The Great Gatsby Analysis

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The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald 1. The American Dream Positive Aspects Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A land of infinite opportunity. Possibilities through courage and hard work. Exclusion of the poor as the rich get richer. Gatsby recreates himself, turning his back on his humble beginnings. 2. The Social Scenario The Jazz Age 1918-1929: The end of WW 1 till the Great Depression (Wall Street crash). All the pent-up nervous energy of the post-war years found their expression in this period which was like one long party. Jazz was popular – probably echoing the new trends in the arts – modernist movements in music, art, literature. Consumer culture – a new modern trend. Traditional values started to disappear. There was an increasing focus on the individual, on pleasure and enjoyment. No sign of the Wall Street crash yet. Not everyone lives the high life – Wilson does not. The Role of Women Women now cut their hair in “bobs”- very short and wore short skirts. Legs, arms, knees and ankles were exposed!!!! They were called “flappers” – Daisy is one and Myrtle tries to be one. They wore make-up! No more stay-at-home housewives – women moved out into the world of men. Women’s vote – obtained in 1920. Technological Advances The consumer society now has electricity and telephones. Lots of appliances e.g. fridges, dishwashers, toasters, juicers (like the one the Buchanan’s butler uses) – so there was more time for pleasure, leisure and entertainment. The Prohibition Alcohol was banned in America in 1920 – it could not be made or sold – so there was lots of smuggling or “bootlegging”. Police tried to enforce impossible laws- liquor was sold in “speakeasies” (like shebeens). Organised crime thrived. The ban ended in only in 1933! Gatsby is involved in some form of bootlegging. Gatsby gets his wealth by corrupt means. Negative Aspects Materialism and consumerism. Corruption as people pursued wealth.

The position of women in the workplace was still inferior to that of men – no equal wages in those days. The Motor Car A symbol of the consumer society. Production lines and Fordism. Production time reduced because of these. Lots of people living on credit. Boosted the economy. Symbols of status and wealth.

Chapter 1: 1.1 The two “Eggs” are twenty miles from New York, on Long Island Sound (a very busy shipping lane). The East Egg was the fashionable place to live. Extremely wealthy people like the Buchanans lived there. Their houses are the “white palaces” referred to in the extract. The West Egg was less fashionable with some pretentious houses having been built in imitation of fashionable European building styles. Nick’s own house was a “weather-beaten cardboard bungalow” with a view of Gatsby’s lawn and the sea. He calls it an “eyesore”. The West Egg was home to the “nouveaux riches” or the newly rich people, and is regarded with some contempt by the people from the East Egg. 1.2 Gatsby’s home was one of the examples of fake architecture on the West Egg. The owners had tried to give it respectability and an aura of age by growing ivy up its outside walls. There was a marble swimming pool and forty acres of lawn. The Buchanan’s home was enormous, too. Nick calls it “elaborate”. It was built in the Georgian Colonial style and was red and white. French windows connected the house with the exterior. The house was light and airy; the lounge had an elaborate ceiling (probably some form of pressed steel). There was a quarter of a mile of lawn between the sea and the front porch. The walls of the building were covered with ivy which seemed to be an extension of the lawn. There was a sunken garden and half an acre of roses. 1.3 This tells us that we are still in a patriarchal (male dominated) society where a woman took her identity from her husband and his position in society. 1.4 Tom Buchanan was thirty, had a hard mouth and a superior manner and was arrogant and aggressive in appearance. He was a man of “enormous power” with a “great pack of muscle” visible under his riding shirt and coat. Nick says that his was a “cruel body”. He had a gruff tenor voice and tended to be paternalistic. He controlled the conversation and the movement of others when he could – as he did with Nick. 1.5 Daisy is dressed in white (almost a symbol of her purity). She was beautiful. Her eyes were bright and her mouth was “passionate”. Her voice arrested one as it was low and thrilling. Her conversation was trivial and she did not focus on one topic for long but changed, almost irrelevantly, from one to another. She talks without conviction and is basically insincere. 1.6 Nick was from the Middle West. His family had been there for several generations. They were well off people who had set him to a fine school and university. They had a

