Tag Archives: teaching The Great Gatsby

#34: How Discussion of The Great Gatsby Gets Totally Derailed by a Big Spider

wolf spider

How Discussion of The Great Gatsby Gets Totally Derailed by a Big Spider

It’s happened before:
bug gets into the room
and distracts the students,

rightfully so, because
it’s like, you know,
a bug.

Today it’s a spider,
a really big one,
as the teacher tries to tease

out this delicious bit
in the novel when Gatsby
requests a secret audience

with Jordan Baker.
What do they talk about?
Why is Jordan so dumbstruck afterwards?

And then the spider shows up
and it’s a big one and it makes
(I’m sorry to say)

the 17 year old girl scream,
get up from her chair,
and scurry across the room

while the boys in the class
figure out what to do
and the teacher tries

and fails
to regain control and focus.
One boy looks for a thing

to put the spider in
to presumably save its life
or maybe to preserve it

for further study
while another boy
does the stereotypical

guy thing and moves in
for the kill
while the teacher alone

pleads mercy for the bug.
Teacher is ignored
and spider is summarily

squashed. The teacher
is angry, appropriately
ridicules the killer

and makes him clean
the gore from the tile floor.
A few more minutes

and the teacher might
have made an object lesson
of the death of that spider

and perhaps asked
students to think about how
in the Gatsby novel

the strong abuse the weak
and deepest desire, sometimes
just to live a life,

is often snuffed or snubbed.
But the bell rings
and class is dismissed,

a strong finish spoiled
by the fleeting distraction
of a really big spider.

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#32: Gatsby? What Gatsby?


Gatsby? What Gatsby?

is what Daisy says
when she hears Jordan Baker
mention the name to Nick,
and it’s what teenagers
used to say before they
knew Leonardo DiCaprio
was starring in the new
Baz Luhrmann film.
Suddenly, now, they
want to read this novel
because they recognize
the name and because Leonardo
is starring in the new
Baz Luhrmann film.
And as I read the opening pages
to my students today,
we wondered together
how those words might
be rendered in 3-D:
Here’s some advice my father
gave me–in 3-D.
Here’s me, the victim of
a few veteran bores–in 3-D.
Reserving judgements is a matter
of infinite hope–in 3-D.
The fundamental decencies
are parceled out unequally at birth
–in 3-D.  And that’s just
the very first page.
We all agreed how exciting
it will be to see the foul dust
floating in the wake of Gatsby’s dreams
come alive on the screen in 3-D.
And somehow, I’m thinking
that a much better movie of
The Great Gatsby would
be to capture on film what
that one guy did on the stage
in 7 hours:  he read or recited
the whole damn novel out loud.
There we might have a film
of an American classic.

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Filed under Culture, Education, Poetry, Teaching