Nick is initially portrayed as the perfect narrator – “inclined to reserve all judgements” He appears as tolerant, open minded, quiet and a good listener. Others tell him their secrets – “I was privy to the secret grief”, “Most of the confidences”, “intimate revelation”
Discussion point – Why do these qualities give Nick the potential to be a successful and effective narrator?
Nick is clearly from a privileged background – “ Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” and “My father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat”
However, there are clear contradictions apparent in Nick’s character even from the very beginning of the novel - “ And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I came to the conclusion that it has a limit”
Consider the following quotes describing Nick’s reaction to Gatsby – “ Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction” “ there was something gorgeous about him” “ it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person”
Discussion point – Explain why these quotes might suggest that Nick is not going to be a reliable narrator after all.
Think of the connotations of the name Daisy – a delicate white flower This image is continued later in the chapter with the description of Jordan and Daisy – “ they were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering” White has conventional connotations of purity and innocence
However, it is ironic given her name that Daisy’s life is conducted in an entirely manufactured environment remote from the natural world
Discussion point – By referring to the following quotes explain why Daisy’s portrayal in the opening chapter is not particularly positive:
‘Do they miss me?’ she cried ecstatically “Then she added irrelevantly: ‘You ought to see the baby.’ “She…..She….She….Her” ‘All right,’ said Daisy. ‘What’ll we plan?’ She turned to me helplessly: ‘What do people plan?’
There is also a clear suggestion that all is not well with her marriage - “I know you didn’t mean to, but you did do it” “That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great big hulking physical specimen of a -’
This is confirmed later in the chapter – “Tom’s got some woman in New York….She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?’ Daisy is clearly not a happy woman - “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything”
Discussion point – Based on your reading of Chapter One list the problems Daisy faces in her life
Given these problems and difficulties, Daisy’s subsequent reluctance or inability to leave Tom is striking. This once again emphasises her passivity
Her defeatism is also strikingly apparent in the following quote - “ All right,” I said, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
Our initial impression of Tom is not positive. Task Read the following extract and list the negative aspects of Tom’s character which emerge
“Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty, with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward…..It was a body capable of enormous leverage – a cruel body”
This negative impression is continued in the very next paragraph – “….added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even towards people he liked – and there were men at New Haven who hated his guts”
Discussion point – Explain why the incident with Daisy’s finger further contributes to our negative impression of Tom
What does the following quote suggest about the character of Tom?“Civilisation’s going to pieces,’ broke out Tom violently, …… Have you read The Rise of the Coloured Empires…. If we don’t look out the white race will be - will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved”
Discussion point –Analyse the following extract. What impression are we givenof East Egg? How does Fitzgerald achieve this?“ Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”
Why is the following a particularly successful example of descriptive writing in portraying the excesses of East Egg? “Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran towards the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sundials and brick walls and burning gardens - finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of french windows, glowing now with reflected gold”
What is suggested by the negative description of Tom that follows this elaborate description?
What is suggested by the following remark of Jordan’s – “You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously.”
Discussion point What do the following quotes suggest about West Egg? “the less fashionable of the two” “the one on my right was a colossal affair” “it was a factual imitation” “spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy”
East Egg and West Egg are both homes to great wealth They are, however, opposites in terms of values:- East Egg – sees itself as a place of breeding, taste, aristocracy and leisure West Egg - viewed by East Egg as ostentatious, garish and home to the flashy manners of the new rich
It is clear from the divisions between East Egg and West Egg as well as Tom’s racist remarks that Gatsby’s 1920s America is in reality a society divided by race, class and gender
“When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever” Nick declares his belief in the need for codes of conduct to regulate human behaviour and to control the unruly elements of ourselves
Nick’s dilemma is whether to live a cautious and disciplined existence or to indulge in a passionate, unruly life
“Do they miss me?’ she cried ecstatically. “The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath, and there’s a persistent wail all night along the north shore.’ “She….She…She….Her”
“We ought to plan something”, yawned Miss Baker, sitting down at the table as if she were getting into bed.” “All right,’ said Daisy. ‘What’ll we plan?’ She turned to me helplessly: ‘What do people plan?’ Both examples suggest that the lives of rich Americans are lacking in purpose and direction Task - Circle the phrases which reflect this.
“their impersonal eyes” - does this suggest that their eyes are deadened by wealth? “the absence of all desire” - there is a clear suggestion that they have all they need and everything that they could possibly want
Discussion Think about the characters we have met in this chapter. Why is it clear from characterisation alone that Fitzgerald disapproves of the Upper classes?
In what way does the following description of Jordan contribute to this impression? “ Its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me …. I had heard some story of her too, a critical unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago.”
Discussion In what way does the opening chapter create an air of mystery around the character of Gatsby?
Task Carefully reread the final paragraph of Chapter One. How does Fitzgerald again create an aura of mystery around Gatsby?
