False Identity and Feminism in The Great Gatsby and Paper Towns

Erin Koren
Emily Stockwell
Nicole McLaughlin
Kerry DeGraaf
Caitlin Rykse

Discussion Questions:

Artificial Theme:

1. Nick Carraway distinguishes himself as a model of morality in the superficial land of East Egg. However, one could question his honesty as a narrator. Keeping in mind where Nick is from and where he is (West and East Egg), give some reasons why Nick would be biased toward certain characters. Use the "Gatsby Quotes" link to help you.

2. "What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person"--Paper Towns.
Discuss what this quote means. How can you apply it to both books--are there characters in each who view other characters this way? What is the danger in doing this?

3. Daisy's voice is characterized as "sounding like it is full of money", versus Tom's very physical characterization as a "hulking" brute of a man. How does this characterization of Daisy, and similar approaches to the characterization of Gatsby, relate to their airs of artificiality in contrast to the other character's very concrete, real descriptions? Each small group create a chart of the characterizations they notice for each of the major characters (Gatsby, Daisy, Nick, Tom, and Jordan) to share with the class. Do you all agree? What would you add or change?

4. Large group discussion based on the question of "How many of the differences between West Egg group and East Egg group / or the differences between the popular and regular students are real or how many are a matter of perception?" Follow this discussion with activity 4.

5. In Paper towns the home of Margo’s friend Becca is referred to as a “McMansion”, while in the Great Gatsby the home of Tom and Daisy is also referred to as a mansion. What similarities you see between the East Egg crowd of The Great Gatsby and the ‘elite/popular’ crowd that Margo associates with in her school? Follow this discussion with ted talk video.

Feminist Theme:

1. Given that Margo has an adventurous spirit, but doesn’t always think before acting, is she justified in her radical actions? Use this Wiki about consequences for some ideas.

2. Daisy Buchanan is a character who confuses and disappoints many readers because of her treatment of Gatsby. Do you think she is right for staying with Tom or should she have ran away with Gatsby? Use the comparisons link of her romantic options, Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan to help you begin.

3. How does the time period of The Great Gatsby justify (or not justify) its portrayal of the female characters? Do you think that Margo fits the role of a feminist character in todays society?

4.Daisy states, "That's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool." What are your thoughts? Would you characterize Margo as, "a beautiful little fool"? Why or why not?

5. There is a quote in Paper Towns that says, "It always seemed so ridiculous that people want to be around someone because they're pretty. It's like basing your breakfast cereal on colour instead of taste." What do you think about how this quote applies to The Great Gatsby? Apply this simile of breakfast cereal to Daisy, Jordan, and Myrtle. How would you describe their "color" vs. their "taste". What do other characters in the book value them for--their color or their taste? Now, how about Margo? What do we know about her "color" and her "taste"? Which makes her so attractive to Q?

Class Activities:

1. A small group discussion (4-5 students) comparing Margo and Daisy. Their autonomy over their own lives, and comparing their time periods as influential to their choices. Perhaps make a Venn diagram to compare their similarities and differences.

2. What makes a strong female character? Have a class discussion to create ‘criteria’ for a strong female character and then split the class into 4 groups: strong/weak Daisy and strong/weak Margo. Have the students use the texts to find proof for each group, respectively.

3. Have the students read the article, "Girls will be Girls" together in class and then explore the role of gender stereotypes in The Great Gatsby and Paper Towns. Have the class split into small groups, and then have half the groups work with Gatsby and the other half, Towns. In their groups, compile a list of gender stereotypes and roles that are prevalent within these novels. Have the students compare their lists as a class. Then, discuss the following questions in small groups: Do you think gender roles have changed over time as evidenced in the novels? How? Do you agree with the article's thesis and agree that gender stereotypes still exist today? If so, how are they portrayed and in what spheres of your life or others' lives do you see them?

4. At the end of Paper Towns on page 321, Quentin and Margo talk about the metaphors of life. Re-read this section and then think of a metaphor for one of the main characters in the Great Gatsby. You can choose to create your own metaphor or use an already existing one from the "Life Metaphors" link. You must clearly state the metaphor and why you think it applies to the Great Gatsby character you’ve chosen. Do a 1 page informal writing and bring to class for literary circles discussion.

5. Create a dropbox in which the students upload a song of their choosing that they feel relates to the similarities/differences between the ‘haves’ of the world (example of the East Egg crowd- elite/ popular school groups) versus the ‘have nots’(the regular kids/ or the marginalized student groups). Then bring to class a copy of the lyrics of the song to discuss in literary circles how the themes of the lyrics relate to the themes presented in the books about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

6. Margo Roth Spiegelman is at the center of the plot in Paper Towns, but she is not actually present in the action very often. Mostly, you learn about what she is like by hearing other people talk about her. In your small group of five, each one of you should pick a character in the novel (Margo's mom, Q, Lacey, Jase, etc.) and tell the group what the Margo you know is like. Before presenting your description to the group, spend ten minutes preparing by finding quotes or examples from the book to support your character's opinion of Margo. After each person has presented their opinion of Margo, talk about why you think everyone had such different views of the same person.

Original Multimedia:

Additional Resources:

1.Strong Female Characters to go with activity 2. This website holds a “flowchart” to see strong female characters from many modern movies and television shows and will likely intrigue the students.
2. 1920's Party Online video of a 1920’s party. Very explicit images of women being oogled at.. would go well with #3 under feminist theme.
3. Gatsby Quotes artificial theme 1
4. Consequentialism feminism 1
5. Gatsby versus Tom feminism 2
6.Life Metaphors
7.Good Charlotte Music Video
8.Life Styles of the Rich and Famous by Good Charlotte
9.Bruno Mars Music Video
10. Billionaire by Bruno Mars
11. Mean Money?
12. Girl Power! Examining Gender Roles Lesson PlanThis is to go with activity three. It is a lesson plan that can easily be adapted to examine gender roles in both The Great Gatsby and Paper Towns.
13. Article: "Girls will be Girls" The article needed for activity three.
14. Direct Characterization in Mean Girls YouTube Video to introduce activity 6