Gatsby - Chapters 1 & 2

The Great
Learning Goals
Demonstrate understanding and knowledge of
the main characters from chapters one and two
Be able to identify quotations which give the
reader a clear insight into the characters
Consider the importance of setting in the novel
and how this further establishes the characters
Understand the importance of the second major
setting – The valley of the Ashes
Identify the further use of symbolism in Gatsby
which increases your understanding of the major
Novel Review
Write down three events/facts/observations from
Chapters One and Two that you think are
important and should be studied.
Share with the class as a discussion.
This should take no more than five minutes.
Chapter One - Summary
Nick establishes his reason for recording events.
He establishes setting – East Coast/Summer/1922.
He asserts the qualities he has for recording the story yet contradicts
His style of prose is both lyrical, dense but also efficient.
Establishes his own family background.
We meet some of the main protagonists.
He alludes to Gatsby but we do not meet him directly, thereby
maintaining a sense of an enigma.
Importantly, he reveals that he has returned to the West in order to
process the events of this summer.
Chapter Two - Summary
Introduced to a third setting – The Valley of Ashes. This shows a
darker side to the American Dream and demonstrates what
happens if you work hard but don’t achieve what you want.
Meet George and Myrtle Wilson, the only impoverished characters in
the novel and they live in the Valley of Ashes.
Find out that Tom and Myrtle are having an affair and Myrtle has
aspirations to leave the ash pit. She sees Tom as her ticket out and
does not accept that there is no chance of a permanent
relationship between the two.
Shown the contrasts between Daisy and Myrtle.
Move to another setting – Manhattan, New York. Tom, Nick, Myrtle
and other people through a small party and we see a darker side to
Tom’s character as he punches Myrtle when she insults Daisy.
The theme of artifice and reality is explored in this chapter.
Fitzgerald invents this character to
write the novel - written as an
autobiographical account of events
taking place over a 3 month period
in the summer of 1922.
“I am inclined to reserve all
“Reserving judgement is a
matter of infinite hope”
“I wanted the
world to be in
throughout. Is a
stockbroker yet
admires romantic
Nick’s Function
Both observed and participant. Be
aware of not only what he discloses
about others, but also about
What are his values and ideals?
We must keep this in mind as he is
not an impartial narrator!
Group Discussion
Discuss the following as a class.
Having read the first few paragraphs of the novel,
what do you know about Nick’s personality?
According to Nick, what was a particularly unusual
aspect of Gatsby’s character, given the pessimism of
the time? Include the quotation.
At the start of the novel Nick’s father reminds him that
not everyone has had his advantages. Describe Nick,
list his advantages, and detail the facts you know
about him.
Do you consider Nick to be a “good” narrator? Justify
your response.
 Understand
the importance of
setting in ‘The Great Gatsby’
 Show
how these settings relate
to the theme of “The American
 Identify
other themes which
arise from chapter one and the
different settings
Chapter one introduces the reader
to the two main settings: West Egg
and East Egg.
 These settings are very important as
they help to establish the
characters and also link in with the
main themes of the novel.
 They are also symbolic of different
class systems in America (the
supposedly classless society).
West Egg and East Egg
Chapter one introduces the reader to both West
Egg and East Egg and establishes the symbolic
significance of both.
West Egg represents ‘new money’, ostentatious
and mock, whereas East Egg represents ‘old
money’, established and genuine.
One represents the aspiring class, the other the
established, upper middle-class.
The Eggs and the American Dream
The eggs are fundamentally different – Nick refers to the
‘sinister contrast’ between them.
East Egg (where Tom and Daisy live) is the fashionable
suburb which houses families with long-established
generations of wealth – the ‘royalty’ of New York.
West Egg, by comparison is no less splendid: white palatial
mansions are dotted along tree-lined avenues and Wealth is
The reason that West Egg is ‘less fashionable’ than its
neighbour is because the inhabitants have not been born
into well-established ‘money’ families.
Gatsby – among others on West Egg – is part of the
‘nouveau riche’ that is, he has made his fortune from
scratch, emerging from a natural state of poverty to
become a ‘self-made man’.
Aligns itself with
American ideals.
Embodies the
notion of the
Embodies old
world ideals of
patronage, class
and heredity values.
New money lines
in WE
They are the
antithesis of ‘The
Contains original
spirit of The Land
of Opportunity
Full of emotionally
stunted, aimless,
shallow ideals.
Setting and The American Dream
Snobbery exists because it is a class system within a class
system – a reminder that, no matter how well you do in
life, there will always be someone ‘above’ sneering at
your efforts.
This type of class division is particularly interesting in light of
The American Dream.
This dream relates to the idea of America as the Land of
Opportunity, and states that any man (note man), if he is
willing to work hard and improve himself, will find the
means to do so there.
One of the founding principles of the country is a firm
belief in reward for hard work, and the idea of the Self
Made Man is one which American values is fundamentally
So the ideas that such ‘winners’ would be seen as second
class citizens in East Egg is a reminder – if any were
needed - that the American Dream is fundamentally
Gatsby and the Green
At the edge of his dock, Gatsby is
seen to be holding out his arms and
trembling. He is gesturing towards a:
Single green light, minute and far
coming from the edge of Daisy’s dock
on East Egg.
 This light and Gatsby’s gesture has
great symbolic resonance throughout
the rest of the novel.
Symbolism Task
What might the light symbolize? Think about:
The connotations of the colour green
The location of the light
What you now know about the Eggs
The enigma that is Gatsby
It could represent money – green is the colour of money
in America and this could be a symbol of “the dream”
and achieving wealth.
Alternatively, green can represent jealously and envy
and this could indeed by applied to Gatsby’s desire to
be part of East Egg society and to be just like them, while
knowing that he will never be good enough.
The light could also represent Daisy, like a beacon
calling him forward and putting him under her spell.
By placing this episode at the end of the chapter,
Fitzgerald effectively foreshadows and delays Gatsby's
introduction to the novel, and his obsession with Daisy
Buchanan – indeed, by painting a comprehensively
damning portrait of her character in this chapter, he
questions the very wisdom of this love.
Valley of Ashes
We are quickly introduced to a further setting in
chapter two called the Valley of the Ashes. Lying
halfway between the eggs and New York itself,
the Valley of Ashes symbolises the ‘edge’ of
The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg
The sign on the hill is ambiguous – Fitzgerald gives
no overt explanation of its relevance in the move
– and yet it pervades the consciousness of the
reader as we pass through the Valley of Ashes
into the life of the Wilsons.
…above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust
which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a
moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleberg…[his]
eyes…are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one
yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a
pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a
non-existent nose…his eyes, dimmed a little by many
paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the
solemn dumping group.
The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg
What might the giant eyes on the billboard
symbolize? Consider:
Their setting overlooking the Valley of Ashes
The importance of advertising in society
Lack of vision
Symbol of God?
The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg
Reminds us – by its sheer size and the incongruity of its
surroundings – of the importance and influence of advertising in
modern culture. These eyes have no natural place on the hillside,
and yet they dominate the landscape, being its most prominent
Fitzgerald has deliberately chosen an advert for optometry in
order to point out the modern man’s inability to see the
corruption of our society and environment. This lack of vision
applies to all of the characters in the book, each of all fail to
‘see’ the basic futility of their hopes and dreams.
The billboard shows how consumerism and materialism has taken
the place of traditional spiritual values.
Main Themes
 East
vs. West
 Old
world vs. New world ideals
 The
fallacy of the American
Dream vs. the inherent
hopefulness of it
 Illusion
vs. reality