“I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair”
This quote clearly shows the indecisiveness of Nick’s character. He is morally repelled by the vulgarity and tastelessness, but he is too fascinated by it to leave
If you remember our first impression of Tom was not positive.This is certainly continued in this chapter.Task:- Read the quotes which follow. Analyse each quote to explain why it reveals a negative side of Tom.
“It’s a bitch”, said Tom decisively. “Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it.”“His determination to have my company bordered on violence. The supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do”“I want to see you,’ said Tom intently. ‘Get on the next train.”
“Sitting on Tom’s lap Mrs Wilson called up several people on the telephone” “Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand”
Fast paced lifeDanger, recklessnessNo close relationship – lots of fake connections
Within the novel New York is the fourth and final setting. It is the opposite of the Valley of the Ashes. It is loud, garish, abundant and glittering
America was placed under a period of prohibition from 1919 – 1933. This legislation placed severe limitations upon the production and consumption of alcoholic drinks Prohibition was introduced to raise the nation’s standards, but it had the opposite effect
It was difficult to enforce and not difficult for drinkers to find alcohol
The Wilsons live at their place of work. They have a lower social standing than Nick who lives in the suburbs In this novel the very rich appear not to work and can live where they choose
Fitzgerald is emphasising that America, despite its claims of being democratic and equal, is in actual fact a society divided into a number of social classes based on wealth and property
“Well, they say he’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhem’s. That’s where all his money comes from” A air of mystery continues to be built around the character of Gatsby. No-one has any real information about him”
A long stretch of desolate land created by the dumping of industrial ashes. It has been created by industrial dumping and by products of capitalism It represents the moral and social decay of American society that results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth as the rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure
There is a strong suggestion that beneath the ornamentation of West Egg and East Egg lies the same ugliness as in the Valley of the Ashes
This is a realistic detail of consumer culture of the 1920s It had the additional merit of being comprehensible to new immigrants with little English Within the novel do the eyes represent the eyes of God staring down and judging American Society as a moral wasteland?
Theme “His eyes dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground” Does the faded paint of the eyes symbolise the extent to which humanity has lost its connection to God?
“He was a blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome” Throughout the text, Wilson stands as a stark contrast to Tom. He is a handsome, morally upright man who lacks money, privilege and vitality
“I’m going to make a list of all the things I’ve got to get” Myrtle is being bought by Tom He views his relationship with her in material terms and as a physical affair, rather than as a emotional commitment
In the first two chapters of the novel the reader has : i) seen Gatsby from a distance ii) heard other characters talk about him iii) heard Nick’s thoughts on him Yet, we have not met him Discussion – why has Fitzgerald structured the opening chapters in this way?
Chapter Three is devoted to an introduction of Gatsby and the lavish showy world he inhabits Yet, Gatsby’s introduction is further delayed “Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all”
“Somebody told me…….” “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once” “It’s more that he was a German spy during the war” The repetition of the conjecture about Gatsby further adds to his mystery
When we do eventually meet him:- “I’m Gatsby”, he said suddenly. “What!” I exclaimed. “Oh, I beg your pardon.” Yet our first proper meeting with him further adds to the mystery. The low profile he maintains is out of place with his lavish expenditure
Repetition of “Old sport” further adds to the mystery of Gatsby as it makes him sound more English Jordan’s words create further mystery – “I’ve just heard the most amazing thing,” she whispered….”it was simply amazing”, she repeated abstractedly”
The title is reminiscent of a vaudeville billing or the name of a magician like “The Great Houdini” Is this to emphasise the theatrical and perhaps illusion like qualities of Gatsby’s life? This is further conveyed by:-
the fact that throughout this chapter description is used to create a dreamlike atmosphere:- “In his garden men and girls came and went like moths” “A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight” Again an air of illusion is successfully created
Does this perhaps suggest that there is something illusionary about Gatsby himself?
Not only is an air of mystery created around Gatsby He is also portrayed as being almost like royalty – “signed Jay Gatsby in a majestic hand” He is portrayed as doing everything to excess
Discussion Explain the way in which the following quotes suggest excess:- “the orchestra had arrived, no thin five piece affair but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and …”
“the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive” “At least once a fortnight a corp of caterers” “Enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden”
Yet, Fitzgerald clearly creates an air of isolation around Gatsby – “standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another” “Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all”
Think back to previous chapters Discussion In what other ways has Gatsby’s isolation been conveyed?
The repetition of the business calls early in the morning perhaps suggests underworld business connections Discussion Why is this idea reinforced by the calls coming from Chicago?
Again Nick’s reliability as a narrator is questionedDiscussion Explain why the following quotes make us question Nick’s reliability:-
“I had taken two finger bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental and profound” “It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life”
Read the following:- “ Reading over what I have written so far, I see I have given the impression that the events of three nights several weeks apart were all that absorbed me” Here he reminds us that he is the writer as well as the narrator. Events have therefore been filtered and recollected by him. Is he reliable?
Read the following:- “ I even had a short affair with a girl who lived in Jersey City…but her brother began throwing mean looks in my direction” Why? Nick is supposed to be honest and reliable. Is this a warning? Does he only tell us what he wants us to know?
