The Great Gatsby is one of those novels that you should have read in high school, but you probably didn’t. Even if you did, it is worth reading again as an adult to appreciate the message within. I love teaching this to 11th graders, and overall they enjoy the story of this extended soap opera of the rich and not-so-famous.
Nick Carraway is friends with Jay Gatsby who chasing after Daisy who is married to Tom who is having an affair with Myrtle who is married to George. There are lavish parties, adulterous affairs, violence, mint juleps, uncut books, beautiful shirts, and my hands-down favorite of all-time literary symbol: a huge billboard over the “valley of ashes.” The eyes of T. J. Eckleberg watch over the sin and human depravity going to and fro from Long Island to New York City. This is not your run-of-the-mill dull tale to read in your English class about pompous Englishmen and puffy Victorian dresses. It speaks volumes of human strivings, sacrifice, sin, and propitiation.
Even if you haven’t read it, you probably know that The Great Gatsby is about the American Dream, best symbolized by the first glimpse that Nick has of Jay Gatsby: his arms extended to a distant green light. Gatsby, like all of us, reach and strive for our dreams, to be like the Platonic conception of ourselves. Unlike the Horatio Alger stories, this does not end with hope and success.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
We all die on that “one fine morning,” but that doesn’t stop us from reaching out farther to that green light, Old Sport.