The Great Gatsby and the American Dream


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The Great Gatsby and the American Dream

Essay Topic:

The Great Gatsby is a novel that demonstrates the death of the American Dream; the main theme is “the withering American Dream.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
The Assignment: Write an analytical, thesis-driven, 2-3 page paper. All essays must include at least two pieces of textual evidence from the The Great Gatsby in the form of quoted passages, which will also be examples to support your overall argument and will therefore need to be thoroughly explained. Your essay will present an argument about what the materials you’ve discovered tell us about your stance on the prompt.
The Essay:

At 2-3 pages (no, not 1½ or 1¾) and 4 paragraphs (introduction, 2 body paragraphs, and a conclusion). You must follow MLA formatting guidelines (double-space, Times New Roman 12-point font, 1” margins, in-text citations for quotes).

Your essay is worth 100 points.

Claim and Focus

Score (Out of 30)

  • The essay makes a sophisticated claim that maintains focus.

  • The essay thesis is debatable, strong, not author focused, and doesn’t list the evidence.

  • The essay maintains focus on central thesis throughout the entire essay.


Score (Out of 30)

  • Strong and relevant evidence is incorporated from the The Great Gatsby.

  • Evidence is incorporated smoothly with sophisticated transitions and context.

  • All quotes are punctuated and cited correctly

Critical Analysis

Score (Out of 30)

  • Your analysis in each paragraph gives ample reflection on how evidence supports the thesis.

  • Your analysis provides an original and sophisticated response to the text and does not simply summarize plot elements or author’s stance.

  • Your analysis includes a reflection on how themes and concepts apply to contemporary society.

Mechanics and Presentation

Score (Out of 10)

  • Language is used effectively, without errors in grammar conventions.

  • Your essay is typed in size 12 Times New Roman font and double spaced.

Total Score


Thursday, May 1st

Introduce Assignment – brainstorming, planning, reading and annotating

Friday, May 2nd

Thesis Statement - Worksheet

Constructing Rough Draft – they say, I say


Monday, May 5th

Grammar Day

Turn in Rough Draft (No late rough drafts will be accepted)

Tuesday, May 6th

Teacher Sample Edit – you will edit for specific items and we will discuss aspects that are good/bad.
MLA Format – in-text citations, bibliography, using quotations.


May 7th

Self and Peer-Edit – checklist, grammar, MLA (No late peer edits will be accepted)

Thursday, May 8th

Computer Lab 322


Failure to turn in your printed essay on time will result in 10% being deducted from your final score; I must have the typed paper in my hand by 3:30.

CCSS: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS: Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

CCSS: Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS: Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

CRS: Identify the central idea or main topic of a straightforward piece of writing. Determine relevancy when presented with a variety of sentence-level details.

Creating Your Thesis Statement:

Like any argument paper you have ever written, you must have a specific, detailed thesis statement that reveals your perspective, and, like any good argument, your perspective must be one that is debatable.

In other words, your thesis statement should not be a statement of the obvious.

For this particular assignment: your thesis should not focus on specific authors; rather, it should focus on the larger discussion of the American Dream. The authors/texts are your supporting evidence.

Example thesis statements

WEAK THESIS: The American Dream is possible to achieve because everything is possible.

(This is obvious, the “duh” statement; no one is going to be interested in engaging with a paper that has a thesis like this. That doesn’t say anything–it’s basically just a summary and is hardly debatable.)

STRONGER THESIS: The American Dream, as defined by James Truslow Adams, is “a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable;” everyone has different capabilities and aspirations; therefore, there is no single American Dream. The American Dream is possible to achieve because it relies on an individual’s desire and effort, and if one’s ratio of desire-to-effort is compatible, then the result will be success in achieving one’s “American Dream.”
That is debatable, controversial even (some may disagree that there are too many external factors that play a role in the “ratio”). The rest of a paper with this argument as its thesis will be an attempt to show, using specific examples from the text:

(1) how/why the American Dream is different for all,

(2) how the American Dream is achievable and who has achieved it
Incorporating/blending quotations:

Quoting involves taking a word, phrase, or passage directly from the story, novel, poem, or critical essay and working it grammatically into your discussion.

Here's an example:

In his novel, The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby as having “an extraordinary gift for hope…”(2). This suggests that Gatsby’s desire for the American Dream is deeper and stronger than most; the fact that it is “an extraordinary gift” separates him from the average public and makes him more capable of achieving his dream.

How should I quote?

  • All quotes must be introduced, discussed, and woven into the text. As you revise, make sure you don't have two quotes end-to-end.
  • A good rule of thumb: Don't let your quotes exceed 25% of your text.

  • Never begin a body paragraph with a quote!

What else should I remember? The “Picky” Stuff…

  • The titles of plays, novels, magazines, newspapers, journals, (things that can stand by themselves) are underlined or italicized.

    • Example: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Sports Illustrated magazine.

  • The titles of poems, short stories, and articles, or excerpts from larger texts (things that do not generally stand by themselves or are short) require quotation marks.

    • Example: Lorie Johnson’s “The American Dream: A Delusion?”; Langston Hughes “Harlem”; Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”

  • Don’t leave a quote or paraphrase by itself–you must introduce it, explain it, and show how it relates to your thesis. This creates UNITY in your paper.

  • See me for approval and directions as to how you should block-format all quotations of more than four lines. No one will have a quote of more than four lines unless it is approved.

  • Double-space all typing; do not put extra spaces in between paragraphs

****Plagiarizing any part of this paper will result in a grade of zero for both the rough draft and final draft assignments. Do not even consider doing this. I will notice it, and you will be filled with regret…

Plagiarizing includes:

  • “Copying without using quotes.”

  • Quoting without citation (Author Page#)
  • Copying from another student… But we worked together? NO

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