet?
  • Visit an animal shelter, choose an animal that needs a home, and write an essay persuading someone to adopt that animal.
  • Who is the world’s best athlete, present or past?
  • Should little kids be allowed to play competitive sports?
  • Are professional athletes/musicians/actors overpaid?
  • The best music genre is …

What is one book that everyone should be required to read?

  • Is democracy the best form of government?
  • Is capitalism the best form of economy?
  • Students should/should not be able to use their phones during the school day.
  • Should schools have dress codes?
  • If I could change one school rule, it would be …
  • Is year-round school a good idea?

A research essay is a classic high school assignment. These papers require deep research into primary source documents, with lots of supporting facts and evidence that’s properly cited. Research essays can be in any of the styles shown above. Here are some possible topics, across a variety of subjects.

  • Which country’s style of government is best for the people who live there?
  • Choose a country and analyze its development from founding to present day.
  • Describe the causes and effects of a specific war.
  • Formulate an ideal economic plan for our country.
  • What scientific discovery has had the biggest impact on life today?

Tell the story of the development of artificial intelligence so far, and describe its impacts along the way.

  • Analyze the way mental health is viewed and treated in this country.
  • Explore the ways systemic racism impacts people in all walks of life.
  • Defend the importance of teaching music and the arts in public schools.
  • Choose one animal from the endangered species list, and propose a realistic plan to protect it.

What are some of your favorite essay topics for high school? Come share your prompts on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, check out the ultimate guide to student writing contests .

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