An example of my students’ insight into Gatsby:

by Mr. Sheehy

The following is a comment on a discussion thread with my students. We were processing The Great Gatsby, and this student was interested in the relationship between Gatsby and Nick:

I was wondering what draws Nick to Gatsby. In a way, Nick is obsessed with the mysterious Gatsby. It can’t be because there haven’t been great things said about Gatsby only awful rumors. Because Nick is not used to the aristocratic society, Gatsby’s wealth is alluring to him. It goes the other way too. Why does Gatsby trust Nick so much? They have never met before and now that they have met, they don’t spend that much intimate time together. Gatsby has no true friends so Nick acts as a sort of safe zone from all of the wealthy men and women around him. I think that the Gatsby-Nick relationship symbolizes the relationship that Gatsby hopes to have with Daisy but never achieves it which could be an explanation to why Gatsby hangs on to Nick until the end because he never gets the dream relationship with Daisy so he holds onto the relationship with Nick for as long as possible. Of course Nick has ties with Daisy but I think that Gatsby has more complex motives than the apparent surface motives, a complete example of modernism.

I’ve added the italics to highlight the part that blows me away. I hadn’t considered that before at all, but it’s a seriously astute observation.  Gatsby can’t have that relationship with Daisy because his love for Daisy is based in the past, but his relationship with Nick doesn’t carry that burden of the past and can be what it is and just what it is. Nick views him without judgment (possibly not to Nick’s credit, as he overlooks some things that perhaps shouldn’t be brushed aside so easily) and is able to accept Gatsby for who he is, admiring his wealth and charm instead of looking down upon him for being new money . . .

Teaching is amazing. With barely any effort I could find another batch of insightful comments from my students about this book, insights that make be a better reader and more intelligent person. Why do English teachers  know the books they teach so well? Because they remember all the brilliant insights their past students have shared.

Needless to say, I love my job.

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