thriving hardware business. When decisions had to be made about his future, the whole family was consulted. His father was something of a snob and taught him that life parcels out privilege and decency unfairly to people and that his son must therefore be tolerant of others. He went to New York after he had returned from World War One and got himself into the “bond” business. 1.7 Myrtle Wilson had phoned Tom. She was his current mistress. 1.8 We know this because Nick speaks of a “subdued, impassioned murmur” being audible from inside the house – the sound of Daisy remonstrating with Tom about the phone call. Jordan wants to listen in to their fight. Daisy comes back to the table tense but bright and gay, pretending that nothing has happened. Tom is miserable. 1.9 Tom hurts Daisy (her knuckles are bruised). She tells him off when she thinks he is phoning a mistress. He lies about who is on the phone. She is not fooled. This is obviously not a happy marriage as Daisy tells Nick that Tom was nowhere to be found when their daughter was born, and she was upset and felt abandoned. Nick felt she should take her child and leave him, but she clearly had no such idea in mind. 1.10 It is the society of the super rich, bored, indolent upper crust. Chapter 2 2.1 Some oculist with a sense of humour had erected it years before. 2.2 The theme is that of vision, insight, seeing. 2.3 The eyes are a symbol of God watching over a godless society living in a moral wasteland where people’s vision has faded and their hopes have disintegrated into ashes. 2.4 It is a place of great poverty, a slum that has rubbish dumps all over the place. The dust drifts in the air and seems to settle on everything. The inhabitants are poor; they are “grey” men and women whose dreams have eluded them and whose lives are quietly hopeless; they have lost their vitality, their spirit (note: Myrtle sees Tom as her means of escape from this) and their lives are meaningless. Their environment is as sterile as the city depicted in The Wasteland of TS Eliot – post-World War 1 London is an “unreal city”, a place of existential angst, of disintegration and fragmentation. 2.5 She is the wife of the mechanic, George Wilson. She had met Tom on a train bound for New York. They were seated opposite each other and she could not keep her eyes off him. When she got off, he pressed against her, and they got into a taxi. Their affair started from then. 2.6 She is in her mid-thirties, has a “thickish” figure, is not at all beautiful but is sensuous and smouldering. Her voice is soft and coarse; she acts in an affected manner, especially when she goes to their apartment and changes her dress. She seems to grow too big for the room and almost shout as she speaks. Her attempts to sound educated are satirised by Nick: “You’d OF thought!!!” etc. 2.7 She changed into an elaborate chiffon afternoon dress and got very haughty, speaking and gesturing in a very false and affected manner. She got louder and louder, spoke disdainfully about the lower classes and used words wrongly in an effort to sound educated. 2.8 He hit her a short sharp blow across the nose and broke it. He is a violent, abusive brute of a man; he is controlling and will use force to get his way. 2.9 Supercilious = looking down on others as if they are inferior; anaemic = appears pale and bloodless; regal = like a king or queen, royal; hauteur = condescending loftiness, arrogance; deft = practised, quick and skilful.

