School of Communication and Digital Content


Master of Arts in Communication (MA)


Randall Pruitt

Primary Subject Area

Literature, American; Sociology, General; Sociology, Theory and Methods


Muted Group Theory, The Great Gatsby


American Literature | Communication | Sociology | Sociology of Culture | Speech and Rhetorical Studies


This master's thesis examines gender and social roles seen in dialogue in the American classic novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The researcher conducted a coding and rhetorical analysis to determine if elements of muted group theory were in the novel. Muted group theory was developed by Edwin and Shirley Ardener after their research indicated that a culture's values and social structure were voiced through rhetoric. The theory states that dominance in certain groups mutes, or silences, others from communicating effectively. Five passages from The Great Gatsby were selected for this analysis. These passages highlighted dialogue between the main male and female characters in the book, and were of scholarly importance. The researcher created four research questions from which the study flowed. Results of the study indicated that some groups in The Great Gatsby were muted due to their gender, social status, race, or religion. Coding indicated that compliance and manipulation were the most common forms of muted group dominance found in the book. These results are closely linked to the reality of society in the 1920s, when the book was written, as F. Scott Fitzgerald is an author who wrote heavily from his own experiences and surroundings.