Rating: 5 out of 5
So I’m starting another SAT prep class today, and when I teach the essay section, I follow a five-paragraph structure with an intro, conclusion, and three body paragraphs–each with a personal, historical, and literary example. That way, they answer the prompt with specific arguments rather than vague, undeveloped notions.
I’ve been doing these classes for a year now, and it’s so amusing how predictable their literary examples get. One of their favorites is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925 and has now become required reading for most juniors in California.
The novel follows the protagonist Nick Carraway, who has come back from the first world war and moved into a house next to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. Gatsby is a mysterious millionaire obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, an attractive albeit shallow woman married to Tom. Daisy is also Nick’s cousin, so he comes to know all of the couple’s secret affairs: Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson, who is also married to a mechanic named George.
Although the premise of the novel is simply of unrequited love and adultery, what makes it a masterpiece is Fitzgerald’s beautiful prose. He packs so much emotion and insight into each sentence that you can’t help be awed by the story. Because Nick is the narrator, not Gatsby, you’re like a fly on the wall who feels so close to the characters, and yet so detached from them at the same time. True understanding for the reader is just as appealing and unattainable as the green light shining across Daisy’s dock.
Fitzgerald, of course, writes what he lives. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the “Roaring ’20s;” all the clothes, cars, dancing, and parties really paint the picture of America during this time. Fitzgerald is also an autobiographical author, basing his characters on the people around him, and I would love to read more of his work (Tender is the Night and This Side of Paradise, especially) to learn more about his fascinating life.
Most of you have probably already read The Great Gatsby, but I try not to spoil the novels I feature, just for the few who might be interested in picking them up. And since Hollywood is working on a new adaptation for fall 2012 (starring Tobey Maguire as Nick, Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy), this would be an excellent time for fans to reread Fitzgerald’s best work–if anything, to get the bad taste out of your mouth from watching the hilariously melodramatic 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
Well, I better prepare for my class now, but feel free to share your love (or loathing!) of The Great Gatsby!
Favorite Quote: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow 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.” (Ch. 9)