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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Education Theme

In The Great Gatsby, education is a must-have for the socially elite. For the most part, characters in The Great Gatsby are well-educated – this is reflected by their speech and dialogue. The narrator takes note, however, of Gatsby’s effort to sound like everybody else. It is clear that Gatsby must practice sounding educated and wealthy. Mr. Wolfsheim speaks in a dialect that indicates his lack of education, lack of class, and general lack of what wealthy people in the 1920s might have called "good breeding." Oxford becomes "Oggsford." "Connection" becomes "gonnection." The use of different dialects works to reveal the differences between the working class and the upper class. By contrasting Wolfsheim’s and Gatsby’s diction with that of people like Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald suggests that people involved in organized crime are from the working class only, no matter how wealthy and powerful they are or how educated they appear to be. Education is what distinguishes the upper class from those below them. It is also a source of connection as loyalty – Nick and Tom have Yale in common and are therefore tied to each other.

Questions About Education

  1. In The Great Gatsby, are wealth and education inextricably tied together? Why? Is education more of a mark of status than wealth?
  2. What is the difference between education and experience, or "street smarts"? Which does Gatsby have? Which is more useful in The Great Gatsby?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Gatsby, despite his lack of education and the evident lack of time he spends reading the books he owns, has the kind of "street smarts" it takes to fool a lot of very well-educated, savvy people. Because of this, he is intellectually superior to the elite classes he wishes to join.

In The Great Gatsby, education is more important to the elite classes than wealth. 

In The Great Gatsby, wealth is more important to the elite classes than education.

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