The Great Gatsby

Students read The Great Gatsby, evaluating Fitzgerald's critique of the American 1920s, as well as considering issues of social class and the impact of history and memory on individuals.

Unit Summary

As students read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby, they will conduct in-depth character analysis of Gatsby and evaluate how Fitzgerald uses the character of Gatsby, as well as other literary devices, to comment on the society and values of the American 1920s. Students will consider issues of social class and the impact of history and memory on the lives of the characters as well as on our own.

While we do not typically take a stand on whether reading is done in class or at home, this particular unit is most suited to students reading the majority of the novel at home, allowing class time for analyzing key excerpts as well as writing about and discussing the text.  If the teacher would like to read in class, she or he should allow for the number of lessons to be roughly double the estimate below.

This unit has three Supplementary AP Projects related to the theme of consumerism. In the first two projects, students will read multiple short documents and write a synthesis essay (similar to FRQ 1). Then, students will compose responses to the FRQ 3 essay prompt from the 2005 AP English Language and Composition Exam. The emphasis of this third project will be developing and communicating an informed opinion on the topic of wealth inequality. To learn more about including these Supplemental AP Projects in this English 12 unit, please see our Guide to Supplemental AP Language and Composition Projects.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge

Intellectual Prep


Intellectual Prep for English Lessons

  1. Read and annotate the novel.
  2. Read and annotate this unit plan and all paired passages.
  3. Gather outside sources on World War I, the Jazz Age, and the Roaring Twenties if students have not previously studied these eras.

Intellectual Prep for AP Projects

Essential Questions


  • Wealth and Social Class: How far can one go to break boundaries that separate the classes? How far should one go to break boundaries that separate the classes?  
  • Memory and the Past: Is “the past” a boundary we cannot overcome (as Nick rationally argues, “you can’t repeat the past”) or is the future a boundary we cannot overcome (as Nick notes, we are “ceaselessly born back into the past” as the “future recedes before us”)?

Writing Focus Areas


Students will produce short written responses to each target task question in this unit. The focus is for students to produce short pieces that show a commitment to the task, purpose, and audience. This requires that they succinctly articulate their claim and provide brief but compelling evidence from the text(s) to support their analysis.

Spiraling Literary Analysis Writing Focus Area

  • Focus on Task: Comprehensive and consistently appropriate to the task, purpose, and audience
  • Analysis: Demonstrates effective and comprehensive reasoning
  • Evidence: Sophisticated and varied evidence that deepens insight on the topic



Literary Terms

first-person narration, characterization, metaphor, irony, symbol, allusion, foreshadowing, motif, theme

Roots and Affixes

ol- (olfactory), som- (somnambulatory)


Chapters 1–3: feign (1), levity (1), privy (1), elation (2), supercilious (7), fractiousness (7), unobtrusively (12), irreverently (9), cynical (16), peremptorily (19), involuntarily (21), transcendent (23), impenetrable (23), sumptuous (25), countenance (29), inexhaustible (35), innuendo (40), contemptuous (42), staid (44), florid (48), jaunty (52), subterfuge (58)

Chapters 4–6: incredulous (66), olfactory (68), somnambulatory (69), inconceivable (92), vitality (95), contemptuous (98), conceit (99), antecedents (101), ingratiate (101), lethargic (106), euphemism (106), incalculable (108), incarnation (111)

Chapters 7–9: obscurely (113), cynically (116), inexhaustible (120), boisterously (121), contingency (121), incredulous (122 & 129), inviolate (125), precipitately (125), disquieting (125), invariably (136), incessantly (138), truculent (140), indiscernible (148), interminable (154), conceivably (158), amorphous (161), elocution (173), complacent (176), transitory (180)

Idioms and Cultural References

Chapters 1–4: Great War (3), John D. Rockefeller (27), Fifth Avenue (28), Town Tattle (29), Gilda Gray (41), Follies (41), Von Hindenburg (61), Oxford (65), 1919 World Series (73), debut (75), Armistice (75), Coney Island (83), Trimalchio (113), medium (122), Hopalong Cassidy (173)

Content Knowledge and Connections


  • World War I
  • The Jazz Age
  • The Roaring Twenties

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

  • The theme of memory and the past features heavily in both The Great Gatsby and The God of Small Things. Students should be able to compare how the two authors develop this theme and what each author’s message is.

Lesson Map



Select a topic and begin work on a unit paper.


  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Great Gatsby

Analyze how the filmmaker establishes tone in the film version.

AP Projects


Core Standards