Why the Great Gatsby Needs to be Read in Schools


Brooke Johnston-Quirarte

CCHS junior, Sarah Brown read “The Great Gatsby” in her AP Language class. Her and many other students loved learning about the 20’s through a unique perspective.

Everyone knows the mysterious and theatrical tale of The Great Gatsby, the epitome of “Americana”. One of the few novels that perfectly encapsulates the harsh yet true realities of American society.

Each junior class at Cathedral is assigned to read The Great Gatsby. Some students cringe at the thought of being forced to endure assigned reading in their classes, while others delight at the opportunity to learn more about society and culture through the literature looking glass. For The Great Gatsby, my English class was unanimously exstatic to read the harrowing tale set in the roaring 20s. Not only does The Great Gatsby detail a fascinating fast-paced story outlining life in the 20s, but it also teaches students about societal standards that are still present today.

Each character represents a common identity that everyone can connect with. We can all understand the worldly struggles of Jay Gatsby and his quest to finally attain the life he’s always dreamed of. We recognize the unattainable pressures placed on Daisy Buchanan. We pity Nick Carraway’s idealization of Jay Gatsby’s false construct of reality.

Gatsby shows the consequence of an irreversible choice to become focused on fantastical ideals rather than actuality. Throughout the novel, Gatsby becomes obsessive over his societal appearance rather than the quality of his own life. Despite his hopeless attempts to have Daisy reenter his life, he continues to fall short. Rather than accepting his faults and deciding to pursue a different path, Gatsby chooses to continue his self-destruction.

The faults and choices in Gatsby’s life show readers today the grave repercussions of choosing to live a life that is focused on social status and appearance rather than internal wishes.

Another widely known character, Daisy Buchanan, displays the constant unattainable roles and expectations of women. She lives in the shadows of the overtly masculine figures in her life, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. She is expected to maintain what Tom and Gatsby expect of her, rather than pursue what she finds important.

Daisy’s character sheds light on the lack of expression women were allowed to have during the 1920s. Her character was constantly defined by what another man expected of her. She was either viewed as Tom Buchanan’s wife or as an achievement to Jay Gatsby.

The inclusion of Daisy’s character shows readers today what the lives and gender roles were of women in the past. The sad realities of Daisy’s fictional life point to the lives of many women during this time period.

Daisy allows people today to understand what life was like for women in the 1920s. Understanding her life offers hope for change to be instilled to combat the unrealistic expectations of women that are still present today.

Additionally, Nick Carraway’s belief in Gatsby’s false reality and ideals result in his tragic downfall. He is constantly enamored with Gatsby’s mannerisms and lifestyle. At no point does Nick pause to understand that Gatsby’s life is merely a facade.

Everyone at one point has paused to realize that they have been misled by a person or an idea. Nick encapsulates this sad truth through his ultimately unfulfilling life. Nick continues to reflect upon his experiences with Gatsby through tainted ‘rose-colored glasses’. We can all connect to Nick’s hopefulness whilst coming to terms with the fact that life isn’t always what it seems.

Though The Great Gatsby was written nearly a century ago, its key themes and ideals still apply today. Students have the opportunity to learn about history and society’s foundation through literature. The characters that Scott Fitzgerald illustrates have clear archetypes that can be related to by all. The Great Gatsby is an essential novel in high school curriculum, as it allows students to reflect on societal norms and spark change.