Literary Elements in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:02 What Are Literary Elements?
  • 0:44 Plot in ''The Great Gatsby''
  • 1:45 Characters and POV in…
  • 3:32 Setting in ''The Great…
  • 4:35 Themes in ''The Great Gatsby''
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Have you ever stopped to think about what makes up a good fiction story? F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel 'The Great Gatsby' includes a number of literary elements that truly captivate readers.

What Are Literary Elements?

Take a moment to recall how many fiction stories you've read over the course of your career as a student. Is it 10 books, 15 books, 50? In all likelihood, the stories you've read were very different from one another, but if you think really hard, you may be able to find a few similarities.

Most fiction stories include five basic parts called literary elements. These building blocks are used to compose the story's:

  1. Plot
  2. Characters
  3. Setting
  4. Themes
  5. Point of View

If you've ever read The Great Gatsby, you should be quite familiar with all these five literary elements and how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses them to craft his timeless story.

Plot in The Great Gatsby

The plot of a novel is the sum of all of the major actions that move the story forward. You probably already know that The Great Gatsby isn't exactly a short story, but its plot can be summed up in a few short lines.

This is The Great Gatsby in a nutshell:

Jay Gatsby, born into a poor family as James Gatz, meets the very rich and very privileged Daisy Buchanan before shipping out to fight in World War I. While Gatsby is away, Daisy marries wealthy and insufferable Tom Buchanan. For the next five years, Gatsby works day in and day out to amass a fortune large enough to win back Daisy.

He finally reunites with her thanks to the help of Nick Carraway. He woos her. He almost convinces her to run away with him. Through a series of tragic events, Gatsby loses Daisy and is ultimately shot by Tom Buchanan's mistress's husband. Finally, the narrator Nick Caraway walks away disillusioned and angry.

Characters and Point of View in Gatsby

In fiction, characters are the various people (or talking animals and occasionally objects) that the story focuses on. The characters take action and drive the story forward. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby features two main categories of characters: major characters and minor characters.

Major Characters

The Great Gatsby is told from the perspective of the narrator Nick Carraway, a man who observes and interacts with the other key players of the story, including the novel's protagonist. Perhaps the most important character in The Great Gatsby is Jay Gatsby himself. He's a charming millionaire whose sole focus in life is to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is the sheltered and spoiled wife of the brutish Tom Buchanan. Jordan Baker, a professional golfer and love interest of Nick Carraway, rounds out the main cast of characters.

Minor Characters

Fitzgerald includes a number of minor characters that weave in and out of the larger story. Notable minor characters include Myrtle Wilson, mistress of Tom Buchanan, and her husband George, Gatsby's murderer. Characters like Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim and party guests like Owl Eyes give various insights to the readers about main characters.

As we have already mentioned, although Jay Gatsby is the main character in The Great Gatsby, it is not told from his point of view. Remember, point of view is the perspective the story is told from. Nick Carraway shares the story from the first person point of view. He's actually there for many of the events and explains them in a way that places him in the action. The give away that the story is in the first person is Carraway's use of 'I' and 'me' that directly reference himself as the narrator.

Setting in The Great Gatsby

The setting of a novel is really quite simple; it's a combination of the when and where. These two elements have a big role in The Great Gatsby.

The When

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