Looking at perseverance and the American Dream with the American classic The Great Gatsby. Warning: SPOILERS. (But, really, if you haven’t read it by now, get to it okay?)
Thanks for checking out this month’s vlog. I’ve included discussion questions below. For this vlog, and my bookshelf, I’ve used the Scribner of Simon & Schuster 2004 paperback edition of The Great Gatsby. Vlog quotes from pages 92-93 and 180.
Happy 4th of July weekend!
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
This quote, making up the second paragraph of the novel, is the only voice given to anyone in the narrator, Nick Carraway’s, family. It comes from his father, and speaks to empathy and social responsibility, with a undertone of condescension. Why does Fitzgerald start the novel this way? What foundation does this give to the rest of the characters that we will encounter? What are the implications?
[…] life is much more successfully looked at from a single room, after all.
This throws the “walk a mile in another man’s shoes” hinted at in the first quote right out the window. What is the definition of “success” in this quote? Does it match the definition of success as defined by Gatsby?
“She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'”
This is spoken by Daisy about her daughter. In the following paragraph, Daisy goes on to describe everything has terrible, that she’s seen everything, and that she’s now sophisticated. With everything that is to follow at the novel, would you agree? What does Daisy mean when she wishes her daughter to be a beautiful little fool? Does she want a daughter that would run away with Gatsby, or one who would blindly follow Tom? Do you think Daisy even knows?
Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.
With everything that’s to happen, and everything that’s to come, do we believe Nick here? Is he truly an honest narrator? I’m not sure. Is he honest as a character in the novel? I’m even less sure there. What do you think of this self-assessment? Why is it important within the context of what we’ve seen and will see? Within everything else happening in the book, what is Nick giving away about himself here?
As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness. Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dream–not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.
The dream of Daisy. The American Dream. As hard as we try, can we ever make a reality of our dreams? Why does the disconnect exist? How can we approach life in a way that effectively closes that disconnect? What’s the worth and weight of dreams if they can’t come true?
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!”
Can you repeat the past? Is nostalgia a curse of all that can be wandered after and never achieved? This is a moment that we find Gatsby utterly agitated and desperate. After trying to hard to achieve a new life for himself, why does he want to go back so badly?
“What will we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” “Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” “But it’s so hot,” insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, “and everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!”
What are Daisy and Jordan talking about here? Why is Jordan’s response, and Daisy’s rebuttal, significant with all that’s to come?
He put his hands in his coat pockets and turned eagerly to his scrutiny of the house, as though my presence marred the sacredness of the vigil. So I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight–watching over nothing.
This is the moment that Nick realizes Gatsby’s fight is over, yet Gatsby still stands watch. What is the point of Gatsby’s vigil? What is he standing by for? At this point, is he holding on to an illusion, or has Daisy set him up to believe there’s still a chance for something more? What is our responsibility to each other, to our friends, to the benefit of the doubt?
She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known.
Is Daisy a nice girl? Or a “nice” girl? Are those Nick’s italic’s or Gatsby’s? If she was truly nice, what happened to Daisy? How did she become the person that we meet in the book?
After all the generosity and parties and extravagance Gatsby showers on strangers throughout the book, no one comes to his funeral. Why does Fitzgerald make this choice? In the end, what is Gatsby left with?
Last month, we looked at how John Green displays social emotional intelligence through his choice of literary techniques in The Fault in Our Stars. How does Fitzgerald use of dialogue and character voice cast social emotional concepts throughout the novel?