Consider the final sentence of the chapter :- “ Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known”Discussion In what ways is this sentence given significance?
Yet, if he is so honest, why is he attracted to Jordan - “ I felt a sort of tender curiosity…for a moment I thought I loved her” He acknowledges that she is dishonest “a suggestion that she moved her ball from a bad lie” Yet, “It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply”
Nick is undoubtedly lonely:- Consider his description of New York – “ forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes and… imagining that I too, was hurrying towards gaiety and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well”
This extract clearly conveys Nick’s loneliness. He is merely reporting the situation, he is not part of it “Most of the time I worked” - Nick’s loneliness is further emphasised by the fact that his life is far different from those of Gatsby and the other characters
Discussion Consider the following quotes. For each explain why they again suggest a negative impression of Jordan:- “she responded absently as I came up” “ she was incurably dishonest”
“His Rolls Royce became an omnibus” Cars represent the wealth of America, but Gatsby is not happy with a Ford motor car – most Americans who could afford a car had one. Remember the connotations of a Rolls Royce – great wealth and social privilege
“Absolutely real – have pages and everything….they are absolutely real…It fooled me” Owl Eyes is surprised to discover that the books are real and not just empty covers and cases. Does this suggest that the people of West Egg and East Egg are ornate covers too? Does their outward show of opulence cover up their inner corruption and moral decay?
Does this tie in with the theme of Perception versus Reality? The party is an elaborate theatrical production. People do not even really like each other – “East Egg condescending to West Egg”. Does Owl Eyes perhaps suggest that Gatsby’s whole life is merely a show?DiscussionAny thoughts on the name Owl Eyes?
The behaviour of the American Upper classes suggests that their wealth covers up their vulgar behaviour:- “ They conducted themselves according to the rules of behaviour associated with an amusement park”
“Most of the remaining women were now having fights with men said to be their husbands” Lavish appearances cover less positive realities This ties in with the idea of DISTORTED VISION
Discussion Briefly list the examples of DISTORTED VISION or examples within the novel so far when Perception differs drastically from Reality What could this suggest about Gatsby himself?
“He hurried the phrase ‘educated at Oxford’, or swallowed it, or choked on it,...bothered him before” Suggests that Gatsby is lying and further adds to the mystery surrounding him. This is continued: “After that I lived like a young rajah in all capitals ...trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago.”
“With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter.” DISCUSSION: What does Nick’s reaction to Gatsby’s story reveal? STYLE/STRUCTURE: This quote again reminds us that Gatsby may not be what he seems – manufactured? Nick’s impression is challenged when Gatsby shows him a medal he received in the war.
“To my astonishment, the thing had an authentic look” Gatsby then shows Nick a picture of himself at Oxford and Nick says, “Then it was all true.” He now sees Gatsby in a different light.
Discussion: Why does Gatsby spend so much time convincing Nick of who he is? Why is Nick so important to a man who seems to have everything?
DISCUSSION: The incident with the policeman is a strange one. What does it suggest? Does Gatsby have influence over people because of his past? What does this add to the reader’s impressions of him?
Mr Wolfshiem: Represents the criminal world He seems open about it in contrast to Gatsby’s secrecy, page 76:“His expressive nose”“Let the bastards come in here…”“Fine specimens of human molars”Gatsby is a “mystery”
This acquaintance suggests that Gatsby’s business and his associates are shady and that they are up to no good. DISCUSSION: Does this suggest that Gatsby’s fortune is gained from illegal activities? How does this make us feel about Gatsby?
“They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man” This suggest admiration on Gatsby’s part.
Jordan: “Oh, it’s nothing underhand...Miss Baker’s a great sportswoman...she’d never do anything underhand” The reader and Nick know that this is not the case – does this cast doubt on his judgements. Gatsby’s opinion is coloured by the fact the he is trying to use Jordan to arrange a meeting between him and Daisy.
“His name was Jay Gatsby...even after I met him on Long Island I didn’t realize it was the same man”
The change to Jordan as narrator here is important. It enables us to have an insight into the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby. Jordan can tell the story better than Nick because she was there but also has the distance needed for a successful narrator because she was not directly involved.
“She had a bottle of Sauterne in one hand and a letter in the other...’Tell ‘em all Daisy’s change’ her mine’...She wouldn’t let go of the letter...only let me have leave it in the soap- dish when she saw that it was coming to pieces like snow.” DISCUSSION: What impression does the reader get of Daisy’s feelings for Gatsby from this section?
The incident before the wedding suggests that Daisy did care for Gatsby BUT.. “Next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and started off on a three month trip to the South Seas.” Her ability to forget her ‘true love’ so quickly suggests she is unfeeling. What does this add to (or confirm about) our initial impressions of Daisy?
“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.” Nick’s perceptions of Gatsby’s character have changed – he is no longer just a show off Have the reader’s perceptions of Gatsby changed because of this new information – how do we see him now?
