We are loving Gatsby!

My English students are studying Gatsby.  For a writing assignment I get them to choose (and this is THE most difficult part of the assignment) their favourite quote from the novel….

then write.

They can responded any number of ways, I just want them to write.

Write unencumbered,

Write with abandon.

Here are some questions I may pose to get the creative juices flowing:

What is it that you like about this quote?  The language choice?  The imagery?

What confuses you?

How can you personally identify with what is being stated?

….guiding questions aside, they usually choose to approach this assignment their own way.  And their own way is usually more profound.

I then share with them MY own response to the assignment.  Sharing your writing with others is a difficult thing to do.  It makes you feel vulnerable.  It makes you feel über vulnerable when you’re 17. I figure I can’t ask them to do what I am incapable of doing myself.

What you’ll read here is my attempt at the assignment.  You will find my student’s responses as text or as links to their own personal blogs, in the comment section:

“It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for a moment then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you, at your best, you wanted to convey.” Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

I long for such a smile. I would find it difficult not to fall in love with someone who smiled at me this way,

someone who has taken everyone and everything in the world into account and

focuses on me with “an irresistible prejudice”.

Because, if truth be told, I often want it to be all about me.

With one look you know, deep within the recesses of your existence, thatyou’ve been understood and accepted even with all your flaws, and shortcomings and ugliness that once in a while rears its ugly head.

That someone thoroughly believes in you more than you can ever believe in yourself – all without condescension or impatience or obligation.

Imagine being looked at with the assurance that you are presenting yourself at your best and that best is pretty spectacular.

I am going to practice this smile. The most difficult thing will be its authenticity. Not to merely procure and manifest such a smile but to do so with sincerity. To smile at someone with absolute pure delight where a switch has flipped and joy released.

I bet you can remember a time you’ve been given such a look, the gift of such a smile. The first time you met your spouse? Your baby’s first smile? And I bet you’ve stored the wonderful feeling it created in your memory. But do you remember giving such a look?

To whom did you bestow such a gift and why?


Please enjoy the “comments” that follow!!

10 thoughts on “We are loving Gatsby!

  1. The Great Gatsby was not a book I expected to enjoy. When I first read it, I really didn’t. Perhaps it was because my mind while reading, did one of those curious things where you read but don’t really process and understand the content. Gatsby, when I read certain portions once more, portrayed this uncontrollable likeness to human weakness I found that was both hidden yet so clear. Especially within this 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.” -Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    I admit, I have lost myself a few times towards my dreams and when reality comes towards me, it is an ache to the soul to open my eyes and accept it. For me perfection is viewed as a goal, however sometimes I need to let go. Perfection is a dream not a reality, it is a mindless pursuit which only brings neglect for the acknowledgement of present achievements, rather than motivation for more. I try to be the boat against the current, not realizing, people like me, are living ceaselessly back into past mistakes. I comprehend that my actions bring me both pain and pleasure. Pleasure by the numbing determination to reach my dreams, and pain from the realization, that true perfection is not found in reality. Perhaps what I really need to do is take the piece of life, fate has given me, and bite only as much that I can take. We truly do not know I believe, the pessimistic effect of our dreams until we are pulled under the water, and begin to drown. Regardless, there are countless numbers of nameless, tortured hearts, which in every generation, only focus on dreams and not reality. They are the ones whom in the end, lose all and everything.

    Such a green light, is both what makes people human, and what makes them slip away from reality. The endless pursuit of the sought-after and visionary, which humans believe to be our best interest, is an event which is constantly repeated throughout history. Life is filled with dreams and similar to Gatsby, we all dream. Dreams are the emphasizing component which pushes us everyday regardless of hardship as we strive to reach our nimble fingers toward them. Society encourages us to dream, only because of the belief that it will force us higher in our lives, but sometimes it causes people to fall back down, in the asylum of their deranged minds.

    Aren’t we all Gatsbys, because we dream? No, I think not. What differentiates us from Gatsby is the fact we can separate dreams from delusion. However even when we retreat towards our dreams completely, ultimately we are decaying or in other words, slowly slipping from the control of our minds. Reality becomes a trapped version of a nightmare till we eventually recede our selves to the dark shadows. The push and struggle with reality, eventually persuading us to take futile path toward destruction of mind and soul.

  2. “I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody”.

    We live in a world full of division. We’ve divided the men from the women, the black from the white, the rich from the poor and the one most obvious to me: the known from the unknown.
    The moment I walked through those unapproachable doors on my first day of high school, I could already feel the sense of “cliqueness” rush down my spine. At the top of the list, there were the popular kids who ruled the kingdom, and then of course, following, there was the various other groups such as the athletes, the drama dorks, the band-geeks… And then, at the bottom of the food chain, there was the “Nobodies”. I remember asking a few of my older friends where and who I should sit with at lunch, their reply: “Anywhere but under the stairs, that’s where the nobodies sit”.
    Their answer still gives me a feeling of discomfort, how could one be classified as a “Nobody”? Most would probably say that “Nobodies” are individuals who don’t belong in society or people who didn’t form a way to be noticed by others. They are considered to be invisible and unimportant.
    This whole idea of who’s classified as a “Somebody” and who’s classified as a “Nobody” is completely mind-boggling to me. Why do we arrange ourselves this way? No matter which family you come from, how much money you make, what your passions are or how you portray yourself as; we are all somebodies. We are all living, breathing people and we are all important. Whether your last name is Gatsby or Buchanan, we have all impacted the world in some sort of way, whether it be well known or not. You don’t have to be a famous celebrity or the most popular kid in school to be remembered. You could’ve influenced a thousand people or one; however, you are still valued.
    Nobody is a “Nobody” in my eyes. We all have something to give to this world and we will all make a change in some form of way. So, throw away this fear of “being a Nobody”, because there isn’t such a thing. We are all somebodies, and we all will leave a legacy behind.

    Katie Martin

  3. It has occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the sick and the well. -The Great Gatsby

    His beaming eyes pierced my own, just after I had caught a glimpse of his character pass a mirror. He was happy.

    His hips swung in a reoccurring motion, each step with a skip, hop or jingle. The glow off of his cheeks radiated youth into his smile; which was indeed warm enough to be reflected, and felt. Persperation from the palms of his hands were calmy, healthy; happy.

    Oh the money I would pay, in order to teleport back to that instant. Back in which my hunched, lanky shoulders were rised with confidence. What would it be like for my anxieties to be lifted? Vanashiment of my vulnerability and reimbursement of courage would enable me to live again.

    Would life be different if I were still well? Oh the money I would pay for the envy of that vibrant image of me to return, oh what I would do for my longing for happiness to be satisfied.

    My beaming eyes reached his, reaching off the mirrow. I had seen the enchanting version of myself. He was happy, and I was still sick, tired and miserable.

    Janae Shkwarok

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