Teaching The Great Gatsby Teaching the Twenties

I recently had this article published on Ezines and I thought that I would post it here, as well. (I've developed a Google Earth unit in which students compare The Great Gatsby to the Roaring Twenties. To see more about it go to: http://www.pass-ed.com/GatsbyoftheTwenties.html.

Do you remember reading the Great Gatsby in high school? How much of the book do you remember? If you are anything like me you probably don't remember the story all that well. I didn't remember it too well, either. That is, until I developed a curriculum unit on the text. During this development work, I had the opportunity to consider the incredible connections between the book and "The Roaring Twenties."

The Roaring Twenties was an incredible period within U.S. history. Just consider the fact that World War I had ended, along with the terrible devastation that occurred within it. Women's liberation, at least the type of liberation considered possible at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, was no longer a fantasy, instead it was occurring at a speedy pace. Just a few years earlier the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series highlighting the depravity of gambling within American culture. Finally, the Twenties was the period of prohibition. After reading The Great Gatsby, you'll probably agree that it was at least the period where the federal government outlawed the selling of alcohol. Jay Gatsby's parties certainly didn't adhere to the letter of the law.

Personally, I don't remember the Twenties. I was born in 1970. But the decade would have been an interesting decade to live through. Let's return our attention to the literature of Great Gatsby. What's the purpose of reading in general and of reading high quality literature in particular?

I'd suggest that people read good literature in an effort to transform themselves into different times and places. If this is the case then the purpose of Great Gatsby is to transform readers to the Roaring Twenties. Of course, the story is just one lens into history, most likely a colorful action-packed lens. But, it is indeed a lens.

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