“Then it was not merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendour.” LINKS TO GATSBY CHARACTERISATION – Contradictions of possible criminal businessman to lovesick person desperately trying to secure the woman of his dreams.
“He’s a bootlegger,” said the young ladies ... “One time he killed a man who had found out that he was a nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil.” Again the mystery surrounding Gatsby is emphasised from the very beginning of the chapter.
DISCUSSION: The following words come directly after the quote above. What does it add to the themes of the novel so far. “Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass.”
Fitzgerald listed the guests in order to give the impression of the nation’s wealthiest people. This reminds the reader again of Gatsby’s wealth. This reminder of Gatsby’s wealth is continued in “gorgeous car”. This suggests to the reader opulence.
“peculiarly American” This comment is in direct contrast with “Old sport” which is very typically English. This again adds a mystery to Gatsby. DISCUSSION: In what way does this add to the sense of manufacture about Gatsby? Is there any other indications of this in the novel.
“They shook hands briefly, and a strained, unfamiliar look of embarrassment came over Gatsby’s face.” Foreshadowing – this adds to the mystery. The reader questions why he is embarrassed. Soon find out that this incident foreshadows the revelation we are about to hear.
“It was a rich cream colour, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length...triumphant hat boxes...terraced with a labyrinth of wind- shields that mirrored a dozen suns...sort of green leather conservatory.” DISSCUSSION: Identify words/phrases that connote wealth and size.
The use of ‘green leather conservatory’ is using terms we normally associate with a house This further suggests the size of the car and Gatsby’s wealth – is his car worth more (bigger than) some people’s houses?
“Then it was not merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night.” The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. Gatsby reached out to it in chapter 1. This symbolises him reaching out for Daisy. Represents his love for Daisy DISCUSSION: What is suggested by the word ‘aspire’?
Jordan and Nick “Her wan, scornful mouth smiled, and so I drew her up again closer, this time to my face.” This gives the reader an interesting contrast of someone who is actually physically there for Nick Contrasted with Gatsby’s elevated passion for an idealised and distant object of desire.
“Then the valley of the ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by.” This reminds us of the gulf between rich and poor – the contrast of Gatsby’s opulent car and the desolate valley of the ashes.
DISCUSSION: Look at the underlined section – what does this add to our initial impressions of Myrtle.
Seems bright and full of possibilities “Over the great bridge” “In its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty of the world” “Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge…anything at all” “Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder
This is the pivotal chapter of the novel Previously, Gatsby’s reunion with Daisy has existed only in PROSPECT However, from Chapter 5 on the plot shifts to focus on the romance between Gatsby and Daisy In addition, this chapter introduces the theme of the past’s significance to the future
“I’m going to call up Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to tea…What day would suit you?” Nick is happy to act as a go-between to facilitate the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy Discussion: What does this suggest about his morals? Is he as honest as he professes?
Indeed, Nick’s reliability as a narrator is again called into question. Discuss the way in which the following quote when he is writing about Gatsby conveys this:- “like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light”
Nick is transforming Gatsby into a mythical figure. Does this add to or detract from his reliability as a narrator?
Daisy’s normally glib character is immediately apparent when Nick calls her to invite her for tea :- ‘Who is “Tom”?’ she asked innocently. However, at this stage she does not know that Gatsby is involved in the arrangements
However, it is clear by her reaction that she gets a shock when she first meets Gatsby Analyse the following quote to explain why it reveals an awkwardness between the two “From the living room I heard a sort of choking murmur and part of a laugh…Daisy’s voice on a clear artificial note…a pause; it endured horribly…..Daisy who was sitting frightened but graceful, on the edge of a stiff chair”
However, as time passes, it is clear that Daisy relaxes:- ‘I’m glad, Jay.’ Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.”Discussion Why is Daisy’s sincerity particularly striking to the reader?
However, which aspects of Daisy’s character are highlighted by the following quotes:- “I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes”
“Suddenly with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily. ‘They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.’
Consider: - Is this the more honest Daisy? Is she genuinely moved? Yes, she is overjoyed at his success, but it is clearly apparent that she is moved by materialistic things
Does this indicate to the reader that she falls short of the ideal version lodged in Gatsby’s heart and imagination?
This idea is reinforced by Nick:- “There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.”
It is immediately apparent that Gatsby is extremely nervous about meeting Daisy Read the following quote and identify the various phrases which convey this:-
“An hour later the front door opened nervously…He was pale and there were dark signs of sleeplessness beneath his eyes…’Is everything alright’ he asked immediately….’What grass?’ he inquired blankly. ‘Oh, the grass in the yard.’ He looked out the window at it, but, judging from his expression, I don’t believe he saw a thing.”
