jueves, 27 de julio de 2017

The Melancholic Story of the Great Gatsby

In the summer we can enjoy the melancholic story of The Great Gatsby, the famous novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald which describes a romantic affair in the summer of 1922, during the Age of Jazz and alcohol Prohibition. It's a perfect story for young students, because the plot is full of insights into the lives of people in that time and into the human behaviours of all ages, and we can learn a lot about that. It reads well and it's a must-read for anyone interested in great contemporary literature; besides, we are lucky to be able to read it and listen to it online at esl-bits.net. And you may want to take some interactive tests that I have created for you to test your knowledge of this story and to look at it more deeply. You'll enjoy it.

Jay Gatsby is a wealthy self-made man who has a love story behind and who wants to recover his past so as to restart his life and become happy. Passion and violence play an important role in the story, but they are counteracted by true love and moderation until the final burst of tragedy. In the end, you find yourself grateful of having read the story of a man like Jay Gatsby who struggles to achieve love and happiness at all costs.

To help you with the vocabulary, I have inserted a dictionary in this blog post. Double-click on a word and the dictionary will appear at the bottom of the page showing its meaning in Spanish. You can also get the voice pronunciation if you click on the proper icon. It isn't always the best solution, but you have a good online dictionary at WordReference.com.

1. The audio text book

So here we are at esl-bits.net, where we can read novels, short stories and articles in their original forms. What's more, we can listen to them read aloud by professionals.

esl-bits.net

In the Classic audiobook section, there are a few famous 19th and 20th Century Classics, and we have The Great Gatsby preview, where we can read an introduction to the novel. When you press the Go to book index button, you'll go to the digital book, and there you can find links to the different chapters as well as a Plot overview link at the bottom. Each chapter is provided with a couple of audio players at the top of the page with faster and slower speeds. The Great Gatsby isn't a long novel and its language and narrative styles aren't complicated, so you'll read it fast and you'll enjoy it to the full.

2. The film trailers

Of course there are some good films based on the novel, but I prefer the 2013 adaptation starred by Leonardo Dicaprio. You can watch the two trailers below in order to have an overview and a summary of the story. In this way, you can remember the plot, but if you haven't read the story, they will also be useful.



Now that you have the images, sentences and ideas mixed up in your brain after watching the trailers, you can take the tests below. If you haven't read the novel yet, you may guess the answers. In any case, have a look at the Plot overview. And consider that in taking these tests you'll learn a lot about human relationships. Good luck!

3. What the characters say

Let's begin with an easy test based on the sentences you have heard in these videos, because they summarise a part of the plot and express the characters' personalities. First click on the left column and then on the right one to complete each answer.

4. The characters' actions and personalities

The novel has a varied set of characters representing different and even opposing types of personalities, which make us learn a lot about people reacting to certain situations. Can you identify which characters represent these personality traits? I bet you can. First click on the left column and then on the right one to complete each answer.

And now another test about the main actions that the characters carry out in the story and that define their personalities.

5. The whole story

The Great Gatsby has a clear narrative structure that the characters develop with their actions in order to resolve a problem which finally turns into a tragedy. You will easily understand the story plot and the reasons of the characters' behaviours. At Sparknotes website, you can find a useful guide to The Great Gatsby with a video summary of the story. You can watch the video below to order the sentences in the test by clicking on them following the chronological order of the story. The sentences are divided into two sections for you to work on them independently. The first part is about the story setting and the presentation of the characters, and the second part shows the problem, the climax and the resolution. If you find the test difficult, do it with a group of mates.



6. Three good online quizzes and some study questions

Sparknotes website includes a very good interactive quiz about this story. It is divided in sections according to the novel chapters, but you also have the Full-Book Quiz. And there are yet another interesting quizzes at CliffsNotes and Bitesize. Dare do them!


Moreover, you can find some clarifying study questions at SparkNotes and at CliffsNotes. They are very useful to get a good grasp of the story elements.

