A Roarin’ Good Time

Jessica Coe, Photographer

Several junior English classes end the semester with a festive The Great Gatsby-themed party. This tradition is a favorite of Mrs. Dauma and Mrs. Worley in particular, and students participate at a high rate. Mrs. Dauma shared her rationale. “The end of the semester is stressful and busy, and it’s nice to just take a short break from all that and have fun! I also love that they still learn many things about the book as well as history and culture and demonstrate that learning in an enjoyable way.”

The novel is one of the great American classics. “I love the novel because there is something for almost everyone: romance, crime, friendship and job struggles, etc. The story highlights many things that affect all people and many things that only affect a few people, and I think most readers like stories like that, ones in which they can relate to a degree, but they also feel like some of the book is out of the reach of their own reality. I also believe we can learn a lot from all of the main characters about what is important in life,” said Mrs. Dauma. Mrs. Worley added, “It’s the American Dream gone horribly wrong. Students are always shocked by the downfall of Gatsby, and the fact that the bad people on the novel get away with their dirty deeds.”

The parties are elaborate and require preparation. “For most classes that do a Gatsby/1920s party, students are asked to dress accordingly (in their best versions of 1920s fashion), and either present or participate in various forms of entertaining or educational activities. My students also must set up “mini museum” exhibits which feature both 3D and 2D items which feature cultural or historical facets of the era. We eat, we learn to dance the Charleston, and we watch a few segments from both the 1974 and 2013 movie versions of the book.” Mrs. Worley described the way each class’s Gatsby party is a little different. “Students have the opportunity to highlight their talents, too. Just today, I had a group of chorus students singing and a group of brass players doing a jazz set.”

On Gatsby Day, it isn’t weird to see people walking the halls in the flapper dresses or suits. The teachers also get into it. Mrs. Worley said that her favorite part of the event was “seeing the kids dress up and get excited about the whole thing. Also, I enjoy picking my costumes, too. I have had a variety since I started doing the parties. One year, I had to dress as Jay Gatsby because I was wearing a leg brace from my ACL surgery.”

In addition to it being a fun way to end the semester, it is also a great way to interact with the past. Mrs. Dauma said, “Over the years, students have shared many family heirlooms, stories, and one year, a student shared a 1926 recording of her great-grandfather playing in a jazz club in St. Louis!”

With the stress of the holidays and finals, the Gatsby party is an event that each junior in participating classes enjoy.