JHS 11th-Graders Find Out What Would Happen If Jay Gatsby Met …

“Are you Jay Gatsby?”

Nervously, he replied, “Yes, and who might you be, old sport?”

“My name’s Connie,” replied the girl. After she spoke, there was a tense silence as he peeked into the portal from where the girl came, and what he saw terrified him. It was the classic description of Hell: fire and brimstone, with eternally tormented spirits wandering about in agony – a place he didn’t want to visit anytime soon.

“What are you doing down …,” he glanced over at the unholy portal, “down there?”

With regret in her voice, she replied, “When I was alive, I was too concerned with what other people thought about me. I was too concerned with fashion, how my hair looked, what guy was gonna ask me out, what I was going to do with my friends.”

Tears started to well in her eyes, and trying to restrain her emotions, she continued, “I rejected my family. That’s my biggest regret; I was too busy obsessing over boys to realize that my family could provide me with the love and attention that I so desperately desired.”

Connie started to weep uncontrollably as she started to reminisce about her old life.

Gatsby was strangely moved by the girl’s words because he felt that their situation was similar.

Students in Norma DeJoy’s English 11AT class were acting out fellow student, Mitchell Moore’s dialogue between Jay Gatsby and Connie, the teenage protagonist from “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. DeJoy’s students were asked to write a dialogue that occurred in an imaginary afterlife between Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of “The Great Gatsby,” and another major character from the literature they had studied. During the conversation, Gatsby and the other character were required to discuss a topic of significance: materialism, love and longing, or corruption. After identifying common themes in literature, students expressed those ideas through dialogue, bringing their scripts to life. Each student writer/director chose fellow classmates to act out the scene, coached them and acted as the scene’s narrator during the videotaped performances.

“I chose to write my dialogue between Jay Gatsby and Holden Caulfield from ‘The Catcher in the Rye,'” said JHS 11th-grader Jacob Kindberg. “It is more interesting to create a dialogue between two characters than to just read the stories. We looked for common themes and based our dialogues around them. A hands-on project is a much more fun learning experience. We get to create our own plays, which helps us better remember the literature.”

DeJoy’s lesson is based on an ELA Common Core Standard- “(to) create interpretive and responsive texts to demonstrate knowledge and sophisticated understanding of the connections between life and the literary work by (creating) poetry, stories, plays and other literary forms.”

In terms of Bloom’s taxonomy, the lesson straddles synthesis and evaluation levels because the task requires the students to extend the learning and use their imagination to make logical and rational inferences and predictions beyond the text itself.

Students were expected to include vivid imagery to describe the imagined afterlife, as diction, thoughts and actions appropriate to each character. Some pairings included Gatsby with Ethan Frome, John Proctor from “The Crucible” and Mattie Silver from “Ethan Frome.”

“I was impressed with the level of creativity demonstrated by the written pieces. I also appreciated the specific references to the text that students were able to subtly incorporate in the dialogue,” said DeJoy. “The students written work demonstrated an understanding of author theme and purpose, and how those themes continually reflect real life. Clearly, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lyrical lament about materialism in ‘The Great Gatsby’ still resonates today. This is evidenced by yet another multi-million dollar film adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’ that is being released this month.”

The lesson will culminate in the students’ self-evaluation of his or her scene, which focuses on purpose, accuracy, development, depth and conventions.