Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Bibliographic Information: Fitzderald, F. S.  (1925).  The great Gatsby.  New York: Scribner.
 ISBN: 978-0-7432-7356-5 
Plot Summary: Set in the roaring 20's, or Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby is a critical look at society's lack of values and finicky nature. Nick Carraway, the narrator, has recently moved to New York (Long Island, specifically) to pursue a fast life of business. Nick moves into the West Egg neighborhood, which is inhabited by people with new money. West Egg happens to be across the water from East Egg, where those with old money and high social standing live; amongst them, Nick's cousin, Daisy Buchannan. Nick soon learns that he is living next to the mysterious Jay Gatsby (originally James Gatz) a man of new money, with a questionable past, that regularly throws lavish parties for the surrounding rich socialites. Nick also learns that fidelity is a lost value amongst the rich as he witnesses several relationships fall apart around him. Upon becoming closer to Gatsby, Nick discovers the true reason behind Gatsby's parties as Gatsby asks Nick to arrange a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy (a love from his past). Nick, though a non-judgmental narrator, can no longer ignore the true nature of East and West Egg as events culminate into lies, infidelity, murder, and careless destruction of the lives of others.

Critical Evaluation: "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—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past" (p. 180).

Fitzgerald's closing quote resonates a theme of unrealized dreams that is played within most characters in The Great Gatsby. Each character runs towards the distant future thinking it will provide them bigger and better things ("the illusive green light" on the other dock) but find that as they run towards their ideal futures that they get seemingly farther and farther away. This can be seen in Nick's move to New York where he is both attracted and repelled by the culture of high rollers and excitement. Being shocked and disheartened by the realities of Long Island, Nick eventually finds that the future he wants is actually in his past and returns to the Midwest.  This can also be seen in Daisy, who despite being in love with Gatsby, marries Tom Buchanan in order to ensure that her future will be comfortable and taken care of. Daisy, can always be seen on the cusp of changing her mind and returning to a past life, until terrible events permanently force her into a life with Tom Buchanan. And, lastly, it can be seen in the main character, Jay Gatsby (James Gatz) who has changed his entire world in order to chase the promise of a possible future with Daisy. Gastby completely reconstructs himself, becoming wealthy (even if illegally) in order to please and attract the woman he believes to be the love of his life, Daisy. Unfortunately, Gatsby, like the others, finds that although he kept beating towards the future that he thought could be possible, that all he was really seeing was a reflection of a past (when Daisy truly loved him) that he can never return to. The green light, in this sense, becomes an ephemeral echo of not a future but an idyllic past that neither Gatsby, or anyone else, can ever return to.

Reader’s Annotation:
Nick finds that love makes fools of us all.
Information About the Author: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was named after a distant cousin, Francis Scott Key who wrote the "Star Spangled Banner" (, 2012). Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota (, 2012). Fitzgerald grew up writing for school publications, but eventually enlisted to fight in WWI. It was during this time that he met his future wife, 18 year old Zelda Sayre (, 2012). It is said that Zelda was inspiration for the character, Daisy, in The Great Gatsby (, 2012). Fitzgerald received some critical acclaim for This Side of Paradise, his first novel, which instantly transformed his life (, 2012). Unfortunately, this also kept critics from taking Fitzgerald seriously due to his partying ways (, 2012). Fitzgerald eventually moved to France in search of more inspiration (, 2012). Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby while in France, but also turned more and more to alcohol becoming an alcoholic (, 2012). Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda, also suffered a series of breakdowns which made them move from the United States to France on separate occasions. She was ultimately institutionalized in Baltimore, Maryland (, 2012).

Fitzgerald died from a heart attack at the age off 44 in 1940 (, 2012). Fitzgerald is known for several novels and stories: Tender is the Night, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and several others (, 2012). Fitzgerald left one last unfinished novel at the time of his death, The Love of the Last Tycoon (, 2012).   

F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography Video

Historical, Romance

Roaring 20's
Curriculum Ties:  Can tie into lessons on the 18th amendment and the 1920's. 

Booktalking Ideas:
1). What is Fitzgerald saying about the American Dream in The Great Gatsby?
2). Is Daisy really the vain character she is written to be? Is there anything below the surface?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Lexile Reading Level: 1070/YA (Follett's Titlewave, 2012) 

Challenge Issues: This book includes references, to alcohol, some sexual themes, and murder. I would use the following items to defend this book if it was every challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?:
The Great Gatsby has been named by critics one of the great American novels of the 20th century. This book exposes teens to both historical and literary implications of a very important time in American history. I wanted my collection to include at least a few classical pieces of literature.

Reference Page:  (2012).  F. Scott Fitzgerald biography. Retrieved August 5, 2012 from

Follett's Titlewave.  (2012).  The great Gatsby.  Retrieved August 5, 2012 from Follett's Titlewave iPhone app. 

cover art:

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