Kayla McGearty-Anderson





English III

Gatsby Explained by Chapter

Student selected articles for The Great Gatsby class discussion:

Gatsby and the American Dream

meritocracy: government or the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability. A ruling or influential class of educated or skilled people.

The American Dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of race, class, gender, or nationality, can be successful in America (rich) if they just work hard enough.

misogyny: dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

xenophobia: intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

ephemeral: lasting for a very short time.

personification: a person, animal, or object regarded as representing or embodying a quality or concept; a figure intended to represent an abstract quality. Ex. Daisy as the embodiment of the American Dream (a concept).

intimation: an indication or hint.

Alliteration is when words that start with the same sound are put next to each other.

Journal, 5/24–Questions to Consider, prior to discussion:

So what do we make of the The Great Gatsby ending? Why is there so much death? Why doesn’t anyone get their just comeuppance? Why do Gatsby, Myrtle, and George Wilson die? Why does Daisy go back to Tom? Why does no one come to Gatsby’s funeral?

comeuppance: a punishment or fate that someone deserves.

  • “strivers” dead and the old money crowd safe

Interpreting the Meaning of the Last Sentence of The Great Gatsby : “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (180).

Read the three interpretations below; then, answer: Which of these readings most appeals to you? Why?

Three ways to interpret how Fitzgerald wants us to take this idea that we are constantly stuck in a loop of pushing forward toward our future and being pulled back by our anchoring past.

1. Depressing and Fatalistic

If we go with the “heavy burden” meaning of the word “borne,” then this last line means that our past is an anchor and a weight on us no matter how hard we try to go forward in life. In this case, life only an illusion of forward progress. This is because as we move into the future, everything we do instantly turns into our past, and this past cannot be undone or done over, as Gatsby attempted.

This version of the ending says that people want to recapture an idealized past, or a perfect moment or memory, but when this desire for the past turns into an obsession, it leads to ruin, just as it lead to Gatsby’s. In other words, all of our dreams of the future are based on the fantasies of a past, and already outdated, self.

2. Uplifting and Hopeful

If, on the other hand, we stick with the “given birth to” aspect of “borne” and also on the active momentum of the phrase “so we beat on,” then the idea of beating on is an optimistic and unyielding response to a current that tries to force us backward. In this interpretation, we resiliently battle against fate with our will and our strength – and even though we are constantly pulled back into our past, we move forward as much as we can.

3. Objectively Describing the Human Condition

In the final version of the last line’s meaning, we take out the reader’s desire for a “moral” or some kind of explanatory takeaway (whether a happy or sad one). Without this qualitative judgment, this means that the metaphor of boats in the current is just a description of what life is like. In this way, the last line is simply saying that through our continuing efforts to move forward through new obstacles, we will be constantly reminded and confronted with our past because we can’t help but repeat our own history, both individually and collectively.

  • After reading his letter, write your own list of “Things to worry about”; “Things not to worry about”; Things to think about.”

Activity in Color Symbolism; select a color and complete the activity below:

Jay Gatsby’s Life is All of America

The novel’s last paragraphs also touch on most of the novel’s overarching themes, symbols, and motifs:







The Literary Analysis Essay

Read thoroughly before writing; utilize the examples provided as a reference.

Link to a helpful PowerPoint on Literary Analysis: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/697/1

Link to the MLA Formatting and Style Guide: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/


  •       Hook:

o   S: Shock with a passage, situation, statistic (if relevant)

o   T: Tell a story, possibly pulling from a compelling passage of the novel

o   A: Analogize, create a comparison between two things that seem different, but through your analysis are shown to be similar

o   M: Misdirect your readers, making them think one thing, while revealing another—remember Brent Staples’ use of this technique in his powerful essay “Black Men in Public Space.” He makes his readers believe the narrator is a murderer; when in fact, he is simply a pedestrian, mistaken for someone threatening, due to (from his understanding) the color of his skin.

o   P: personalize, provide a text-to-text connection, if poignantly accessible

  •       Necessary Information to include in the introduction:

o   Author’s full name

o   Title of the story

o   Brief plot summary or introduction to the story (the bridge)

Example utilizing a rich, vivid description of the setting:

Sleepy Maycomb, like other Southern towns, suffers considerably during the Great Depression. Poverty reaches from the privileged families, like the Finches, to the Negroes and “white trash” Ewells, who live on the outskirts of town. Harper Lee paints a vivid picture of life in this humid Alabama town where tempers and bigotry explode into conflict.

  •       Thesis statement

o    Provides the subject and overall opinion of your essay. For a literary analysis, your major thesis must:

  •  (1) Relate to the theme (in this case, whatever you chose to “track”) of the work and (2) Suggest how this theme is revealed by the author.
  •  A good thesis may also suggest the organization of the paper.

Thesis Formula (not required, utilize as a guide):

Through (such-and-such literary devices, themes, characterization, character relationship(s), setting, what you were “tracking” in your novel)_________________________________________________________, the author conveys (such-and-such meaning)______________________________________________________________________________________________.

(The second part should be where you take a stand with your reading of the work. This stance stems from what you discovered through the analysis of your “tracking notes”, the findings.)

The thesis may integrate the title of the work and the author:

Example: Through Paul’s experience behind the lines, at a Russian prisoner of war camp, and especially under bombardment in the trenches, Erich Maria Remarque realistically shows how war dehumanizes a man.

Sometimes a thesis becomes too cumbersome to fit into one sentence. In such cases, you may express the major thesis as two sentences.

