Green Lights And Boats Against The Current

It has been argued that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the great American novel, The Great Gatsby, his masterful study of class structure and the pursuit of the seemingly unattainable. I happen to fall into the Huckleberry Finn camp, largely because Gatsby didn’t take on the great question of American society: race. However, you can’t deny the beauty of Fitzgerald’s writing and the powerful impact that the novel still carries.

In a recent NY Times article, “Gatsby’s Green Light Beckons a New Generation of Strivers,” students are shown discovering Gatsby and relating its themes to their own lives. The students profiled attend Boston Latin, one of America’s most competitive public high schools.

Syracuse doesn’t have an academically competitive public school, but these schools are commonplace in larger cities. Admission is based on hyper-competitive entrance exams and the curriculum is rigorous. Graduates of these schools will go on to elite universities and become the next wave of scientists, academics and professionals. The schools also are very diverse. Since the advanced schooling doesn’t come with a private school price tag, the schools are prized by hard- working immigrant families that see a top education as a way to advance in America.

It’s fascinating to see the themes of Gatsby work on these young minds. Is America really all about accumulating wealth? Can people of different backgrounds succeed in a society that still rigidly defines class, religious and ethnic barriers? Is hard work enough to guarantee success?

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One thought on “Green Lights And Boats Against The Current

  1. phil – i’ve got a couple i put in the pantheon for greatest. i’m a huck finn guy, too, except i alwas felt as if twain stepped out of the box in the final chapter … the whole tom sawyer twist takes huck – and, by extension, us – off the hook about what decision huck would have made, when it came down to it, about jim.

    i also put faulkner’s ‘absalom, absalom’ in there. it not only deals with race, it scorches the earth. as for fitzgerald, as great as ‘gatsby’ was, i was more deeply moved by ‘tender is the night’ – maybe because i recognized some of the characters (and the protagonist, by the ways, ends up in upstate new york).

    another guy i loved was dos passos, maybe because i read the usa trilogy at the right time in my life – 20 or so – and it opened my eyes to what writing could be.

    – sean

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