Monday, January 16, 2012
"So we beat on, boats against the current..."
I've been told that a new film version of my favorite novel of all time is being made. I first encountered "The Great Gatsby" in college. I was doing my student teaching and I was told that I needed to create a unit on it (I've refined it over the years) I had never read it, but once I started it, I devoured it.
You know how sometimes things change your life? That's how I feel about this novel. It literally changed my life. I can't explain it.
Nearly every year since I've been teaching I've given a copy of the book to a graduating senior with an inscription. "Believe in the green light."
I know Gatsby is the great American tragedy, but it is so much more than that. It is the first truthful book about the American Dream. It squarely portrays the American Dream as being pretty much hollow, but we continue to pursue it because we live in the hope that our version of it may BE truthful.
Nick said it best in the last paragraph:
"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."
-The Great Gatsby, chapter 9.
I love how Nick's thought is interrupted, just as Gatsby's life is, but there is note of hope in it. Even in Gatsby's death, there is renewal. Nick moves on with his life. He is not dazzled by the riches and glamour of the Jazz Age. He realizes that the promise is empty and temporary. We continue on against the tide because we believe we can overcome it and by doing so, achieve something that will last beyond us.