If you have ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Great Gatsby,” you know the various moral dilemmas the narrator finds himself in as he tries to negotiate his version of the American Dream. By novels end, he has had enough of careless people who smash up things and “creatures” then retreat back into their vast carelessness and leave other people to clean up their messes.
What a profound message for students who think that their actions have no bearing on others and that what they do is their own business and their decisions exist only in their own private universe. The novel certainly dispels any semblance of the positive attributes of selfishness.
What affects students most is the manner in which the titled character truly thinks that he not only can relive the past but also can erase the past so that he can possess his dream like an object on a mantle. The reality of this tragic belief comes to fruition when Gatsby finally, after five years, meets his long, lost love — Daisy, and is described as looking like, “He was running down like an over wound clock.”
This powerful symbolic description shows the reader that the wonderment, the idea, the dream can consume us so much that when it becomes reality, we can experience a similar response.
Americans are big dreamers and we get ideas that can consume us and as we work toward those ends, we can forget the wonderment and clarity that exposed our imagination to such bold and beautiful aspirations. We begin to coldly calculate and strategize the prize before us.
I have seen many people who, for lack of reaching their dream, live through their children and exasperate the innocence of youth by treating their very own as objects to be manipulated. Still others who have reached some version of their dream insist on the rigidity of their own formula and can’t tolerate the methods of those whom they disagree.
One thing I’ve learned as a coach, teacher and parent — this country offers the capacity to dream big and my dream always has been to show the many opportunities that await our young people and try and equip them to open the door to their dreams.