In wishing to resume his relationship with Daisy, Gatsby envisages his future in terms of an event that is irretrievably in the past
Consider the following quote:- “This is a terrible mistake,’ he said, shaking his head from side to side, ‘a terrible, terrible mistake.’ We have the idea that this is the real Gatsby. His theatrical qualities fall away and for once his responses appear genuine. He appears love-struck and awkward
Indeed, Gatsby is portrayed as a love struck teenager – “He literally glowed….He smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light”
“Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs” successfully conveys the effect Daisy has on Gatsby “When I try to-” illustrates the intensity of his feelings for Daisy. He is rendered speechless just by her brushing her hair. Words are inadequate to express what he feels for Daisy
When Gatsby and Daisy first meet the weather matches their mood. The rain adds depression and melancholy to the scene However, as their love reawakens and hope emerges for the possibility of a future relationship, the sun comes out :- “ the sun shone again….twinkle bells of sunshine”
The improvement in the weather is representative of the improvement in Gatsby’s mood and in Gatsby’s life now that he has been reunited with Daisy
“Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place” His nervousness about how Daisy’s attitude to him may have changed causes him to knock over Nick’s clock. This symbolises the clumsiness of his attempts to stop time and retrieve the past
“Inside we wandered through Marie Antoinette music-rooms and Restoration Salons…swathed in rose and lavender silk…through dressing rooms and poolrooms and bathrooms with sunken baths” Gatsby’s mansion is not a home, but simply an extravagant prop in his attempt to woo Daisy
‘Kilspringer plays the piano…. ‘I don’t hardly play at all” There is no sense of friendship between Gatsby and his lodger. They do not even refer to each other using first names. This suggests that he is just another prop in the Gatsby show
“Doing liver exercises on the floor” Symbolic of the over indulgent lives of the American Upper classes. These were exercises designed to compensate for the over consumption of alcohol
Chapter 6 is important in revealing detail about Gatsby’s character Reveals how sensitive he was when he was younger – until he meets Dan Cody Aware of his poverty, he develops a powerful obsession with amassing wealth.
“It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon …but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a row boat…” It is as if Gatsby is rechristening himself Symbolises his desire to forget his lower class identity and recast himself as the wealthy man he envisions.
Discussion: Is this why he finds Daisy so attractive? For her, wealth and luxury comes effortlessly She is the reason he invented Jay Gatsby. Links to STRUCTURE and SYMBOLISM “His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” Stark contrast to his later extravagant lifestyle.
DISCUSSION – What does Gatsby’s transformation tell us about the type of person he is? What do we admire about him?
We discover that Gatsby never received the money from Cody. It is Gatsby’s power to make his dreams real that makes him ‘great’.
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” This illustrates his capacity to delude himself Also illustrates his boundless capacity for hope DISCUSSION: Does the quote influence our feelings towards Gatsby?
“But the rest offended her...was appalled by West Egg,” DISCUSSION: Why is Daisy so appalled by the people at the party? Does her reaction come as a surprise to the reader?
The main problem with Gatsby’s conception of Daisy is that it is a dream. He still thinks she is the girl who loved him in Louisville But she would never desert her own class and background to be with Gatsby.
“I may be old-fashioned in my ideas but women run around too much these days to suit me.” The reader sees how hypocritical Tom is being here considering his own behaviour DISCUSSION: In your opinion would Tom ever believe that Daisy would have an affair?
When Gatsby reinvents himself he is transforming himself and Daisy into his ideal of radiant life and beauty.
“Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone” Tom’s concern is used to move the narrative along This exposes the suspicions of Tom that will eventually lead to confrontation
The name ‘The Great Gatsby’ makes his almost seem like a magician. His reinvention is almost magical.
“Lake Superior” This is a realistic geographical detail but symbolic in a sense. Gatz must recreate himself as Gatsby in order to become superior and it is at this location that he does that.
“Mr Sloane didn’t enter into the conversation, but lounged back haughtily in his chair...” They treat Gatsby with contempt He has the money but lacks their superior social qualities (in their minds) Even among the very rich there are class distinctions
DISCUSSION: Think about Gatsby’s treatment and actions towards his guests (the Sloanes). What do they reveal about his character?
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” Gatsby’s future is an attempt at restoring a golden moment from his past rather than something new. Historically, early American settlers felt that the New World offered them the opportunity to return to the Garden of Eden
The concept of an ideal future is often a form of nostalgia for a Golden Age. An age that supposedly existed in the distant past. DISCUSSION: Can Gatsby’s dream ever come true?
“His career as Trimalchio was over” Trimalchio was a vulgar social upstart, therefore this description has negative connotations” Task Discuss why the description of a “vulgar upstart” might be an appropriate one for Gatsby.
“They’re some people Wolfshiem wanted to do something for” - this again adds doubt in our minds about Gatsby’s judgement and wisdom. Wolfshiem is a shady character. What does it suggest about Gatsby that he is prepared to surround himself by people like this?
It is in this chapter that Gatsby’s fortune is revealed as illegally acquired - “I found out what your drug stores were.’ He turned to us and spoke rapidly. ‘He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter...I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him.”
