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Sample Formalist Critique Essay: ‘The Great Gatsby’

Below is a sample outline and a well-developed formalist critique essay on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” The outline provides a structured approach to analyzing the novel’s formal elements.

“The Great Gatsby” Formalist Critique Essay

Essay Outline

  1. Introduction
    • Hook: Start with an engaging quote or an intriguing question related to the themes or style of “The Great Gatsby.”
    • Provide brief background information about F. Scott Fitzgerald and the publication of the novel.
    • Present a clear and focused thesis statement that states the main argument of your formalist analysis, such as how Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism and narrative structure contributes to the novel’s exploration of the American Dream.
  2. Symbolism and Imagery
    • Begin with a topic sentence introducing the first formal element to be analyzed: symbolism and imagery.
    • Provide examples of significant symbols and imagery from the novel, such as the green light, the Valley of Ashes, and Gatsby’s parties.
    • Analyze how these symbols function within the narrative and contribute to the novel’s themes and character development.
  3. Narrative Structure and Point of View
    • Start with a topic sentence introducing the second formal element: narrative structure and point of view.
    • Discuss the novel’s first-person narration by Nick Carraway and its impact on the reader’s perspective.
    • Examine the use of flashbacks and Nick’s role as a narrator in shaping the reader’s understanding of the story.
  4. Characterization and Dialogue
    • Begin with a topic sentence introducing the third formal element: characterization and dialogue.
    • Select key characters like Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan to analyze their development and interactions.
    • Examine how Fitzgerald’s use of dialogue reveals character motivations and relationships.
  5. Writing Style and Language
    • Start with a topic sentence introducing the fourth formal element: writing style and language.
    • Explore Fitzgerald’s prose style, including his use of descriptive language, metaphors, and rhetorical devices.
    • Analyze how the author’s writing style contributes to the overall tone and atmosphere of the novel.
  6. Conclusion
    • Summarize the main points from each section of your analysis.
    • Reiterate your thesis statement, emphasizing how the formalist elements you’ve discussed contribute to the novel’s overall impact.
    • Provide a closing thought that reflects on the enduring significance of “The Great Gatsby” within the context of American literature.

Remember to use specific examples and quotations from the novel to support your analysis throughout the essay. This outline provides a structured framework to delve into the formal elements of the text and their role in conveying the themes and messages of the work.