Elizabeth Holmes and Jay Gatsby

This brand new article makes current day connections to The Great Gatsby

Often when working our way through a novel or info text, it helps to tie that text to current events or contemporary life so students can make connections between what we read and the real world. I always have my antennae tuned for interesting articles, podcasts, or otherwise ancillary texts that correlate with our extended reading units.

So imagine my surprise when I came across the story below. This article is almost too good to be true. I mean, how often do you find an article about a current news topic that ALSO contains multiple allusions to a novel you’re reading with your students???

Click this photo from the New York Times and use it with your next Gatsby unit. Here it is:

The Epic Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes

This Jan. 3, 2022 New York Times story by writer David Streitfeld documents the recent conclusion of the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos Corporation, a Silicon Valley medical technology company located in Palo Alto, Calif.

In January, Holmes was found guilty of four counts of fraud that each carry a possible 20-year prison sentence for creating, producing, and marketing a portable blood testing service that ultimately, according to investigators and prosecutors, was inaccurate and unreliable.

The service, made possible by a device known at Theranos as the “minilab”, had even begun to appear in a few Walgreens stores’ Wellness Centers. A nation-wide rollout was in the works.

The article draws parallels between Jay Gatsby and Holmes, citing the daily routines each practiced as they reached for self-improvement and prosperity through their ill-gotten wealth.

“Hiding fraud behind the imperatives of secrecy wasn’t the only way Ms. Holmes’s actions were rooted in tradition. Her self-improvement plan dated back to Ben Franklin but found its most indelible expression in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s creation of Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, alluring, handsome millionaire who also ran a few swindles.”

The Epic Rise and Fall of Elizabeth Holmes

In the article, reporter Streitfeld goes on to draw more parallels between Gatsby and Holmes, invoking connections between the Jazz Age’s Wall Street and our Internet Age’s Silicon Valley.

I used this assignment as a weekly Article of the Week assignment, where I asked students to simply reflect on the article in general. I also required students to discuss the various allusions to The Great Gatsby incorporated in the piece.

Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos at TechCrunch interview
Photo: TechCrunch | Creative Commons | Attribution

This story has been in the news a lot lately and it will be in the news also next fall, when sentencing for Holmes takes place.

In other words, this article has legs. Bookmark it for the next time you teach Gatsby.

There’s also a book out by the Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, John Carreyrou. Check out Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup here.

In addition, there’s a movie by the same title in the works starring Jennifer Lawrence as Holmes. Here’s an article about that.

To find six more info text articles to build relevance for The Great Gatsby, check out this post I published last summer. Note: this is an updated post that features the New York Times Elizabeth Holmes article at the top of the list. When you get to the post, just scroll down for the six additional articles.

Marilyn Yung of ELA Brave and True

I just couldn’t wait…

…to let you know about this awesome Gatsby tie-in article. Have any similar real-world articles up your sleeve? Feel free to share in a comment below this post or by leaving a message on my Contact page.

Finding connections like this between the world and literature is what excites me about my content area. It’s great to be a teacher!

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Feature photo by Max Morse for TechCrunch TechCrunch, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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