Chapter 3 3.1 He is presented as a very liberal host who keeps open house and tolerated all sorts of “amusement park” behaviour in his house. He spends vast quantities of money entertaining people he does not even know; his food is abundant, the liquor flows endlessly and he spare no expense on entertainers for the guests. His house is vast and the library so convincingly genuine that the drunk man in the library calls him a Belasco. He is the man onto whose shoulder no woman droops her head, a man alone, about whom there are many rumours, for example, that he was a German spy or that he killed a man. He had actually served in the American forces in Europe in World War 1. He has an enchanting smile that seems to understand exactly what you want him to understand, but Nick sees past his mask and his “old sport” affectation to what he really was: a young roughneck who is very careful to say the right thing in the right way in case he lets something about his origins slip. 3.2 He was a German spy; he had killed a man. 3.3 The parties were enormously extravagant with the tables groaning under elaborate hors d’oeuvres and main dishes. Gatsby has a real bar installed and served all sorts of exotic cocktails. The champagne was served in huge glasses. The guests often did not know him or each other; they just arrived and were entertained. They got very drunk and increasingly inclined to hilarity as the liquor took effect. Jazz was popular – Nick talks of “yellow cocktail music”. There were famous singers and a composer played one of his compositions. 3.4 He has a Rolls Royce, two motor boats, an estate car and later another flashy vehicle makes its appearance. He hires a whole orchestra, not just a band. He has numerous servants and a chauffeur. He owns a huge house and a huge library with real books in it (though the pages are uncut) and calls people “old sport” as if he has had a British upbringing. He buys a guest a replacement evening dress costing $250.00. 3.5 “yellow cocktail music” suggests that light, bright kind of popular music in which brass instruments predominate; “romantic speculation” means guesses about him that are wild and unfounded and melodramatic; “spectroscopic gaiety” means that the fun is like the spectrum, having a variety of tones and visual forms. 3.6 A very drunk driver drove his coupé into the wall and sheered off a front wheel – but he did not know what had happened or how it had happened. 3.7 She thought she was a good driver but she was a careless one who expected other people to get out of her way. She nearly knocked over a workman and was not very concerned about it. 3.8 She could not stand being at a disadvantage. 3.9 He has not had much to do with the upper crust and their immorality and dishonesty, so at this point, he dismisses dishonesty in a woman as a foible not to be taken too seriously by the stronger sex. 3.10 She had lied about leaving the top of a borrowed car down and it was spoiled by the rain; she had moved her golf ball in a tournament and lied about it. Chapter 4 4.1This implies that the partygoers were immoral and took their girlfriends/mistresses to the affairs at Gatsby’s. The usual expression is “the world and his wife”. 4.2.1 Their likeness to animals is suggested especially in names like “The Leeches” which implies that they live off others; the “Civets” suggests how distastefully smelly these guests were; the “Beavers” were probably eager to make their way in the world etc. 4.2.2 “Klipspringer” suggests that the man of this name moves from place to place but never staying anywhere for long. He virtually lives at Gatsby’s but at the end of the book, he has moved in elsewhere.

4.2.3 “Beluga” is the name of the world’s most expensive caviar – so the people of this name are possibly well-to-do. 4.2.4 The “Dancies” is a sarcastic reference to the people who come along to while their evenings away in trivial activities like partying and dancing. The “Smirks” suggests that these people thought that they were above others and were self-satisfied and therefore wore smirks on their faces as they were very pleased with themselves. 4.3 He implies that Gatsby’s guests come and go but have no interest in who their host is; they are only there for the food and drink and will move on when they have had what they came for. 4.4 He said he was the son of rich middle Westerners who had died and left him very well off. He had been educated at Oxford as it was a family tradition. He had travelled widely through Europe, had collected things he thought were valuable and had also done some biggame hunting. He was trying to forget a sad past. He had distinguished himself in World War 1 and had been decorated for extraordinary valour. 4.5 He looked at Nick sideways as he spoke as if to see what effect his words had had on him; he also hurried over some phrases for example “educated at Oxford” as if he were choking on them because they bothered him. 4.6 Gatsby produces the medal given to him for valour by Montenegro and shows Nick the photograph of himself at Oxford taken in the quadrangle of Trinity College. 4.7 He refers to the memories the man recalls at lunch: the death of Rosy Rosenthal, obviously a mobster, and he has cufflinks made out of human molars. 4.8 We suspect that he is into something illegal like bootlegging or that he is involved with the Mafia gangsters whose centre of operations was in Chicago. 4.9 He never had anything to do with any of the women at the parties and only gets involved again with Daisy because they had been in love many years before. Tom is no friend of his so he is not really looking at a “friend’s wife”. 4.10 Daisy had met Gatsby in Louisville where she lived and where he was a young officer in training about to go to war. They seemed to have an understanding because her family found her packing to go and say goodbye to him and put a stop to it. She recovered from her disappointment after a while and got married to Tom in a society wedding. The night before she got married, a letter arrived which distressed her so much that she got drunk. She said she did not want to marry Tom. Jordan and the maid sobered her up, got her dressed and she married Tom the next day. The marriage seemed to be working until Tom was in an accident and the papers revealed his companion to be a hotel chambermaid. 4.11 Daisy suggests a flower, uncomplicated, pretty and innocent. “Fay” is a Middle English word for a fairy, so there is a mystical quality about her; she is delicate, lovely, fragile as a fairy. 4.12 This is to suggest her innocence and purity. 4.13 The “little irregularities” are the affairs which the fast and moneyed set indulged in. She is referring to Daisy and her unhappy marriage. Daisy could have found herself a lover. She could easily have had an affair as she never drank, and could have slipped away unnoticed while everyone else was intoxicated. 4.14 Gatsby suddenly made sense to Nick – he now understood what motivated him and what caused him to throw the extravagant parties he did – parties that had seemed to Nick like a pure waste of money. He was “reborn” for Nick in that he seemed like a new person, one whose motives were now comprehensible. (NB: question misworded) Chapter 5 5.1 He was wearing a white flannel suit with a silver tie and a gold shirt. 5.2 He offered his a way to make money – a confidential job of some sort. 5.3 It is clandestine (secretive) – Daisy and Gatsby can’t just go and visit each other as she is a married woman who cannot just visit the house of a single man, nor can she entertain him at her own house unless there is company. Her husband is not to be told about this tea party – she has to come alone, a fact she finds very mysterious. Nick sets up the meeting at his