“He spoke as if Daisy’s reaction was the only thing that mattered” Again, this conveys another negative aspect to Gatsby’s characterisation. He is only worried about Daisy and completely ignores the fact that Myrtle was killed “Of course I’ll say I was” – shows how much he is in love with Daisy. He is prepared to take the blame for Myrtle’s death
Again this chapter calls into question Nick’s reliability as a narrator. Discuss the way in which the following quote is significant in arousing the reader’s suspicions regarding his reliability: “ I had one of those renewals of complete faith in him that I’d experienced before”
This chapter again conveys Daisy’s lack of maternalistic qualities and again reinforces our impression of her being non-maternal Discuss the way in which the following quote reveals this:- “The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted shyly into her mother’s dress”
Consider the following quote. In what way does it convey negative connotations regarding Daisy’s characterisation:- “That’s because your mother wanted to show you off”
“Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step forward and held out her hand....”Good-bye, sweetheart!” Her daughter’s “reluctant backward glance” suggests she would like to stay with her mother. However, Daisy simply dismisses her and does not even refer to her by her name. This again adds to our negative impression of Daisy.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly” Gatsby’s description of Daisy again adds to our negative connotations. This description once again suggests a materialistic nature and a lack of emotion and spirit.
Daisy’s negative portrayal continues when Gatsby’s past is revealed: “ With every word she was drawing further and further into herself” It is further reinforced at the end of the chapter- “I walked away and left him standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing” Daisy has chosen to ignore the fact that Gatsby is prepared to take the blame for Myrtle’s death and has decided to stay with Tom
Task Brainstorm the reasons why Daisy has decided to stay with Tom What impression does her decision to stay with Tom make on the reader?
“Your wife does,” exclaimed Tom, startled”. Tom has just heard that his lover is leaving him. In addition, his wife is having an affair. His world has crashed around him in one afternoon Discuss - why the reader feels very little sympathy for Tom
“I’ll be damned if I see how you got within a mile of her unless you brought the groceries to the back door” This is a clear example of class distinction. Tom tries to assert his superiority over Gatsby and emphasises how unsuitable a suitor he is for Daisy
Tom’s hypocrisy shines through in the following quote: “And what’s more, I love Daisy too. Once in a while I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself, but I always come back, and in my heart I love her all the time”
This is totally hypocritical of Tom. He has no qualms about his extra marital affairs, but feels a victim when Daisy’s affair is revealed
“The next day was broiling, almost thelast, certainly the warmest of the summer”In this chapter, the hot weather reflects theclimax of Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship
“In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life” The oppressive heat adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere and contributes to what happens in the chapter – not just Myrtle’s accident, but also the confrontation between Tom and Gatsby The fiery and intense sun symbolises Tom’s fiery confrontation with Gatsby
“I hadn’t gone twenty yards when I heard my name and Gatsby stepped from between two bushes into the path” This signifies the reality of his love for Daisy. She is not concerned about him, but he is still keeping watch. This makes the reader feel sorry for Gatsby and almost forget his criminal past
“I’ve heard of making a garage out of a stable,’ Tom was saying to Gatsby, ‘ but I’m the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage.” This symbolises his shallowness. The stables will be for his polo ponies as he does not need to work. Wilson depends on his garage for survival.
“You loved me too?” he repeated. Gatsby’s obsession with having a “blissful past” continue into the present makes him want Daisy to tell Tom that she never loved him.
However, Tom reminding Daisy of their past, is clever. He is using their personal history to remind Daisy that she had feelings for him. BY CONTROLLING THE PAST, TOM ERADICATES GATSBY’S VISION OF THE FUTURE
One of the most important moments in the chapter is when Tom becomes certain of Gatsby and Daisy’s feelings for each other – “She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded. His mouth opened a little, and he looked at Gatsby, and then back at Daisy”
The climax of the novel occurs with the line, “But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself” This is the climax, the most critical part of the novel as it is now clear that Gatsby has lost Daisy for good
This is reinforced by Tom’s words “I think he realises that his presumptuous little flirtation is over” Here, Tom feels secure enough to send Daisy back to East Egg with Gatsby. This confirms Nick’s observation that Gatsby’s dream is dead.
The ending of the chapter with Gatsby hiding in the bushes clearly parallels Gatsby pining for Daisy at the end of Chapter One. In Chapter One he was optimistic about their future, but now he has made it past the green light onto the lawn of Daisy’s house. However, now his dream is gone for ever as Daisy and Tom have reconciled their differences – “His hand had fallen upon and covered her own”
“They [Tom and Daisy] weren’t happy, and neither of them touched the chicken or ale – and yet they weren’t unhappy either. There was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together” Tom and Daisy chose to remain reckless together – understand and accept one another’s flaws; no one is perfect.
He was attracted to Daisy because of her wealth and privilege and he idolised both wealth and Daisy – the two are intertwined in his mind. When he enters her house as a poor soldier, he knows he has no real right to be there. He never expected to fall for her; “intended, probably, to take what he could and go”
“I don’t think she ever loved him,’ Gatsby turned around from a window and looked at me challengingly. ‘You must remember…she was very excited this afternoon.” Gatsby is not prepared to admit that he has lost Daisy as it is to him like losing his entire world. He continually refuses to accept that his dream is dead.
