mila679
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To anyone who got an A/A*, what did you do to really understand the novel and do you have any advice since I'm starting it next year?
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Issakatie
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I actually really liked the great gatsby, context can help yes, read around 1920s America and in particular the american dream, as well as a bit about Fitzgerald. I read the text numerous times and you'll go through it in class slowly

If you want me to talk about the book or share ideas I'll happily do so
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Englishteacher24
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This is a heavily symbolic novel which is why it is important to research context first. I've compiled a list for you:


  • The Jazz Age / Roaring 20s: Jazz music; race; rights of women / position of women; WWI and post-war wealth; automobiles and technology; prohibition and crime.
  • The American Dream
  • Location - Manhattan, the Eggs
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Zelda Fitzgerald


It would be worth reading up on Nick and the perspective of the book (particularly ideas of unreliable narration).
As you read, keep character profiles (important page references, important quotations) and chapter summaries.
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mila679
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Thanks, I just found the storyline hard to understand because the novel is so wordy in the first chapter

Will watching the movie help with that, or are there other ways to stop over complicating it?
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Englishteacher24
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(Original post by mila679)
Thanks, I just found the storyline hard to understand because the novel is so wordy in the first chapter

Will watching the movie help with that, or are there other ways to stop over complicating it?
The wordiness continues throughout, I'm afraid. It was one of the things I didn't like about the novel but it's an important part of understanding Nick's character. I'd advise reading a chapter summary before sitting down to read each chapter. SparkNotes and LitCharts are good for summaries. However, analysis isn't always comprehensive, though the cover the main ideas, so it is up to closely interrogate and annotate the text.

The film does give a good overview of plot; however, it's important to be cautious as the film and book naturally differ.
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mila679
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Ok cool, the summaries on SparkNotes were really helpful so the story is becoming clearer 👍

Would you say essay structure is similar to GCSE? So would I make my character profiles in the same way I did with the books I studied last year?

Also is there anything I can do over the summer (apart from reading the novel) to make things easier next year, like watch videos or make detailed context notes, or would that be a waste of time?
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Englishteacher24
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(Original post by mila679)
Ok cool, the summaries on SparkNotes were really helpful so the story is becoming clearer 👍

Would you say essay structure is similar to GCSE? So would I make my character profiles in the same way I did with the books I studied last year?

Also is there anything I can do over the summer (apart from reading the novel) to make things easier next year, like watch videos or make detailed context notes, or would that be a waste of time?
  • To an extent, GCSE and A-Level essays involve the same things, like analysis of language, form, and structure; use of terminology; inclusion of context. However, the essays at A-Level tend to be broader in focus and more organic and it can be tricky getting the balance right between considering the whole text and close reading.
  • There is also a greater emphasis at A-Level on your line of argument and engaging with debate. The questions are more provocative and ambiguous, leaving room for students to interpret the text.
  • However, the questions aren't entirely open. It's not as if you would walk into an exam and have absolutely no idea about what they could ask you: depending on the course you are taking, you will consider the text's relation to a particular theme (e.g. tragedy or love). This means that you could tailor your notes a little more. If I was looking at love through the ages, for example, my notes would focus on the romantic relationships between different characters as well as family relationships etc.
  • Do make detailed context notes. The more research you do now, the less you need to do later. You get marks for context in A-Level essays, so this won't be a waste of time.
  • There are a lot of great videos on YouTube if you type in 'Gatsby context'. Obviously, you can be more specific than this e.g. 'rise of the automobile 1920s'.
  • If you aren't finding the novel particularly riveting, you can listen to it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/results?sear...tsby+audiobook.
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