house which is neutral territory. Gatsby is a perfect stereotype for the tormented lover, agitatedly waiting for his long-lost love to reappear after a separation of five years! 5.4 She flirts with Nick calling him her “dearest one” and asking (jokingly) if he is in love with her whereas her greeting of Gatsby is strained and formal: “I certainly am awfully glad to see you again.” 5.5 He glowed and radiated well-being. 5.6 He wants to show us how extravagantly it is decorated and how he wants to show off by having a variety of styles of opulent décor. The rooms are swathed in beautiful materials and are full of fresh flowers. They have all got dressing rooms and bathrooms with sunken baths – it is a house that has everything. 5.7 His room was simple. He had a bedroom, a bathroom and a study. The only extravagance was the set of gold brushes on his dressing table (note: toilet set = his hairbrush, comb and clothes brush, not his loo!) 5.8 He wants to impress her with his wealth and his style. He has a “man in England” who buys his clothes for him – a detail he wishes them to notice as he is so wealthy he can afford to have someone overseas choose his clothes for him and ship them across to America. Daisy may weep because she realises she could have had everything she ever wanted if she had waited and married Gatsby; she could be a shallow little materialist who values a man simply by his possessions and who now regrets not having married a man who also, like Tom, could have provided for her every need, and she is aware of the opportunity she missed. 5.9 Daisy fell short of his dreams about her. He had idealised her and now he comes face to face with the real flesh and blood woman who has her faults. She cannot possibly measure up to his image of her and so he has to rearrange his ideas about her. 5.10 It underlines the central concern of the book: there are the very rich who may or may not have got their wealth honestly (like Gatsby), and there are the people of the valley of ashes who live lives of hopeless poverty and who will never rise above their circumstances. Chapter 6. 6.1 He came from North Dakota and was the son of unsuccessful farmers. He did not like his name (James Gatsby) and so changed it, and possibly his conception of himself, when he was 17. He fished and dug for clams to earn a living, and tried to get an education for himself by trading his services as a janitor for tuition fees at St Olaf’s school but this did not last long. Gatsby had grand visions of himself and felt there were no limits to what he could achieve. 6.2 He was a secretary, a steward, sometimes the mate of the yacht and sometimes its captain. He also locked Cody up when he got drunk, and so functioned as his jailer. 6.3 Buffalo Bill’s surname was Cody. He was a cowboy from the Wild West, a tough, hardbitten, gun-slinging, hard-drinking pioneer. Dan Cody is also a hard, violent man who had made his fortune from the numerous metal rushes (silver, copper) in the West and who lived the life of a debauchee, enjoying wine and women to excess. 6.4 She is showing that she knows that Tom is flirting with another woman at the party and that he will probably go to see her or call her on the telephone. She is not unaware of his infidelities. 6.5 She disliked the raw vigour and the vulgarity of the party, and was offended by the showy, empty Broadway types who seem to have no point to their lives and who were on the road from nothing to nothing. 6.6 She is on the same path but fails to recognize the triviality and emptiness of her own existence. 6.7 He is feeling lonely and desolate. The party which showed off his wealth, his connections and his generosity has dismayed Daisy, making all his efforts to please her vain. 6.8 He wanted her to deny that she had ever loved Tom. 6.9 He thought that they could erase the past, go back to Louisville and be married from her parents’ house as if her five years of marriage had never occurred.