Discussion: How does the reader feel about Gatsby’s inability to accept the truth? Is this denial a negative or positive aspect of his character? What does this denial ultimately bring about?
“They’re a rotten crowd…You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’ I’ve always been glad I said that … because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.” Discussion: Is this true? Why does Nick say this? Is Gatsby ‘worth the whole damn bunch put together’? What quality is it that makes him different?
Nick gives the novels final appraisal of Gatsby when he asserts that Gatsby is "worth the whole damn bunch of them." Despite the ambivalence he feels toward Gatsbys criminal past and nouveau riche affectations, Nick cannot help but admire him for his essential nobility. Though he disapproved of Gatsby "from beginning to end," Nick is still able to recognize him as a visionary, a man capable of grand passion and great dreams. He represents an ideal that has grown exceedingly rare in the 1920s, which Nick (along with Fitzgerald) regards as an age of cynicism, decadence, and cruelty.
Gatsby is a symbol for America in the 1920’s. The American Dream has, in the pursuit of happiness, degenerated into a quest for mere wealth. Gatsby’s powerful dream of happiness with Daisy has become the motivation for lavish excess and criminal activities.
Task: Consider all of the characters in the novel. For each one note down how they symbolise different elements of the American Dream.
Nick, in his reflections on Gatsbys life, suggests that Gatsbys great mistake was in loving Daisy: he thus chose an inferior object upon which to focus his almost mystical capacity for dreaming. Just as the American Dream itself has degenerated into the crass pursuit of material wealth, Gatsby, too, strives only for wealth once he has fallen in love with Daisy, whose trivial, limited imagination can conceive of nothing greater. It is significant that Gatsby is not murdered for his criminal connections, but rather for his unswerving devotion to Daisy; it blinds him to all else,- even to his own safety. As Nick writes, Gatsby thus "[pays] a high price for living too long with a single dream."
“…but now he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail.” A Grail is a sacred object of a quest undertaken by a loyal and devoted knight. Gatsby has been transformed into a chivalric hero – a knight. His shinning armour is his ‘beautiful shirts’, his horse is an expensive car. Discussion: Do you think that Gatsby could rescue Daisy and take her to a better life?
“The night had made a sharp difference in the weather and there was an autumn flavour in the air.” The ‘fire’ has gone out of Gatsby’s life with Daisy’s decision to remain with Tom. This is symbolised by the cooling weather and autumn slowly creeping in.
‘I’ve never used that pool all summer?’ In some ways Gatsby is clinging on to the hope that Daisy will love him the way she used to symbolised by his insistence on swimming in the pool as though it were still summer. Important – both his downfall in Chapter 7 and his death in this chapter result from his stark refusal to accept what he cannot control – the passage of time
Gatsbys death takes place on the first day of autumn, when a chill has begun to creep into the air. His decision to use his pool is in defiance of the change of seasons, and represents yet another instance of Gatsbys unwillingness to accept the passage of time. The summer is, for him, equivalent to his reunion with Daisy; the end of the summer heralds the end of their romance.
Up to the moment of his death, Gatsby cannot accept that this dream is over: he continues to insist that Daisy may still come to him, though it is clear to everyone - including the reader - that she is bound indissolubly to Tom. Gatsbys death thus seems almost inevitable, given that a dreamer cannot exist without his dreams; through Daisys betrayal, he effectively loses his reason for living.
“but you can’t fool God!... Doctor T.J.Eckleburg …God sees everything,’ repeated Wilson.” George takes this to be the all seeing eyes of God. He mistakenly believes that Myrtle’s lover must have been her killer and must be punished by “God”.
BUT remember that these eyes are blind – they are the advert for an opticians. The connection between these eyes and ‘God’ exists only in Wilson’s grief stricken mind. Discussion – How important has been the idea of eyes/seeing within the novel?
“He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is …” The rose has been a symbol of beauty for centuries, but Nick says that they are not inherently beautiful and people only view them as beautiful because they choose to.
Daisy is grotesque in the same way. Gatsby has made her beautiful and the object of his dream but in reality she is an idle, bored and rich young woman with no moral strength or loyalties. Discussion: How does the reader now feel about Daisy? Consider that she has abandoned Gatsby in his hour of need.
“…gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete” Indicates the whole sale destruction of his Gatsby’s life, of his dream and his love for Daisy. Also indicates the destruction of Wilson’s life, his dream and of his world.
Wilson seems to be Gatsbys grim double in Chapter VIII, and represents the more menacing aspects of a capacity for visionary dreaming. Like Gatsby, he fundamentally alters the course of his life by attaching symbolic significance to something that is, in and of itself, meaningless; for Gatsby, it is Daisy and her green light, for Wilson, it is the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. Both men are destroyed by their love for women who love the brutal Tom Buchanan; both are consumed with longing for something greater than themselves. While Gatsby is a "successful" American dreamer (at least insofar as he has realised his dreams of wealth), Wilson exemplifies the fate of the failed dreamer, whose poverty has deprived him of even his ability to hope.
