“The Great Gatsby” is actually a pretty good book. While considered a classic, it’s written in modern language and isn’t too long or cumbersome for a high school student.
Written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Gatsby” tells the story of millionaire Jay Gatsby and debutante Daisy Buchanan, set in the roaring 1920s on Long Island, complete with flapper dresses and decadence.
Modern youth now refer to rich kids or highfalutin events as “so Gatsby,” and it seems the word has taken on a meaning of its own.
The 2013 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey McGuire, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher also added to the glitz and glamour surrounding this story.
I think many of us have dreamed of a lifestyle of wealth and luxury, dinner parties, yachts and beautiful flapper dresses.
So even though the book is short and sweet – a plus if you expect high school students to read it – it’s still got a little substance. It’s definitely the best thing Fitzgerald ever wrote. I had to Google to see what his other books are. They include “This Side of Paradise,” “The Beautiful and the Damned” and “Tender is the Night.” Has anyone even heard of any of those?
But as much as we tend to chalk Fitzgerald up to being some sort of bougie, arrogant snob, let’s not forget that we read movies to escape. It’s why men love mobster films and women enjoy love stories. We like to know how the others live, even if we won’t ever have an opportunity to live that particular life, it’s fun to read the pages and enjoy that momentary getaway.
I’ll stop short of saying “Gatsby” is the greatest American novel, but it’s good, and for goodness’ sake, it’s a good reading level for a 10th grader. We cannot expect teenagers to read Tolstoy.
A well-respected journalist told me last week that we lose readers at 400 words. As in, no story should be more than 400 words because people will stop reading it. Our attention span has changed and the way we entertain ourselves has changed. If anyone is reading, they’re probably doing it on their cell phones.
This pains me because I love books and I love bookstores, but we have to adapt. If we want our kids to read we should start with something short, with modern language, that perhaps they can relate to (it helps if there’s a movie to go with it).
And that, in 438 words, is why “The Great Gatsby” is a good addition to high school English curriculum.
What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.