‘The Great Gatsby’ Essay Plan- Key Incident Chapter
Task : Choose a novel in which a key incident takes on a tragic or unexpected
turn of events. Describe briefly the key incident and assess its significance to
your understanding of the text as a whole.
Paragraph One –introduction
 Restatement of question using key words/phrases from the task.
 Title and author.
 Mention effective techniques used by the writer. E.g. symbolism,
dialogue and characterisation.
Paragraph Two- plot summary
 Briefly explain what happens in the key incident and say why it is
important to your understanding of the text as a whole.
Paragraphs 3/4/5/6 onwards use the SEAT structure and begin with a topic
sentence linked to the task. You can use the notes on the next page to help
structure your answer. However, you should include your own ideas and
select appropriate quotations to prove the points you make.
Begin with a topic sentence: Fizgerald’s effective use of symbolism helps the
reader to appreciate the rising tensions between characters in this key
incident, leading to unexpected and tragic events. You might include some of
the following points:
 Symbolism: light and darkness- mirroring the mood and direction of
Gatsby’s fortunes.
 Symbolism -hottest day of year: a barometer of the rising tension
and emotions of the characters.
 Jordan and Daisy dressed in white – symbolising innocence and light.
Daisy appears pure and ethereal, but the key incident shows the irony of
these connotations.
 Little has changed in Daisy’s life despite her affair with Gatsby.
 Automobiles- Gatsby’s car symbolises wealth, but also destruction.
Dialogue: reveals conflict between characters
Begin with a topic sentence: A dramatic climax is reached through
confrontation between Tom and Gatsby; with it comes the destruction of
Gatsby’s dream, tragedy and death. Fitzgerald creates this explosive incident
through effective dialogue. You might include some of the following points:
 Darker side of Gatsby’s character is revealed through quarrel with Tom.
 Tom sees common origins and vulgarity in Gatsby. In contrast, Nick sees
something beautiful about him.
 Tom attacks Gatsby’s past- dubious source of his wealth; questions his
education- an ‘Oxford Man’.
 Tom uses the past to emotionally blackmail Daisy when she says she
didn’t love him.
Characterisation: Daisy’s response.
Begin with a topic sentence: The writer’s skilful characterisation of Daisy
Buchanan is instrumental to our appreciation of the key incident and the text
as a whole. She is a cold and shallow character, who is responsible for Myrtle
Wilson’s death and the destruction of Gatsby’s dream.
 She is openly committing adultery- she kisses Gatsby in front of Jordan,
showing her careless frivolity.
 She drove the car and was responsible for the death of Myrtle Wilson.
 Daisy and Tom’s empty lives are alluded to in Fitzgerald’s narrative.
 Daisy represents for Gatsby, the American Dream, ‘Her voice was full of
 Daisy betrays Gatsby’s dream. She cannot say that she never loved Tom.
 Gatsby wants her to choose and in this way he can return to the past.
 She rejects Gatsby when she becomes aware of his criminal past.
 Daisy is a selfish, shallow character, who plays Gatsby. This is evident
when she and Tom reconcile at the end of chapter seven.
 The chapter ends with Gatsby alone in the darkness. The structure of
the novel parallels chapter one, when Nick first sees Gatsby reaching out
towards the green light.
Characterisation- Jay Gatsby
Begin with a topic sentence: Fitzgerald successfully depicts Jay Gatsby as a
deluded and deeply flawed character in this explosive key incident. Ultimately,
it is Gatsby’s blind pursuit of Daisy and his inability to deal with reality which
leads to tragic events and his death thereafter.
 Gatsby is foolish in thinking that Daisy will leave her husband for him.
 Gatsby is willing to take the blame for Daisy killing Myrtle and this makes
him appear to be an honourable and noble character despite his dubious
 Gatsby is so obsessed with winning Daisy’s affections and protecting her
that he does not seem to care about Myrtle’s tragic death.
 Gatsby is deluded in that refuses to accept the romance is over. He
stands guard outside her house and fails to realise that his actions are
 By the end of the chapter the illusion of a charming and enigmatic Jay
Gatsby is gone, instead he is depicted as a vulnerable and pathetic
character, utterly lost and his dream destroyed.
Characterisation : Nick’s development as a character
 Significance of Nick’s 30th birthday symbolises the end of his youth and a
new found sense of responsibility as he sees the carelessness of the
Buchanans as well as Jordan’s indifference.
 After the key incident in the novel following Myrtle’s death, Nick tells
Gatsby, ”he is worth the whole damn bunch put together” he is saying
this because he approves of the generous nature of Gatsby’s idealism.
 Regrettably, Gatsby learns very little during the course of the novel; only
Nick develops and this is as a direct consequence of his experiences with
 In the final chapter, he is able to distinguish between Gatsby and the
other characters in the novel, who now epitomize the “foul dust” that
“floated in the wake of his dreams”. Nick has such feelings of distain and
contempt for these ‘careless people” that he “wanted no more riotous
excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.”
Conclusion- exemplar
Thus, in ‘The Great Gatsby’ Fitzgerald has successfully created a shocking and
explosive key incident which leads to tragic and unexpected events. The
writer’s skilful use of symbolism, characterisation and dialogue all combine to
produce an intensely dramatic climax, resulting in the tragic death of Myrtle
Wilson. Moreover, with the destruction of Gatsby’s Dream and his eventual
demise, Fitzgerald reveals the central concern of the novel, that an ideal which
is founded solely on the worship of materialism is self- defeating and
ultimately a destructive force.
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