Unraveling Gatsby with Text and Film Interpretations

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SWBAT analyze the development of characters in the hotel scene using textual evidence and evaluate multiple film interpretations of the same scene to compare to novel's intentions.

Big Idea

Let Robert Redford and Leo Dicaprio help students return to the deep, text-based characterizations inherent in the Common Core instead of surface-level thinking!


15 minutes

Students will begin this hour by taking a brief reading quiz over the remainder of Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby, which was assigned as homework at the end of the last class period.  This quiz will be delivered via the Socrative platform so that I can gather instant feedback from students to see who has read the text and the areas of the plot or characterization with which they struggled.  This quiz can be imported into your own Socrative account using the sharing code SOC#3825259.  It's also available in the "Resources" section.  These quizzes continue to allow me the value opportunity to collect ongoing feedback from students that I can use as a talking point with students or parents when it becomes obvious that the material is not being read at all or not being read at the deep level required by the Common Core Standards. 

After the quiz, I will ask students to summarize the remainder of Chapter 7 and ask if any students have questions over the reading or reactions to the text.

Building Knowledge

30 minutes

Next, students will work first individually and then in small groups to track the emotional progression of characters in the hotel scene.  The progression will look like this:

  1. Assign groups of 3-4 a character to analyze using the "Tracking Emotions in the Hotel Scene" organizer.  
    • Tom (3 groups)
    • Daisy (3 groups)
    • Gatsby (2 groups)
    • Nick & Jordan (1 group)
  2. Give individual students about 7 minutes to begin this activity on their own, then they may work as a group to talk through what they've found so far and add to organizer.  This investigation will take about 10 more minutes.
  3. We will come together to discuss the findings of student groups, using textual evidence to highlight and support their characterizations and inferences. (8 minutes)

Before moving to our next section of the lesson, students will respond to a set of questions to get to the root of author choices and director choices required to properly execute this novel.

  1. So far, we've seen some challenges in the way this novel is structured with Nick as the narrator.  Just to recap, what are some challenges with this model?  (Students will suggest that Nick may be biased as a narrator with his own feelings for other characters, Nick may not always be capable of reporting facts accurately due to being inebriated, Nick does not know all the information that surrounds each event because we wasn't there or has to report third-party knowledge, etc.)
  2. Why would Fitzgerald structure this novel with Nick as a narrator if there are so many flaws with his reporting?  (Students will have many answers, but I expect them to say his connection to the rest of the characters makes it more meaningful to readers.)
  3. Obviously, this novel has been made into film versions.  What challenges would you say a director would have to overcome converting the structure of this novel into a film?  (Much of Nick's thoughts are internal, and his narration gives a TON of depth to the story.  A director would have to find a way to get some of that narration in there without bogging down the plot.  Also, a director would have to choose to keep Nick's biased vision or try to present a more objective third-party narration.)


35 minutes

After our discussion of the challenges of a director converting this novel into film, we will view two interpretations of the hotel scene.  The first will be the Robert Redford & Mia Farrow version (from about 1:39-1:45).  While viewing, students will complete the activity on their handout (the SAME handout as in the last section of the lesson), labeling the emotions for their assigned character and responding to the open-ended questions at the end in a 2 minute quickwrite at the end of the video clip.  Then, we will discuss:

  • Were your emotions consistent between the text and film?
  • What's missing from this version?  What's been added to it?
  • Why do you think the director made these changes?
  • Is it effective in communicating messages from the novel that may be hard to capture in film otherwise?
  • How does the decision to have Redford & Farrow rush out impact your characters and the viewer's impression of the story?
  • Are any characters more or less sympathetic?


Then, we will watch the same section of the Baz Luhrman interpretation of the film (from 1:35-1:44).  Students will follow the same directions as with the first clip, and then we will discuss the same interpretation questions.

  • Were your emotions consistent between the text and film?
  • What's missing from this version?  What's been added to it?
  • Why do you think the director made these changes?
  • Is it effective in communicating messages from the novel that may be hard to capture in film otherwise?
  • Which version do you think was more accurate to representing the characters as written in the novel?  Why?



10 minutes

Finally, we will complete our look at this chapter with a few more questions and I will remind students that they should be updating their Visual Character Maps with our daily discussions.  

  • Does Daisy really love Gatsby?  Does Tom really love Daisy?  Does Gatsby really love Daisy?  (1 minute quickwrite, then debate answers)
  • So Nick is always our narrator, but in this section explaining the backstory of Myrtle & George, he knows more than he could know from his character's perspective.  How do you explain his knowing of this information?  Does this make him any less credible as a narrator?  How would it have changed the story or your perspective as a reader if he had remained truly consistent in his perspective?
  • What emotions does Tom go through through this accident scene?  Are these what you expected?  Anything atypical from the Tom we know?  What words show you this? Why does he launch into "consoling" George?
  • Why is Nick so angry/frustrated at Jordan and the group?
  • Nick's perception of Gatsby seems to have changed over the course of the scene at the hotel and certainly here when he runs into Gatsby outside.  What evidence shows this Gatsby-doubt? Is this founded?  
  • What motivates Nick to check inside the window? What does he see?  What could they be talking about? 

Next Steps

For homework, students will need to read all of Chapter 8 and continue with their Visual Character Maps for Jordan, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick, and Tom.  Also, they need to read the ACT Reading Overview in Number2.com, taking notes with the ACT Reading Tutorial Notes Template, and complete at least 20 practice questions within the platform to gain more practice for our upcoming ACT.