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Analyze That! The Minor Characters in the Great Gatsby

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 4/28/2014

How important are Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway to this story? The following activities and downloadable form will help your students decide.

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    Analyzing Minor Characters from The Great Gatsby Much of the focus in Fitzgerald’s novel is on the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby and, as such, most writing assignments centered around the novel will deal primarily with these two main characters; our 1920s star crossed lovers, if you will. However, what of our three remaining minor characters, without whom the story could not transpire? Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway are each essential in their own right and deserve some analysis and focus when students are writing about The Great Gatsby.

    Send your young writers on a quote hunt, looking for quotes and passages in the novel that show Tom to be a racist and a classist, Jordan to be the embodiment of the 1920s flapper and Nick to be an unreliable narrator of the classic story. Have them gather six to eight quotes for each character supporting these qualities. Then, instruct them to begin writing their analysis of these characters, using the downloadable sample paragraphs as a guide.

    Once they have finished that task, set them to analyzing Myrtle and Tom Wilson on their own. Ask them to examine how these two characters are pivotal to the climax of the novel. Since you have modeled character analysis using Jordan, Nick and Tom, this time around, do not review quotes with them and do not provide sample paragraphs. See how well they do on their own.

    Finally, direct them to put each of their paragraphs together for a final analytical paper on the role of minor characters in Fitzgerald’s novel. What you will have in the end is not the same tired papers about the love between Jay and Daisy, but instead an intricate look at how well Fitzgerald surrounded his lovers with pivotal characters in American Literature.

The History Behind "The Great Gatsby"

These lesson plans tie a literary analysis of "The Great Gatsby" in with historical analysis of the time period. Can be used for a High School English or History lesson.
  1. A Heroic Criminal: Understanding Jay Gatsby’s Profession in The Great Gatsby
  2. Analyze That! The Minor Characters in the Great Gatsby