Research Paper Ideas on "The Great Gatsby"

A student is working on a research paper in the library.
... 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images

"The Great Gatsby," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was published in 1925. Research papers might focus on historical, social and political aspects of the times. Choose topics that deal with America's strengths and weaknesses during the 1920s, and how modernistic influences played a role in Fitzgerald's novel. The story provides insight as to why Americans dreamed big after the end of World War I and lived rowdy, sometimes even reckless, lives.

1 The American Dream

Choose a research topic about the pros and cons, including the goods and evils, of the rise of the American Dream following the end of World War I. Explain how "The Great Gatsby" explores two opposite sides of the American Dream -- the extreme optimism and the failing ideals. Discuss ways that Americans got caught up in the desire for wealth and fame and lost sight of important values, such as respect and integrity. Your research might include details about social class, voting rights for women, old wealth vs. new wealth and conspicuous consumption.

2 Roaring '20s

Discuss ways the Roaring '20s led to what Fitzgerald would later describe as “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history," suggests writer Tori Avey at Explain how historical and geographical factors influenced the era, such as small-town folk moving to big East Coast cities to enjoy luxury and entertainment. Metropolitan families invested in flashy cars, expensive homes and costly wardrobes. Many women enjoyed their new-found civil liberties, doing away with conservatism and domesticity in favor of shorter hairstyles and hemlines. Use examples from "The Great Gatsby," such as Gatsby's opulent automobile and beautiful shirts, Tom's obsession with wealth and power and Jordan's liberated lifestyle, to back your research.

3 Modernism in Literature

Choose a research topic about the role modernism played in literature from 1890 to 1945 and how themes in "The Great Gatsby" revolved around modernistic ideals -- capitalism, material gain, selfish ambition and individualism. Discuss how modern writers put aside Victorian ideals to give readers a chance to explore sexual expression, indulgence, civil liberties, travel, wealth and frivolous lifestyles. You might explain the portrayal of marriage in "The Great Gatsby" -- cold and calculating, without much weight given to loyalty and fidelity -- and how some of those issues still affect families today. Discuss how Jay Gatsby could be considered a romantic hero in the modern era -- he was idealistic, loved authentically and understood the pitfalls of materialism and money obsession, according to The American Novel, a website sponsored by PBS.

4 Prohibition and Bootlegging

Write a research paper on the role prohibition, bootlegging and alcohol consumption played in "The Great Gatsby." Wealthy metropolitan residents began hosting cocktail parties, finding ways to camouflage alcohol in fancy cocktails and increase their liquor tolerance with delicacies such as finger foods. Negative results, demonstrated in the novel, included alcoholism, physical abuse, infidelity, drunken driving, reckless behavior, battered relationships and moral decay.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.