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Observations from The Great Gatsby
October 29, 2008 |
It's that delightful time of year again when this English teacher pulls out The Great Gatsby and attempts to weave a glimmering web of dreams for high school juniors. I wonder what you think about Nick's observation that they were "all Westerners, and ... possessed some deficiency in common which made [them] subtly unadaptable to Eastern life." As a Mid-westerner who has taken up residence in the decadent city of New York, do you agree with this statement? What keeps you from the slippery slope of carelessness that seems to characterize Fitzgerald's transplants to the East?
I seem to recall that Nick is feeling morally superior to the East and so his observation is an ironic one "unadaptable" in the sense of possessing some romantic spirit that could not survive in the East. I lived in the decadent city for ten years and may have fallen down a slippery slope I don't know but I'm back in Minnesota now. In any case, true decadence is now available to one and all via the Internet, and New York seems rather staid. Times Square, once a decadent destination, is now a big neon circus, a sort of metropolitan theme park. The slippery slope that Fitzgerald found there was not fame or fortune but simply alcohol, which he could've found back in St. Paul. You might have your students also take a look at some of "The Crack-Up" for a first-hand look at that.