Homework Help

Should the novel "The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald continue to be taught in...

user profile pic

baker245 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 22, 2010 at 6:19 AM via web

dislike 1 like

Should the novel "The Great Gatsby" by F.Scott Fitzgerald continue to be taught in high school?

Please give complete answers & reasoning. You may use snippets from the book to justify your opinion. Thanks!!

4 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:25 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Well, it is a great book. Thematically, you could say it delves into the American dream, corruption, love, class issues, and to tie it to the Prohibition era of America provides an entertaining and more to the point, artistic depiction of this period in American history. It is well written and lends itself to psychological analysis (Nick and Gatsby through Nick's eyes particularly), but also some class issues and even maybe Machiavellian politics with what lengths Gatsby goes to in order to win Daisy back.  So much more could be said about this novel, but in short, I'd say, yes it should still be taught. 

However, if I had to choose between teaching Gatsby or Things Fall Apart, I'd probably more often choose Things Fall Apart or some novel like Beloved or even something like The Catcher in the Rye. It's important to teach the classics, because they are classics for good reason. But we shouldn't avoid teaching something new because we are stuck to strict adherence to the traditional canon. Something more culturally relevant or something more geared toward adolescents (like Catcher of White Boy Shuffle) could spark more interest in students.  I guess the goal would be to intersperse classics with the new: but in any case, we shouldn't trade artistry for entertainment just to coax kids to read.

user profile pic

Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:31 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

I would answer that, of course, it should be taught.  I would wonder why this is even an issue.  Why wouldn't it be taught?

The novel is sophisticated, top-tier literature.  It may be the best love story of the 20th century. 

One test of literature is the level of ambiguity in the work.  Life is ambiguous, and ambiguity is something that novels can do better than any other art form.  Novels should be ambiguous, like life.  Again, that is one of the main reasons novels should be studied.  Other art forms can do other things better than a novel, but no other art form can reveal ambiguity like a novel.

And Gatsby reveals ambiguity about as well as anything written in the 20th century. 

The characters are mixtures of positive and negative traits; Gatsby's obsession is both sublime--if that term can be applied to something that doesn't deal with nature--and idealistic and foolish; Daisy is both greedy, and a woman living in a man's world with little option for improvement except marrying wealthy. 

If for no other reason, The Great Gatsby should be taught because it reveals the ambiguities of existence.

user profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 22, 2010 at 8:42 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 1 like

Absolutely yes.  I can see no reason why we wouldn't want it taught in school since it delves into our history in the 1920s, shows Americans what it was like to live during that time and confronts social issues such as conformity, wealth and materialism.

One could argue, I suppose, that it's a cliche to teach this book - that everyone teaches it, but there is a reason why it is so widely used in the public schools.  "Classics" don't become classics through advertising, they become classics through word of mouth.  They become classics because they comment on and pass on specific lessons and commentary about who we are or were.  They are thought provoking, as The Great Gatsby is.

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 23, 2010 at 8:05 AM (Answer #4)

dislike 1 like

I would think that it's more inevitable that the book is taught at the high school level.  Certainly, a real strong argument can be made that Fitzgerald's wok can be essential to a better understanding of the 1920s.  As students engage in a study of American History of "The Jazz Age" at the high school level, the reading of Fitzgerald's work could be something to help bridge gaps that might exist in an interdisciplinary manner, helping to give context and focus to a historical period.  I think that reading the work at the high school level is something that is seen as standard, and almost a rite of passage.  At the same time, I think being able to read about social inauthenticity, using people as means to ends as opposed to ends in their own senses, and being deceptive could be life lessons that might have some connection at the high school level.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes