{Guest Post} Great Gatsby and Global Pandemics- A cross-curricular approach

Below is a guest post from my friend and colleague, Mallory Heath. Although not AP Government related, we are in a time where any great resource should be shared far and wide.


Hello teachers! 

In this unprecedented time, I wanted to offer some ways for you to connect your students to the global pandemic, and start to think about how it may have affected the course of The Great Gatsby’s plot.  I wanted to offer it as a Google document so that as more ideas come up, they’ll be automatically updated for you. 

Stay safe and healthy,

Mallory Heath


Must Use: Credible, unbiased news sources and citations from the text The Great Gatsby.

  1. If COVID-19 had swept the nation between chapters 3-5, how would this potentially alter the plot of The Great Gatsby? Use sources that factually discuss the 2019 pandemic, as well as citations from this section of the novel. 
  2. Search for and read an article that discusses the concept of “flattening the curve.” You will need to internally and externally cite this source. Given what you have learned, how would this pandemic have interfered with Gatsby’s plans to win Daisy back, if most people in New York began to practice social distancing?
  3. Read the following article and watch the simulation models from this source: Why Outbreaks like Coronavirus Spread Exponentially, and How to Flatten the Curve. Let’s assume Gatsby’s parties continued, even though moderate social distancing was being encouraged. Gatsby’s guests come from all over New York. What might the ramifications of just one party have, if there was an infected guest in attendance? Make sure to cite both the article and the novel. 
  4. Let’s assume that COVID-19 is spreading through the community by the end of chapter 2. (And these people just got through The Spanish Flu of 1918! My goodness!) How would this disease impact our characters? Would it impact them equally? How many characters would fall into a “high-risk” group? How would this affect our characters financially? Go into detail here, and make sure to find sources that back up your argument, as well as pieces from the text which better paint a picture for your audience.
  5. By the end of The Great Gatsby, several characters are dead. Gatsby, Myrtle, George (the American Dream, but we’ll get to that soon). While COVID-19 can be deadly to some of those infected by it, is it possible that the spread of this infection may have potentially saved the lives of any of the characters? Answer this question and thoroughly articulate your stance, using both sources you’ve researched and the text itself.
  6. Fitzgerald wrote this novel for several reasons, but one was to demonstrate the failure of The American Dream. In what ways has COVID-19 exposed certain failures in our country currently (if any)? In what ways do Fitzgerald’s warnings about the American lifestyle mirror these exposures in our current crisis? Find unbiased, factual sources to support your argument, and of course, make sure to cite the text as well. 
  7. Reflect on the last passage of the novel: 

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

While uncovering the corruption of the American Dream in his novel, Fitzgerald ends his novel with a hard-hitting piece of prose that speaks to the individual American trying as best they can to navigate through a country of unknown waters. Some read this as pessimistic, while others draw hope from it. What does this final passage mean to you? And in what ways does it speak to our current crisis? Cite a source you’ve found as well as the text as you create your response. 


About the guest author:

Mallory Heath was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. She graduated from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College with a degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis on English Literature. She taught high school English for 6 years and was also a board member of the Arizona English Teachers Association. Creating ways for students to see the relevancy in the texts they read in class was (and remains to be) a passion of hers.

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About Elizabeth Evans, NBCT

AP Government and Politics teacher making the world better one person at a time by supporting other educators.

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