7 Lessons From The Great Gatsby That You Missed In High School Because You Were Too Busy Hating High School/English

This post is both spoiler- and gluten-free.

1. “It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people.”

“You can hold your tongue, and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they don’t see or care.” The Great Gatsby, page 77.

ADVICE FOR THE AGES. Seriously. It can be just as entertaining, and less messy.


2. It teaches you something about language.

The book isn’t super focused on character development. You don’t really get a straight-up backstory from Fitzgerald, he winds a tale of sobering language and fantastical word choice that speaks differently. The language isn’t difficult, but it’s woven together in a timeless, sophisticated manner than just flows. You can really sense the textures and feelings he writes:

“She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart were trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. ”

“Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.”

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars […] already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colours, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

His words had life and verve, and he was very familiar with Lesson #3.

3. The Twenties were sexy.

gatsby dancing

Everyone is cheating on each other from the very beginning, and whether that’s due to their prohibition-driven lifestyle, or their boozy parties, the foundation of much of their passion comes from taboo illegalities and forbidden badassery. Without all the adultery and cheating that goes on in the novel, there would be little to no plot. Not too shabby for the old days. It’s almost a hundred years old and still reads like new. Hence, these timeless lessons!

4. And jazz was badass.

In the twenties, jazz was an unadulterated, unfiltered, unmoderated, almost underground lifestyle, and the powerful music embodied exactly that. Baz Luhrmann’s new take on the film opts for a hip-hop core to the soundtrack, produced by none other than Jay-Z. Considering hip-hop started out the same way jazz did, it’s pretty damn fitting.

Get a FULL first listen to the soundtrack HERE on NPR Radio! 

5. “Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.”

Basically: we would love to be judgement-free as a people, but it’s a pretty damn unattainable ideal. While that doesn’t slow our love for self-improvement and attempt at impartiality, Fitzgerald knew this in 1925, and it’s gone down as one of the more famous lines from the novel.

gatsby gif new

6. Characters do not have to be likeable for the work to be great.

One of the major reasons I hated this book in high school was because the characters just seemed ridiculous. This Daisy girl really doesn’t seem all that special, and everyone just seemed to be in this weird unreality that I didn’t get. On the surface, it’s a book of first world problems and the dissolution of the American Dream, but gaaaaah it’s so much more than that.

In this fabulous summary by John Green, he lays it out perfectly: “You’re not supposed to like Daisy Buchanan, at least not in the uncomplicated way that you like, say, cupcakes. […] She doesn’t have to be likeable to be interesting.” WITHOUT ACCEPTING THIS, YOU ARE READING WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED. YOU ARE A DEAF MAN AT A CONCERT. I want to shout it from the rooftops: ignorance is NOT bliss.

The full video is below, and is one of the best, easiest tools to simultaneously enjoy, understand, and respect this novel properly. Watch the intro if you’ve never read the book, but the rest of the video assumes you’ve read the book. So if you haven’t, get on it. Seriously, the book is less than 200 pages, and not a hard read. Just do it.

7. “You can’t repeat the past.” -Nick Carraway

dicaprio gatsby

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