Example: In a Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens shows the process by which a wasted life redeems itself. Sidney Carton, through his love for Lucie Manette, transforms from a hopeless, bitter man into a hero whose life and death have meaning.

–always use active, present tense verbs. Avoid the passive voice at all costs!


The support paragraphs of your essay.

Each paragraph in the body includes (1) a topic sentence, (2) textual evidence (a.k.a. text-based-evidence, TBE (quotes), from your reading) and commentary (a.k.a. explanation/analysis), and (3) a concluding sentence.

In its simplest form, each body paragraph follows:

  1. Topic sentence
  2. Lead-in to TBE (quote) 1
  3. TBE (quote) 1
  4. Commentary/Analysis
  5. Transition and lead-in to TBE (quote) 2
  6. TBE (quote) 2
  7. Commentary/Analysis
  8. Concluding or clincher sentence

1)     Topic Sentence: the first sentence of a body or support paragraph. It identifies one aspect of the major thesis and states a primary reason why the major thesis is true.

Example: When he first appears in the novel, Sidney Carton is a loveless outcast who sees little worth in himself or in others.

2)     Lead-In: phrase or sentence that prepares the reader for textual evidence by introducing the speaker, setting, and/or situation. ü

Example: Later, however, when the confident Sidney Carton returns alone to his home, his alienation and unhappiness become apparent: “Climbing into a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears” (Dickens 211).

3)   Textual Evidence/TBE: a specific example from the work used to provide evidence for your topic sentence. Textual evidence can be a combination of paraphrase and direct quotation from the work. ü

Example: When Carlton and Darnay first meet at the tavern, Carlton tells him, “I care for no man on this earth, and no man cares for me” (Dickens 105).

4)   Commentary/Analysis: your explanation and interpretation of the textual evidence. Commentary tells the reader what the author of the text means or how the textual evidence proves the topic sentence. Commentary may include interpretation, analysis, argument, insight, and/or reflection. (Helpful hint: In your body paragraph, you should have twice as much commentary as textual evidence. In other words, for every sentence of textual evidence, you should have at least two sentences of commentary.) 

Example: Carton makes this statement as if he were excusing his rude behavior to Darnay. Carton, however, is only pretending to be polite, perhaps to amuse himself. With this seemingly off-the-cuff remark, Carton reveals a deeper cynicism and his emotional isolation.

5)   Transitions: words or phrases that connect or “hook” one idea to the next, both between and within paragraphs. Transition devices include using connecting words as well as repeating key words or using synonyms.

Examples: Finally, in the climax… Another example: … Later in the story… In contrast to this behavior… Not only…but also… Furthermore…

6)     Clincher/Concluding Sentence: last sentence of the body paragraph. It concludes the paragraph by tying the textual evidence and commentary back to the thesis. ü

Example: Thus, before Carton experiences love, he is able to convince himself that the world has no meaning.

TEXTUAL EVIDENCE WITHIN YOUR PAPER (follow the MLA Guidelines, owlpurdue.org)

PRIMARY SOURCE: The literary work (novel (italicized), play (italicized), short story (quotation marks), poem (quotation marks)) to be discussed in an essay.


Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart”

SECONDARY SOURCE: Any source (other than the primary source) referred to in the essay. Secondary sources can include critical analyses, biographies of the author, reviews, history books, encyclopedias etc.


History and Foundation of American Indian Education by Stan Juneau

PARENTHETICAL DOCUMENTATION (In-text citations): a brief parenthetical reference placed where a pause would naturally occur to avoid disrupting the flow of your writing (usually at the end of a sentence, before the period).

Most often, you will use the author’s last name and page number clearly referring to a source listed on the “Works Cited” page: 


Hemingway’s writing declined in his later career (Shien 789).

If you cite the author in the text of your paper, give only the page number in parentheses: 


According to Francis Guerin, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn reflects, “those same nightmarish shadows that even in our own time threaten to obscure the American Dream” (49).

Literary Analysis Essay Outline

Follow the outline below when writing your literary analysis essay—feel free to copy and paste into a new document.


  •       Hook
  •       Bridge
  •       Thesis


  •       Topic Sentence
  •       Lead-in/Introduce TBE (quotes) 1
  •       TBE (quote)
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Transition and lead-in the TBE (quote) 2
  •       TBE (quote) 2
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Concluding or clincher sentence


  •       Topic Sentence
  •       Lead-in/Introduce TBE (quotes) 1
  •       TBE (quote)
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Transition and lead-in the TBE (quote) 2
  •       TBE (quote) 2
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Concluding or clincher sentence


  •       Topic Sentence
  •       Lead-in/Introduce TBE (quotes) 1
  •       TBE (quote)
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Transition and lead-in the TBE (quote) 2
  •       TBE (quote) 2
  •       Commentary/Analysis
  •       Concluding or clincher sentence

CONCLUSION (answers the “so what?”)

This paragraph should answer the “so what?” question your reader may have after reading your essay. The conclusion should do one or more of the following:

1) Reflect on how your
essay topic relates to the book as a whole

2) Evaluate how successful
the author is in achieving his or her goal or message (what you have
been “tracking”).

3) Give a personal
statement about the topic

4) Make predictions

5) Bookend (come full
circle): connect back to your creative, STAMPy introduction

6) Give your opinion of the
novel’s value or significance–be careful with this one!

**This guide has been adapted from “A Guide to Writing the Literary Analysis Essay” at: http://powayusd.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/pusdrbhs/academics/english/curriculum/literaryguide.pdf

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