Understanding the Great Gatsby: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

By Dalton Gross; MaryJean Gross | Go to book overview

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Literary Analysis: What Makes The Great Gatsby Great

The Great Gatsby is a very popular novel, and today nearly all critics agree that it is a great one. But what makes it great? What elements set it apart? Many novels are so poorly written that they are never even published, and most that are published do not sell especially well. Of those that have good sales, good reviews, or both, most are soon forgotten. But a few become a permanent part of our literature. Why has The Great Gatsby become one of those few?

Probably no one is able to give a complete answer to that question. The things that make a book great are subtle and complicated. Perhaps some of them are indefinable. But we can at least touch on some of the basic elements that make The Great Gatsby what it is and on some of the meanings it has for perceptive readers.

One can read The Great Gatsby easily and enjoyably without careful analysis. The essential story seems simple enough. Yet readers who stop to ask themselves exactly why they enjoyed the novel, what makes it work, will find themselves looking at a very complex book that means much more than it seems to at first glance. The novel has nearly perfect unity of effect. Every image, every character, every symbol, every turn of the plot contributes to the theme and to the feeling one carries away from reading it, even though

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Understanding the Great Gatsby: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents
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