Gatsby’s American Dream: Reading The Great Gatsby Critically, Chapter 1

by on July 18, 2011

In which John Green discusses the first chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, including thoughts on the role that the ideas of the self-made man and the American dream fuel the beginning of the novel. Themes, metaphors, and symbols are all discussed--although hopefully not in that boring and unlikable way you all find so reprehensible.

Discuss the book!

In the first chapter, our narrator Nick Carraway introduces us briefly to Gatsby before taking us to an awful dinner with the unhappily married Buchanans, Tom and Daisey, who live in great wealth and misery on East Egg.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Leah July 20, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I think the American dream is American because we’ve never had defined classes, and the poorest and least educated person technically has the same chance for success as the wealthiest, highly educated person, if only because there is no law or class system in place which can deny them that chance.


Kristen Bowers July 21, 2011 at 12:49 am

LOVE THIS!!! SOO great…cannot wait to share with all my English teacher colleagues and friends! And I cannot wait to see the next installment.


Kelly July 27, 2011 at 2:01 am

Advice for Gatsby from John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”


Jim May 27, 2012 at 1:14 am

OK Kelly, that was plain perfect. Thank you.


Jacob Wright August 22, 2011 at 4:43 am

The Great Gatsby definitely represents America in all its excessiveness, its consumer-crazy culture, its uninhibited decadence in times of prosperity, its promise of freedom, equality, progress. I found this quote on Shmoop that describes the way the old idealistic America- Land of the Free and Home of the Brave- gave way to a shallow, pretentious, frivolous, empty culture. ‘Gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.’


Jonathan Schober May 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

“In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year….Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.” Chapter 1, pg. 12
What does it mean?


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