Gatsbys death takes place on the first day of autumn, when a chill has begun to creep into the air. His decision to use his pool is in defiance of the change of seasons, and represents yet another instance of Gatsbys unwillingness to accept the passage of time. The summer is, for him, equivalent to his reunion with Daisy; the end of the summer heralds the end of their romance.
“I called up Daisy half an hour after we found him, called her instinctively and without hesitation. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.” The novel ends with a negative impression of Daisy. She has simply dealt with everything by forgetting it and moving away.
This is even more shocking when we understand that Gatsby was killed because of her She has no loyalty to Gatsby again displaying her shallowness. Discuss – Why does Nick call her “instinctively and without hesitation”? This says more about Nick than it does Daisy – what does this reaction reveal to us?
“I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone.” Nick has entered into isolation here This is a further reflection of his identification with Gatsby
By the end of the novel the reader should understand why Nick thinks Gatsby “turned out all right at the end”. In his eyes, Gatsby embodied an ability to dream and escape his past This dream was possibly (ultimately) impossible But Nick cherishes and values it nonetheless.
“On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy ... And I erased it.” Nick is the writer and he wants his words to define Gatsby. Discuss: Do you think Nick has succeeded in telling Gatsby’s story?
“Look here, old sport, you’ve got to get somebody for me. You’ve got to try hard. I can’t go through this alone.” Gatsby is isolated, not only in death, but even at his own parties where he was a lost and detached onlooker. Discuss: Why was Gatsby never accepted? What does this reveal about the other characters in the novel?
“He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in. ‘The poor son-of-a-bitch,’ he said” We feel sympathy for Gatsby too, deserted by acquaintances and (more importantly) Daisy. Discuss: What is the significance of the owl eyed man realising Gatsby’s sad situation? What theme does this link in with?
Henry C Gatz is a figure of sympathy rather than admiration “His eyes leaked continuously” “He was on the point of collapse” Nick does not shatter the old man’s illusion of his son “That’s true”
Gatsby’s father keeps talking about the picture of Gatsby’s house In a parallel with his son the picture “was more real to him than the house itself” He is infatuated by an illusion
“That’s my Middle West ...” The Mid-West has been seen to be boring compared to the excitement of the East But the East is just glittering on the surface It lacks the moral centre of the Mid-West This moral depravity dooms the characters in the novel to failure
“What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left there.” Shows lack of morals and the shallowness of the upper classes. Klipspringer was Gatsby’s lodger but would rather attend a picnic. He is not even phoning up to offer commiserations but to enquire about a pair of shoes.
“Nobody came” This illustrates the upper class shallowness. They attended his parties and abused his hospitality but have deserted him when he is no longer of any use.
Gatsby fails to achieve the American Dream – Why?
Some suggestions may be:1. He is a criminal2. He can never gain acceptance into the American aristocracy.3. His new identity is an act4. His dream was unattainable (why?) All of these question the idea of America as a place where all things are possible if one tries enough.
The American dream is the potential for unlimited advancement, regardless of where someone comes from or how poor their background is Gatsby’s failure suggests it is impossible to disown one’s past so completely
He knew he had a big future in front of him. And ever since he made a success he was very generous with me.” Ironic – in his father’s mind Gatsby had achieved the American dream His father has no understanding of the intricacies of American society.
“That’s my Middle West” Nick thinks of America as a place with distinct regions with different values Each area has come to symbolise different values Discuss: What values are symbolised by the Mid-West, East, West within the novel?
“I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all – Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners …” Throughout history the West has been seen as a land of promise, possibility, a symbol of American ideals But Tom and Daisy, like other members of the upper classes have betrayed American ideals by having a rigid class structure that excludes newcomers from its upper classes.
“Gatsby’s house was still and empty when I left” The party is over in both the literal and metaphorical sense.
“…grass on his lawn had grown as long as mine.” Gatsby has gone but time has moved on This contrasts with Gatsby’s lawn when he was alive Discuss – how does this link to Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy? Consider how it changed and when grass cutting was significant in the past.
“…and perhaps he made a story about it all of his own.” Even in death Gatsby remains the focus of gossip and speculation. Discuss – do you think that Gatsby deserved to be the centre of such gossip?
“…I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more.” It is like a sign of material success, but like its owner it is flawed. “…word, scrawled by some boy” In the corrupt America of the 1920’s childhood is not even a time of innocence.
“…I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes…” Nick imagines what it must have looked like to the first explorers Seeing that America was once a goal for dreamers just as Daisy was for Gatsby.
“Gatsby believed in the green light…” Nick pictures the green land of America as the green light shining from Daisy’s dock He believes that Gatsby had failed to realise that his dreams had already ended His goals had become hollow and empty.
“…tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further … And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Symbolises that the return to paradise is an ideal not a reality Discuss: is this an optimistic or pessimistic end to the novel?