6.10 This happened when he kissed her. He now knew that he was not going to climb the ladder to success alone. He linked his fate to Daisy, committed himself to her, and to do so, he had to come down to earth, be realistic and live the life of an ordinary mortal. Chapter 7 7.1 Trimalchio was a freedman – he had been the slave of an extremely rich Roman who had freed him on his death, leaving him his estate and money. The ex-slave then threw parties of such extravagance that all of Rome knew about them and went to them to eat the outrageous delicacies he had served up and to participate in the orgy. A caravansary is an inn at which travelling caravans in the East and North Africa in days gone by used to camp out for the night before continuing their journeys. Gatsby’s parties are as vulgar as Trimalchio’s and his house is a roadhouse or an inn for anyone who cares to wander in. 7.2 Daisy virtually told Gatsby that she loved him when she said he always looked so cool. Tom saw, was astonished and was so furious that he needed to translate his anger into physical action - so instead of hitting someone, he suggested they go off to New York. 7.3 He had discovered that Myrtle had a life apart from his and that she was having an affair, though as yet he did not know who with. He had therefore decided to move West and take her with him, but he had locked her in her room for good measure. 7.4 Tom had found out about Gatsby’s drug stores in New York and Chicago that sold grain alcohol illegally, so he knew that Gatsby was a bootlegger and in cahoots with Wolfsheim, and he had recently heard rumours of some new and far more unsavoury transaction that Gatsby was involved in. 7.5 Yes, he had been, for five months. He had been sent there after the Armistice (peace negotiations after WW1) as were other young officers. 7.6 He asked too much of her. She had loved Tom and could not go back on that. Possibly the revelations about Gatsby’s illegal activities frightened her; she needed security and protection from her men. Nick noted that when she was in a position to make the final break, it did not seem as if she had ever intended to go that far and was in a corner. This possibly accounted for her reluctance to deny that she had ever loved Tom. 7.7 He knows Daisy well enough to understand that she will not give up her wealth and security with him and take her chances with a man of Gatsby’s shady reputation. 7.8 Myrtle had been locked up upstairs all day. For some reason Wilson had let her out as the yellow car hove into sight and she wanted Tom (whom she thought was driving) to talk to Tom and possibly get him to take her away otherwise she would have to go West with Wilson and never see her lover again. 7.9 George wails and is quite immobilized by his grief. Tom takes control of the situation, is aware of the suspicion that could fall on him, diverts it and then calms and speaks to George so that he does not blame him for Myrtle’s death. 7.10 He wishes to safeguard Daisy against any violence that Tom may offer her in revenge for her unfaithfulness. This is a hopeless quest as Daisy and Tom have come to some sort of agreement in the pantry over supper, and , even though neither looks happy, neither is unhappy, either, so their marriage will go on and Gatsby’s chances are doomed. Chapter 8: 8.1 He was stationed at Camp Taylor prior to going to the Front. The young officers were invited to various houses, Daisy’s parents’ house being one of them. While he was in uniform, he could pretend to be anything he liked and so, made respectable by it, he was invited to Daisy’s house – to a place and a society where he would never normally be welcome - where he met and fell in love with her. 8.2 The “barbed wire” was their differing social classes. 8.3 He had led her to believe that he could take care of her, that he could offer her security and had a solid family standing behind him.