7. Opinions about the story

  1. "Set on the prosperous Long Island of 1922, The Great Gatsby provides a critical social history of America during the Roaring Twenties within its fictional narrative. That era, known for unprecedented economic prosperity, the evolution of jazz music, flapper culture, new technologies in communication (motion pictures, broadcast radio, recorded music) forging a genuine mass culture; and bootlegging, along with other criminal activity, is plausibly depicted in Fitzgerald's novel. Fitzgerald uses these societal developments of the 1920s to build Gatsby's stories from simple details like automobiles to broader themes like Fitzgerald's discreet allusions to the organized crime culture which was the source of Gatsby's fortune. Fitzgerald educates his readers about the garish society of the Roaring Twenties by placing a timeless, relatable plotline within the historical context of the era." (Wikipedia.)
  2. "On the surface, The Great Gatsby is a story of the thwarted love between a man and a woman. The main theme of the novel, however, encompasses a much larger, less romantic scope. Though all of its action takes place over a mere few months during the summer of 1922 and is set in a circumscribed geographical area in the vicinity of Long Island, New York, The Great Gatsby is a highly symbolic meditation on 1920s America as a whole, in particular the disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess." (SparkNotes.)
  3. "Part of what makes Fitzgerald's novel such a favorite piece is the way he is able to analyze the society of which he was also a part. Through his characters, he not only captures a snapshot of middle- and upper-class American life in the 1920s, but also conveys a series of criticisms as well. Through the characterization in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald explores the human condition as it is reflected in a world characterized by social upheaval and uncertainty, a world with a direct underlying historical basis. By emphasizing social groupings and how they do or do not interact with each other (see the Critical Essays section in this Note for further explorations), Fitzgerald establishes a sense the urgency. The Jazz Age society so clearly shown in The Great Gatsby is, in effect, on a very dangerous course when people like Tom, Daisy, and Jordan are at the top of the ladder, working hard to ensure no one else climbs as highly as they. Through Gatsby, Fitzgerald demonstrates the enterprising Jazz Ager, someone who has worked hard and profited from listening and responding to the demands of the society. Unfortunately, despite his success, Gatsby (and all of the people he represents) is never able to capture his elusive dreams. Fitzgerald's story, although a fiction, is informed by reality, helping to make it one of the most treasured pieces of early twentieth century American fiction.". (CliffsNotes.)
  4. "Fitzgerald fails at that, most egregiously where it most matters: in the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. This he constructs out of one part nostalgia, four parts narrative expedience, and zero parts anything else—love, sex, desire, any kind of palpable connection. Fitzgerald himself (who otherwise expressed, to anyone who would listen, a dazzled reverence for his own novel) acknowledged this flaw. Of the great, redemptive romance on which the entire story is supposed to turn, he admitted, 'I gave no account (and had no feeling about or knowledge of) the emotional relations between Gatsby and Daisy.'" (Vulture.)
  5. "Just as the style is nearly paradoxical in its ability to cut both ways, so are the novel's meanings. It is a celebration of intemperance, and a condemnation of its destructiveness. It is about trying to recapture our fleeting joys, about the fugitive nature of delight. It is a tribute to possibility, and a dirge about disappointment. It is a book in which the glory of imagination smacks into the grimness of real life. As Fitzgerald's editor Max Perkins wrote in 1925: it is "a story that ranges from pure lyrical beauty to sheer brutal realism". The hard facts of power and economics play out against the mythological promises of fantasy and ideology. Gatsby learns the hard way that being found out is inevitable, escape from his past impossible; but Nick beats a retreat back home, escaping back into his own nostalgic past. We find ourselves surveying the waste and wreckage after the party ends, but ready to carouse some more." (The Guardian.)

8. Reference websites

  1. esl-bits.net. The Great Gatsby audio and text book.
  2. The Great Gatsby at Wikipedia.
  3. SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Great Gatsby.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 25 Jul. 2017.
  4. Maurer, Kate. CliffsNotes on The Great Gatsby. 26 Jul 2017.
  5. Bitesize at BBC. Revisions, videos and tests.
  6. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald - eBooks@Adelaide.
  7. A Psychoanalysis of Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby). Video at YouTube.
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