I mentioned in my first post that I was putting together a group to read, or reread, The Great Gatsby in preparation of the movie coming out.
Well, long story short, I emailed out discussion questions each week and no one. . .actually. . .participated. Ha. Isn’t it kind of funny in a depressing sort of way when you try to put something together, and get people involved, and no one cares?
On the other hand, I don’t believe in forcing people to read, or to participate in things like this. It should be purely for fun, and if people don’t want to join in then, that’s cool.
So I thought I would post one of my discussion questions and put it out there for anyone else who wants to chime in. But, please be forewarned that there may be a few spoiler alerts in here, if you do not know the story and want to be surprised with the book and/or movie.
What is it that makes the great Gatsby great?
There are times when Nick doesn’t even like Gatsby, and he is clearly his biggest fan. As the reader, there are a few times when I do not like Gatsby myself (like when he is creepily standing out on the Buchanan’s front lawn until four in the morning).
There is of course the SparkNotes version of what makes Gatsby great: The fact that he never gives up on his dream, which is paralleled with the Great American Dream. He never gives up on his dream of having Daisy, even when Daisy the Dream doesn’t live up to Daisy the Person. He never gives up on the notion of being able to change the past, even after seeing Daisy and Tom’s child for himself. He never gives up, never gives up, never gives up, even when he can clearly see the dreams slipping through his fingers.
Conversely, there is something annoying, and even a little bit pathetic about someone who will never give up, even when there is truly no hope. Sometimes you want to yell at Gatsby – you’re a good guy! Have some self respect, man. She doesn’t love you, and possibly more importantly, she doesn’t deserve you.
Sometimes watching Gatsby fawn over Daisy is like watching an alcoholic slip farther down the bottle. There is nothing you can do; you cannot help someone like that if they are not willing to help themselves.
So again – why is he so great? Well, I want to take that notion of never giving up on a dream a step farther and compare it to the innocence and purity of a child.
Children are special, in that they have not yet been corrupted, have not yet been tainted and jaded by society. Children still believe in magic. They still believe in parallel universes like Narnia. They think there is a distinct possibility that the neighbor is a modern, spell casting, witch. They believe, or maybe they just know, that fantastical and amazing things in this world are possible.
Gatsby has a Peter Pan like quality, in that he believes in the unattainable and the amazing. He has hopes, he has dreams, and they will not waver in the face of reality, no matter how impractical and impossible.
Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can, Old Sport.