Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Christopher Kocela

Second Advisor

Dr. Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Schmidt


This work discusses the protagonists, economic situations, and investigation of youth in The Great Gatsby and Less Than Zero within the context of Jean Piaget’s cognitive psychological terms “accommodation” and “assimilation.” Assimilation highlights the amoral activities and economics beholden to most members of society in the novels, while accommodation allows a voice amongst the turmoil to clash and express a clear vision of how society should be for the sake of others, maintaining agency, and producing an intelligent and stable populace. By inspecting the use of age in The Great Gatsby and the symbolism behind tanning in Less Than Zero, readers are introduced to protagonists who embody the Piagetian dynamic of accommodation in an otherwise assimilative society. I bridge these novels, eventually discussing what further work can be done through a Piagetian lens. I aim to show how this theory may be utilized in literature to dissect human nature, be it through economic excess or the critique of modern culture in retrospect.

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