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The Great Gatsby: Living the Dream in the Valley of Ashes

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In which John discusses critical readings of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, including metaphors and symbols like the color yellow, the green light at the end of the dock, the eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg, the valley of ashes, and the American dream.

I also write books. They are not as good as The Great Gatsby. My new one, The Fault in Our Stars, is available for preorder now: http://dft.ba/-tfios All preorders will be autographed.

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Comments

Kathryn Clark says:

John, I loved the insights on this, however I always play devil’s advocate
when it comes to character analysa, analysises, analyses, [ idk the plural
so someone help:) ]. We read Medea the play by Socrates I believe and I
vouched for Medea. We read The Crucible by Arthur Miller and I vouched for
Abigail. Now in the Great Gatsby, I am vouching for Tom Buchanan. So this
wasn’t very helpful for me, but was for the rest of my class with whom I
had shared this video with. Anyways, my points on Tom Buchanan being
the”good guy” are that he is totally in love with Daisy. He does go off and
have affairs, but they’ve stuck with each other throughout each others
affairs. They’ve moved around TOGETHER to be free of affairs and let other
people clean up their mess. Rich people don’t understand the word
“consequences”; therefore, they do whatever and whoever (whomever? I never
really learned this) they want. He also never planned on leaving Daisy and
vice versa. He told Myrtle that Daisy was Catholic because he didn’t want
to leave Daisy for Myrtle. Guys are usually really stupid, so they go do
whatever they want praying that the girl they love sticks with them.
However, that may be biased based on previous relationships and the fact
that I am a girl. 

Rebecca Roberts says:

Gatsby’s quest is both heroic and not heroic. The idea of working your way
to a fortune, creating your own identity, and becoming a local legend is
one that many people are quite fond of. Gatsby’s determination is
admirable, and his thirst for more is not a bad thing. It can be seen in a
bad light because it becomes obvious with Daisy, but his desire for more
can be seen in the party scenes and particularly in the tour of Gatsby’s
house. His desire to make something of himself is a desire that everyone
holds in some way. However, what is Gatsby working for? For what
admirable cause did he waste five years of his life? He worked five years
for a girl who he may or may not have loved. This girl forgot him when a
more suitable option came along. I have severe doubts that Daisy loved
Gatsby at all. While Gatsby’s quest can appear both heroic and not heroic,
it is far more interesting to think about everyone’s reaction to Gatsby’s
quest. Gatsby is a set of pretty clothes that everyone loves, but when a
set of clothes goes out to conquer a dream, people are confused.

Is my quest heroic? If you glamorize hard work, I suppose it is. Having
ambition and achieving goals is over-rated. 

Liz Gazzola says:

On the whole likeable thing, I actually really do love the Great Gatsby but
I think it’s more that characters who are unlikeable are frequently
unrelatable. I could go and explain how humans have this natural tendency
to want to view themselves in a black or white good/evil way and how they
can’t see themselves as the shade of gray that Daisy and Gatsby and Nick
are, and really that we all are, but that’s complicated so I will say this
I think things are easier with a foil ya know? Like in comedy you stick a
straight faced normal-ish person in the show to have the same reaction as
the audience because just want to project themselves into everything, and
Nick is supposed to be written as that boring foil but he isn’t really. I
mean he is a little annoying and pretentious but seems totally oblivious to
the fact that he is in “it” with the rest of the characters. People can’t
see themselves or more accurately don’t want to see themselves as him. I
think this is purposeful like Fitzgerald’s saying all the readers are
Nick’s. We are all in it and yet trying to pretend we are above it. We
think we are the normal ones, the foils, but we aren’t really; we are in
the valley of ashes and TJ’s owl eyes can see it. Okay that is all. 

Katie Husband says:

I don’t think Gatsby’s quest is heroic. I admire his determination to
achieve his goals but his relentless pursuit of Daisy isn’t heroism. It
reminds me of a tumblr post ‘be successful enough so that your celebrity
crush will consider you’ or something like that. Daisy has become so
distorted in Gatsby’s mind that she is little more than an ornament to
complete his transformation: otherwise he could have happily run off with
daisy without the need to get her to say she never loved Tom. He was not
heroic in that quest, though his willingness to take the fall for Daisy in
the end could be seen to be. But like most of Gatsby’s persona, it’s
wrapped up in so many layers of frontage it’s hard to know what his true
intentions are

Christopher Carpenter says:

I watched this right after the crash course Gatsby video. you recycled a
lot didn’t you :)

Ellie Hinchliffe says:

Everything Gatsby did was essentially for daisy. Whether he thought of this
as heroic or whether this was just part of gatsbys normal life, we can
never really know. I think Daisy made Gatsby blind and deluded or maybe her
love and teasing did this too, which doesn’t make Gatsby’s act heroic in
his eyes, but clearly in nicks. Nick fell in love with the idea of Gatsby
and how he was so different from Tom and Daisy and to him he truly was a
hero. To me? No. I think that what he did may have been heroic from some
points of view but he was driven to it by the idea of creating himself
again and making Daisy love him and only him.

Johnny P says:

I smell a fellow Tom Buchanan hater

ButIWas A says:

I have a question can anyone explain to me why the second to last sentence
was never completed? “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we
will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… and then one fine
morning-” does anybody know why the sentence was not completed? Was it a
metaphor somehow? I’m just curious :)

noodle089 says:

Alaska Young is the Daisy Buchanan of Looking For Alaska. Minus the lust
for material things.