8.4 She waited for some time for Gatsby, then started dating and moving in the usual rich social circles. All the time, she felt the need to some sort of finality about her future. It was about this time that she met Tom, rich, solid and reassuring Tom whose attention flattered her and whose wealth and status assured her of a secure future. She could not wait for Gatsby who, after the war, went to Oxford for five months – more by accident than by design. 8.5 She had made a pact of some sort with her husband (remember Nick seeing them in the pantry, looking as if they were conspiring?) and had simply blotted Gatsby out of her life. 8.6 He tells him that he is worth the whole rotten bunch of spoiled, wealthy characters (e.g. Daisy and Tom and their ilk). 8.7 Wilson in his deluded state sees Dr T J Eckleburg as a symbol of divine power; however, the pragmatic Michaelis sees the whole ideal of a higher moral power as some sort of propaganda, like advertising, and clearly dismisses the whole concept of divine intervention or retribution. 8.8 No, George believed that she had been run down deliberately – he wanted to pin the blame on but Tom had an alibi. 8.9 Wilson wandered over to Port Roosevelt and took some time to reach the next place he was seen at: Gad’s Hill (12h00). He did not eat the sandwich or drink the coffee he had bought. He was seen by several boys who had noticed a man behaving peculiarly, and several motorists saw a man standing by the roadside, staring oddly. He vanished for three hours – possibly looking for the yellow car by calling at garages where it might be, but no garage man came forward to say this. However, he found his way to Gatsby’s house – so someone must have given him a lead. 8.10 The word “holocaust” means wholesale sacrifice or destruction. Here it means that three people’s lives were destroyed, three people died bloody deaths: Myrtle, Gatsby and Wilson. Chapter 9 9.1 Nick, the Lutheran minister, Mr Gatz, some of the servants, the postman from West Egg and “Owl Eyes” attended the funeral. 9.2 Wolfshiem did not want to “get mixed up” in anything to do with Gatsby and made the excuse that people must value others when they are alive, not when they are dead. Klipspringer had moved in with people he could live off for a while and only wanted his tennis shoes but, despite the fact that he had availed himself of Gatsby’s hospitality, he wriggled out of coming to pay his last respects. Daisy sent neither wire nor flowers. 9.3.1 He cannot tell the old man that Gatsby had no friend in the world, so he lied to him to make him feel better. 9.3.2 He is a decent, responsible person who feels that it is not right to abandon Gatsby, even though he is dead, and even though he owes him nothing, so he takes it upon himself to arrange the funeral and get people to come to the service. 9.4 Gatsby may have left home and upset his parents by doing so when he was a youngster, but he did not forget them when he made a fortune and saw to it that they had money and housing, so he was a generous, even a caring son. 9.5 It is a place where no one cares, where there is always some sort of drunken revelry, where people go to parties dressed to the nines, but they neither know who other people are, nor do they care. The whole scenario is bleak, grotesque and without any beauty or grace, therefore it resembles the nightmarish visions of El Greco. 9.6 He came from an old family who had lived in the same house for decades; he belonged to the West with its small boring towns with their small populations that all knew each other and each other’s business. He was used to the security of family, friends and familiar surroundings and to people being interested in you as a person, even if this meant kindly interference and gossip. The East was coldly impersonal and uncaring. He could never understand this.

9.7.1 He had told him where the owner of the yellow car lived. 9.7.2 He was threatened and wanted to divert the danger from himself, so he directed Wilson to Gatsby’s house, knowing full well that he would shoot Gatsby. He obviously had not learned the truth from Daisy. He hated Gatsby and felt he was getting his just desserts. 9.7.3 He is a moral coward. 9.8 He says that are careless people who disregard others, smash up lives and then just walk away, protected by their vast wealth. They have no sense of morality or responsibility to others. 9.9 They saw a new world and a chance to make a new beginning, to realise their aspirations/visions and realise their grand dreams. 9.10 Although experience tells us that the achievement of grand dreams and visions does not occur in reality, we still dream on, striving against the way of the world, rowing upstream against a current that is always defeating our efforts to change and remake our world. Our efforts to concretise these grand dreams is doomed from the outset, but we strive on up the river, regardless of how futile this activity may be.

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