The Book Club: The Great Gatsby

A couple weeks ago, we asked readers to join us as we dusted off our high school copies of The Great Gatsby and re-read the classic tale before the movie premiered. The premiere has come (and did not disappoint), but before we dive into the film, lets review the beautiful and heartbreaking story that inspired the phenomenon.

As an avid reader, I am ashamed to say that the last time I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece was indeed in high school English class. Horrible, I know. But like most, I was excited to have an excuse to delve back in to the tale of love and heartbreak as seen through the eyes of Nick Carraway. It only took me a few pages to remember all that I loved about Fitzgerald’s creation. In the midst of the roaring 20’s—a time full of economic prosperity, personal liberation, flappers, and bootleggers—Fitzgerald managed to paint a poetic picture of admiration and love, while detailing all aspects quintessential of the time.

Discussion Questions:
1. Compare East Egg and West Egg. What kinds of people settle on each side of the bay? Why would a couple like the Buchanan’s reside in East Egg, and men like Nick and Gatsby on the other side? How does the division between these two villages compare to differences between the American East and West?

2. Consider the role of gossip in the novel. What kinds of rumors do Gatsby’s guests spread about their host, and why? Why does public opinion have such a strong hold over the characters in the novel?

3. Compare James Gatz to the man he became: Jay Gatsby. What do we learn about Gatz’s ambition as a young boy? What elements from his past did he retain, even as he left his identity behind?

4. Eyes are a prominent feature throughout the novel—T. J. Ecklesburg’s spectacles watch over the “valley of ashes,” “Owl-eyes” attends Gatsby’s parties and funeral, and Nick senses Myrtle’s jealous gaze upon Tom and Jordan when they stop at Wilson’s gas station. What is the significance of this theme of surveillance? Who is being watched throughout the novel?

5. At the moment of the accident that killed Myrtle Wilson, “first Daisy turned away from the woman toward the other car, and then she lost her nerve and turned back.” How else does Daisy lose her nerve on that drive from New York City to East Egg? Why does she turn back to Tom, instead of choosing a life with Gatsby?

6. Gatsby says about Daisy, “Her voice is full of money.” In a novel that is literally dripping with money and status, how does class affect the romances in the novel? Would Daisy be just as alluring without her status? Would Gatsby or Tom be attractive without their fortunes?

7. The novel is filled with so much symbolism, but ends with probably the greatest symbol seen in the book with Nick thinking about “Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.” Consider the symbol of the green light—what dreams and hopes does the light stand for? Is Gatsby’s “extraordinary gift for hope” an asset or a hindrance to his ambition?

“‘Can’t repeat the past?’ Gatsby cried incredulously, ‘Why of course you can!’” In reference to the recent movie release, we have to agree with Mr. Gatsby. As one of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer (and dare we say—the year), The Great Gatsby did not dissappoint. There was glitz, there was glamour, there was Gatsby. While many directors often take artistic liberties when transforming beloved books into major motion pictures, director Baz Luhrmann sticks closely to the details of the novel, while adding artistic flair to enhance the mood of the time. He fuses stunning visuals which represent the decadence of the 1920’s with the swagger of the hip-hop world, courtesy of an ultra-cool soundtrack constructed by executive producer Jay-Z. With the help of this soundtrack, Luhrmann managed to mirror Fitzgerald’s romanticized view of life on West Egg and create a world even Jay Gatsby himself would envy.

While critics gave the film mixed reviews, I think Luhrmann got Gatsby just right. I appreciate he left the story line in tact, while creating a visually pleasing film filled with Tiffany’s jewels, pristine estates, and flowing champagne. Paired with Leonardo DiCaprio’s spot on portrayal of the legendary Mr. Gatsby, the film cultivated a mood reminiscent of the roaring 20’s and transformed me back to the Long Island summer of 1922.

So Everygirl’s, time to break down The Great Gatsby: For most of us, this wasn’t the first time reading Gatsby. Think back to the first time you read it—how has the novel changed since your first read? Do you understand or view it differently today than in the past? Do you think the film lived up to all the hype it received? If you’ve seen the film, what was your favorite part of the movie—the story, the jewels, the clothes, the music?