Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Great Gatsby Read Along: Chapters 7 to Finish

With the release of The Great Gatsby movie tomorrow, I had to pull it together to get our final discussion up for the novel.  Today my AP Literature students took their AP test, so I'm praying that I stop dreaming of sonnets, thesis statements, and the best way of teaching iambic pentameter.  Seriously.  The other morning I woke up reciting types of poetry, "Elizabethan Sonnet, sestina, ballad, ode, elegy..."  It was maddening, and has left me exhausted.  I have had a really great group of students this year, who worked like crazy.  I'm sure they did great.

So, back to Gatsby and his crazy life.  What's not crazy about these final chapters and why did I love it so much?  It's not that I love to see things fall spectacularly and dramatically apart, but that I love to see the mind of an author throw down on the page.  What can we say?  Fitzgerald royally threw down on the page and left it all there for us to mull over for years to come.

How much do I recount from these final chapters?  Do we talk about Daisy icing Gatsby out?  Do we talk about why Gatsby stuck around and didn't see the writing on the wall?  Do we talk about Tom's crazy lover, Myrtle, and her date with a speeding car?  Do we dive into the crazy jerkish person Tom is, who seems more lacking in conscience than any character we've encountered?  Or, do we look at Nick one last time and ask how much of all of this his narration shaped for us?  I don't even know.  I can see that any one of these could make for a full and exhaustive post.  Instead, here's what stood out to me:
  • Mr. Wilson. 
    He seemed so pathetic and sympathetic all at the same time.  His massive panic over his wife's affair and determination to take her away from that crazy place was understandable.  I think we can all see that Myrtle wanted to escape her mundane life with her mechanic, gas station owning husband, but Mr. Wilson seemed like a truly pathetic character that I finally saw with new eyes.
  • The color blue.  Back in my post "The Great Gatsby Read Along: Chapters 3 to 4," I mentioned the strange use of the color blue to describe the yard.  Here in the final chapter of the novel, Nick comments, "So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home" (176).  I get that smoke can be blue, but the way Fitzgerald has used it on several occasions in the novel has left me thinking about its significance--if any.  I just haven't pictured lawns or yards as blue.
  • The fact that Gatsby admits he originally only got together with Daisy because he wasn't sure he could, and then only wanted to get what he could for a time.  In the end, he didn't expect to fall in love with Daisy.  I don't remember Gatsby being a playboy.  No judgment here.  I just didn't remember that detail from his story.
  • Nick's soft spot for Gatsby.  After the dirty business with the murder, Nick is the one who finds him.  Nick is the one who feels it deeply that Gatsby should not be alone in his death.  Nick is the one who recalls telling Gatsby, after a party, "'They're a rotten crowd,' I shouted across the lawn. 'You're worse the whole damn bunch put together.' I've always been glad I said that" (154).    Nick saw something in Gatsby, perhaps as the true tragic, mislead figure in the whole story?
  • Zelda.  Yes, I thought about Fitzgerald's wife Zelda, who was supposed to have suffered from schizophrenia and whom he supposedly fashioned his character Daisy.  Was there a twisted sort of love/hate relationship with Daisy and Zelda?  On page 179, Nick reflects, "They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let others clean up the mess they had made..."  Having had a relative with schizophrenia, parts of these lines resonated with me with a frustration that I wondered whether Fitzgerald might have been dealing with?
  • The past.  This theme, reliving the past or facing the past, runs through the novel until the very end.  I love the last two paragraphs of the novel and their final dealings with Gatsby's desire to relive the past or to recreate it.  Maybe it's something we all want, because we idealize the past in some way?  In reality we can't escape the past, because it is our present, and yet we also can't relive it.  How ironic.  As Nick concludes, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back carelessly into the past" (180). Beautifully thought provoking.
So what stood out to you in these final chapters? Does the title then tell us that Nick put aside the tall tales of our main hero and found him to be "The Great"?  I kind of like to think so, but wonder what that then says about the other characters that brought about Gatsby's demise. 

Anyway, here are a few questions:
  1. What do you think happened to Daisy after the "accident" with Myrtle?  What conversation do you think happened between she and Tom?
  2. Was the laser-point focus of Gatsby his own sick fault, or did he ever have a real chance with Daisy?  Could they have ever had a life?
  3. What is it about the past that we somehow can never escape it or relive it?  Or can we actually relive parts of it, and so that gives us some sick hope?
  4. What most stood out to you in these final chapters?
  5. What do you most look forward to seeing in the film?

Well, thank you to all who joined in on the Read Along!  Now I hope we can all get to the movie this weekend and have one last Gatsby chat.  Thanks again!  Don't forget to leave a comment with a link to your post, if you choose to participate.  


  1. Becky, you're amazing for doing this. here are my answers:

  2. Here's mine:

  3. Thanks guys! These are great posts!