Analyzing Choice: the Resurfacing of Careless People

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SWBAT analyze the impact of the author's choices regarding the novel's resolution and use strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis.

Big Idea

So we beat on: The inability to escape one's past pervades Gatsby's dream.


This lesson involves the reading of the final chapter to The Great Gatsby.  Chapter 9 is Fitzgerald's attempt to provide a closed resolution to the events in the novel.  We find out what happens to the major and minor characters in the novel.  This chapter provides a great opportunity for students to delve into some of the choices that Fitzgerald makes in writing this chapter.  I bring up the character of Owl Eyes and ask students why Fitzgerald brings this seemingly obscure, minor character back into the mix.  Of course, in my opinion, Owl Eyes resurfaces to give the reader some hope that not all people are careless and superficial although they may appear to be so.  Also, Owl Eyes does share a similarity to T.J Eckleburg in the eye category.  Both appear to be some moral consciousness.

Before we begin the chapter, I review students Imagist poems regarding The Great Gatsby, which is a homework assignment from the previous day's lesson.  This assignment gives us a rundown of all the events in the novel before we begin the resolution.

Daily Language Practice

10 minutes

In this short section of the lesson, we do some grammatical review.  I call it the Daily Language Practice.  I put two sentences with grammatical mistakes on the projector or overhead.  The class writes the sentences on paper.  I then solicit the class to volunteer which errors they see.  This is a great activity to begin class.  It allows for a smooth segue to English class, and it offers a great review of grammar for the SATs.

This activity is CCSS aligned as it demonstrates command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

SAT Question of the Day

10 minutes

To continue with SAT prep as I am encouraged by my department head, I consult with College Board to pull up the SAT Question of the Day.  I put the question on the overhead and as a whole-class discussion we look at clues within the questions to lead us to the correct answer.  We also discuss why the answer is correct.  Lastly, we look for strategies to help students find the correct answers.  The link below will lead to the question of the day.  It changes daily and it is sometimes math.  If the question is not ELA, I will go to a weekend date and search for an ELA question.

Gothic Vocabulary: Flashcard Presentations

15 minutes

I will ask students to come to the front of the class to showcase their flashcard based on their assigned vocabulary word.  As stated in previous lessons, students have been assigned one word from a list and construct a flashcard based on the following criteria:

  • One side: Visual representing the meaning of the word
  • Second side: 

                     Latin and Greek Roots

                     part of speech

                     Connotation: "What does word sound like?"

                     Denotation: exact meaning of word

                     Write the word in a sentence demonstrating proper usage.

I usually select a students to run through the flashcards each day in a whole-class activity.  I try to use repetition and reinforcement to familiarize students with words.

Additionally, students should learn a few words a night as an on-going homework assignment.

River Merchant Poems

15 minutes

As a follow up to yesterday's homework, I choose popsicle sticks and ask a few students to read their poems in which they used the style of Ezra Pound's poem to write a review of the plot events and circumstances in The Great Gatsby.  Students are assigned to extract key ideas and lines from the novel and write the poem in the same style as "The River Merchant's Wife." This assignment allows me to review the novel thus far before we begin the resolution.  It is a good recap of events before beginning the resolution.

I have included a video which demonstrates an example of the assignment.  Students are not required to set it to music; however, it does create a nice touch.  I used this example because it portrays the melancholy and hopeless aspects of Gatsby's love for Daisy--something that could never be requited because of their class differences.

As students read their poems, we stop and analyze any similarities that Daisy has with the river merchant's wife.


Round Robin Read of Chapter 9

30 minutes

In a round robin read of Chapter 9, I will ask students to take down notes of the primary factors that make up the resolution to The Great Gatsby.  My goal is for students to reflect and fill in gaps in the narrative that exist in previous chapters.  For example, we find out in chapter 6 that Gatsby is the son of "shiftless farm people."  In Chapter 9, we finally meet Gatsby's father who sheds light on how ambitious Gatsby was as a boy.  He mentions Gatsby's "General Resolves." We also have a hint as to what happened to Gatsby's mother.  Henry Gatz, Gatsby's father, hints at divorce. 

Following the reading of the chapter, students will write a reflection as to why Fitzgerald made certain choices in the chapter/resolution.  For example, why does Owl Eyes resurface at Gatsby's funeral?  He seemed to be a minor character, but he is the only one from Gatsby's parties to pay his final respects.  What do we learn about Kilpspringer or Meyer Wolfsheim?  Why doesn't Nick tell Tom when he meets him later on in the chapter that Daisy ran over Myrtle?  I will again ask students to step into the shoes of Fitzgerald and use text evidence to support their answers as to why Fitzgerald structured the resolution as he did.

Finally, I will ask students to look closely at the last line of the novel and reflect on the metaphor of the boats against the current and ask students to explain what statement about life Fitzgerald is making and how it relates to the plot of The Great Gatsby.  Students usually have a difficult time with this so I describe the scene in the movie Castaway where the Tom Hanks character is trying to row into the shipping lanes, but he is unsuccessful because of the strength of the waves.  Essentially, the waves keep pushing him back to shore as Gatsby keeps being pushed back to his past.  (I use a DVD; I could not find a YouTube video.)  Students will write a response to this metaphor and explain what they think it means.

They may finish this assignment for homework if time runs out.