American Literature The Great Gatsby Colors and Symbols

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American Literature - The Great Gatsby

Colors and Symbols
A symbol is an object, action, or event that represents something or that creates a range of associations beyond itself. In literary works a symbol can express an idea, clarify meaning, or enlarge literal meaning.
Write an essay analyzing how at least three symbols (at least two should be colors) function in The Great Gatsby and what they reveal about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.
The essay should meet the following requirements:

  1. 2-3 pages long

  2. Typed in 12 pt, Times New Roman font

  3. Typed heading in top corner (single spaced)

  4. Unique and interesting title

  5. Main part of paper should be double spaced

  6. Include at least five appropriate quotations from the novel to support your points

  7. Parenthetically cite the quotations (just include the page number)

You will be graded according to the rubric on the back of this page.


  • We will discuss themes in class. You can choose one of the themes and discuss how it is developed by the symbols.

  • Alternatively, you could discuss how the symbols develop Gatsby’s character. Specify which character traits are revealed through each symbol and how each symbol helps the reader identify this character trait in Gatsby.

Due Dates


Rough draft due


Final essay due


Holistic Grading Descriptions for Essays



These essays offer a well-focused and persuasive analysis of how symbols function to reveal characters or themes in the novel. Using apt and specific textual support, the essays fully explore the symbols and their significance. Although not without flaws, these essays make a strong case for their interpretation and discuss the literary work with insight and understanding.



These essays offer a reasonable analysis of how symbols function to reveal characters or themes in a novel or play. The essays explore the symbols and demonstrate their significance. While the responses show insight and understanding, their analysis is less thorough, less perceptive, and/or less specific in supporting detail than that of the essays in the A range.



These essays respond to the assigned task with a plausible reading, but they tend to be superficial or underdeveloped in analysis. They often rely upon plot summary that contains some analysis, implicit or explicit. Although students attempt to discuss the symbols’ significance and how they function to reveal characters or themes, they may demonstrate a rather simplistic understanding of the work. Typically, these essays reveal unsophisticated thinking and development. They demonstrate adequate control of language but may lack effective organization and be marred by surface errors.



These lower-half essays offer a less than thorough understanding of the task or a less than adequate treatment of it. They reflect an incomplete or oversimplified understanding of the work, or they may fail to establish the relationship between the symbols and the work’s characters or themes. The essays may not address or develop the symbols’ significance, or they may rely on plot summary alone. Their assertions may be unsupported or even irrelevant. Sometimes wordy or repetitious, these essays may lack control over the elements of college-level composition. Essays scored a D- may reflect serious misreading and demonstrate incompetent writing.



Although these essays make some attempt to respond to the prompt, they compound the weaknesses of essays in the D range. Often, they are unacceptably brief or are incoherent in presenting their ideas on symbols and/or colors. They may be poorly written on several counts and contain distracting errors in grammar and mechanics. Remarks are presented with little clarity, organization, or supporting evidence.




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