Channibolo says:

for some reason i really love this book ^-^

lucydo28 says:

I’d like to say thanks for this video on behalf of my English literature
class for some great points!

J'zargo From Elsweyr says:

I didn’t blink…

Stephanie Matta Osio says:

How can someone SO smart write such a boring and predictable book? 

Fran Zii says:

I think at least in one respect Gatsby proved that he had heroic qualities:
when he proceded to lie to everyone about who it was who was driving the
yellow car. Whether he loved Daisy or not, he was selfless/heroic enough to
take responsibility for what happened to Myrtle even though it wasn’t his
fault. And his quest, pursuing love, is in my opinion also a heroic one,
even though he often did not choose the right means to achieve his goal.

Paige Gibson says:

This makes wayyy more sense now I have read the book

English3Muffin says:

How is it that through all my English classes and even being in honors
English, I never read The Great Gatsby? Because of you and these videos, I
bought it (along with a few other books that I hadn’t meant to get but
couldn’t help myself) and I’m now reading it. (On a side-note, somehow they
had the UK version of this book and I started getting a little confused
when there were all these British terms. Like, I was pretty sure we’d
stopped being at all British by the early 1900s, right? xD)
So thank you, John, for making me that much more cultured. I’m half-way
through it and I absolutely love the in-depth analysis.

Jamie Robles says:

Go, John, Go! :D

Nom Deplume says:

I had a green light I believed in once, but I got over it.

Johey Jonsson says:

I just finsihed reading Gatsby, and the one thing that really struck me was
Gatsby’s profound loneliness. He got fame and money and a following, but
only gossipers and curiosity seekers show up for him in the end. It really
reminded me of today’s search for the 15 Minutes of Fame.

Leandro Moreno says:

What is Gatsby’s favorite superhero? Green Lantern. 

a ghostship says:

I just came.

killerbvato says:

Follow me on Instagram. Easyclassics I have all the great classics for a
very affordable price. 

Kate Bright says:

Some of this is word for word with the crash course video on Gatsby 🙂 aha

Ksen ia says:

When you mentioned that what we really want is to go back in time to some
place when we felt safe, innocent, naive – this portrays the desires of
Gatsby as well as Daisy’s wishes for her daughter’s destiny (to be a little
beautiful fool – in order to feel safe and secure and be ignorant – by
lacking intelligence – of the concept of corruption).

Lexy Santillan says:

My quest is like daisy simply to be comftble and to find a way to keep that
comfort or the illusion of it coming after every tommarrow. I feel wealthy
with my cat, my bed, my 59 dollar dress and knowing i have more like it and
50 dollars to my name and a resentable cheap job with the irregular cough
of money. I live of this, I love being daisy buchanan.



Hannah Schillinger says:

I don’t believe Gatsby was heroic simply because of the way he tore down
things that came between him and Daisy. It wasn’t even enough for him that
she was happy if she was with Tom, she had to be with Gatsby himself. He
also stalked her for five years to try to recreate what they once had,
something that she got over in less than a year (she tried to go to NY and
say goodbye in December, and was fine again the next autumn). I don’t
understand what would make Gatsby heroic, except for his desire to live his
dream. But I guess this depends on personal definition of hero. For
example, if a hero is simply someone trying to live their dream, then
characters like the Emperor from Star Wars or even the Evil Queen from Snow
White would be considered heroes. But if a hero is someone who is willing
to give up things they hold dear in order to help others, then, while
Gatsby isn’t a hero, any one of us could be.

Wow why can’t I write something like that for school?

MrMerkcityking says:

Good video old sport! 

Kelly Bryant says:

“And then Gatsby finally gets to use his pool.” Well that is one way to
put it…

Emily M. says:

Please do this with other books!!! 

Elisabeth Sanford says:

and then gatsby finally got to use his pool. epic.

Lexy Santillan says:

My quest is not great as it does not exist. That said i thunk that makes J
that much more heroic than me or many of us even. The pure ambition, the
crawling for a goal not noticing your climbing upon skulls, passion. If he
never got a taste of Ms. Buchanan, he may still be in an ambitious man

Shauna Force says:

I think that Gatsby is heroic, in the way that heroes and legendary
characters of the ancient world were heroic. He isn’t heroic for being
virtuous, or having pure motives.

Quite the opposite. He is a tragic hero who is undone by his
shortsightedness. His tunnel vision and his narrowly focused goals were his
downfall. He achieved great wealth for all the wrong reasons, even if love
was a better reason than simple greed.

You could almost say he’s like Achilles, only his Achilles heel is
irrational fixation on Daisy. He suffered from hubris, and failed in his
quest.

shutupemilykim says:

I.LOVE.THIS.VIDEO.

ccubed215 says:

Ahhgheddabhergejermerahghuobahbah

noodle089 says:

I feel like it’s sacrilegious for me to say this but, I really didn’t like
The Great Gatsby at all. I was excited to read it and then once I started
it was torture. Took me forever to finish it because I couldn’t stand more
than 5 pages at a time. The best part was the end (not because it was the
end) but because of the “twist” that was in it. But I feel like Fitzgerald
ended the book perfectly. It was a realistic ending in terms of how the
characters go about their lives once it’s over.

BON3S McCOY says:

#TeamTom

Mya Margetts says:

Do you feel like your quest is heroic, John Green? Also I vehemently
enjoyed that accurate dissection of The Great Gatsby.

♔ HaroldsCat (his highness) ♔ says:

u suk green… tom buchanon RULES

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