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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marredby obvious suppressions. Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. 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; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we're descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
I never saw this great-uncle but I'm supposed to look like him--with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in Father's office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe--so I decided to go east and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said "Why--ye-es" with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
"How do you get to West Egg Village?" he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees--just as things grow in fast movies--I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college--one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News"--and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded" man. This isn't just an epigram--life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals--like the egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed flat at the contact end--but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size.
I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion. Or rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn and the consoling proximity of millionaires--all for eighty dollars a month.
Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.
Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven--a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anticlimax. His family were enormously wealthy--even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach--but now he'd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.
Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it--I had no sight into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.
And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. 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 toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks 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, and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.
He had changed since his New Haven years. 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. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body--he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage--a cruel body.
His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked--and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.
"Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are." We were in the same Senior Society and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.
We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.
"I've got a nice place here," he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly.
Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore.
"It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside."
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding cake of the ceiling--and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it--indeed I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in.
The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise--she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression--then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room.
"I'm p-paralyzed with happiness."
She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)
At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again--the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.
I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth--but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.
I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on my way east and how a dozen people had sent their love through me.
"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."
"How gorgeous! Let's go back, Tom. Tomorrow!" Then she added irrelevantly, "You ought to see the baby."
"I'd like to."
"She's asleep. She's two years old. Haven't you ever seen her?"
"Well, you ought to see her. She's----"
Tom Buchanan who had been hovering restlessly about the room stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.
"What you doing, Nick?"
"I'm a bond man."
I told him.
"Never heard of them," he remarked decisively.
This annoyed me.
"You will," I answered shortly. "You will if you stay in the East."
"Oh, I'll stay in the East, don't you worry," he said, glancing at Daisy and then back at me as if he were alert for something more. "I'd be a God Damn fool to live anywhere else."
At this point Miss Baker said "Absolutely!" with such suddenness that I started--it was the first word she had uttered since I came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft movements stood up into the room.
"I'm stiff," she complained. "I've been lying on that sofa for as long as I can remember."
"Don't look at me," Daisy retorted. "I've been trying to get you to New York all afternoon."
"No thanks," said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the pantry, "I'm absolutely in training."
Her host looked at her incredulously.
"You are!" He took down his drink as if it were a drop in the bottom of a glass. "How you ever get anything done is beyond me."
I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she "got done." I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming discontented face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a picture of her, somewhere before.
"You live in West Egg," she remarked contemptuously. "I know somebody there."
"I don't know a single----"
"You must know Gatsby."
"Gatsby?" demanded Daisy. "What Gatsby?"
Before I could reply that he was my neighbor dinner was announced; wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine Tom Buchanan compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square.
Slenderly, languidly, their hands set lightly on their hips the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch open toward the sunset where four candles flickered on the table in the diminished wind.
"Why candles?" objected Daisy frowning. She snapped them out with her fingers. "In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year." She looked at us all radiantly. "Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."
"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?"
Before I could answer her eyes fastened with an awed expression on her little finger.
"Look!" she complained. "I hurt it."
We all looked--the knuckle was black and blue.
"You did it, Tom," she said accusingly. "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----"
"I hate that word hulking," objected Tom crossly, "even in kidding."
"Hulking," insisted Daisy.
Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire. They were here--and they accepted Tom and me, making only a polite pleasant effort to entertain or to be entertained. They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening too would be over and casually put away. It was sharply different from the West where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself.
"You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy," I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. "Can't you talk about crops or something?"
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was taken up in an unexpected way.
"Civilization's going to pieces," broke out Tom violently. "I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read 'The Rise of the Coloured Empires' by this man Goddard?"
"Why, no," I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
"Well, it's a fine book and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be--will be utterly submerged. It's all scientific stuff; it's been proved."
"Tom's getting very profound," said Daisy with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. "He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we----"
"Well, these books are all scientific," insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. "This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It's up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things."
"We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
"You ought to live in California----" began Miss Baker but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
"This idea is that we're Nordics. I am and you are and you are and----" After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at me again, "----and we've produced all the things that go to make civilization--oh, science and art and all that. Do you see?"
There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
"I'll tell you a family secret," she whispered enthusiastically. "It's about the butler's nose. Do you want to hear about the butler's nose?"
"That's why I came over tonight."
"Well, he wasn't always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night until finally it began to affect his nose----"
"Things went from bad to worse," suggested Miss Baker.
"Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had to give up his position."
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened--then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom's ear whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened something within her Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
"I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a--of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn't he?" She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation. "An absolute rose?"
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house.
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said "Sh!" in a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly and then ceased altogether.
"This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor--" I said.
"Don't talk. I want to hear what happens."
"Is something happening?" I inquired innocently.
"You mean to say you don't know?" said Miss Baker, honestly surprised. "I thought everybody knew."
"Why--" she said hesitantly, "Tom's got some woman in New York."
"Got some woman?" I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
"She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-time. Don't you think?"
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom and Daisy were back at the table.
"It couldn't be helped!" cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me and continued, "I looked outdoors for a minute and it's very romantic outdoors. There's a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He's singing away--" her voice sang "--It's romantic, isn't it, Tom?"
"Very romantic," he said, and then miserably to me: "If it's light enough after dinner I want to take you down to the stables."
The telephone rang inside, startingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. Among the broken fragments of the last five minutes at table I remember the candles being lit again, pointlessly, and I was conscious of wanting to look squarely at everyone and yet to avoid all eyes. I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing--my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police.
The horses, needless to say, were not mentioned again. Tom and Miss Baker with several feet of twilight between them strolled back into the library, as if to a vigil beside a perfectly tangible body, while trying to look pleasantly interested and a little deaf I followed Daisy around a chain of connecting verandas to the porch in front. In its deep gloom we sat down side by side on a wicker settee.
Daisy took her face in her hands, as if feeling its lovely shape, and her eyes moved gradually out into the velvet dusk. I saw that turbulent emotions possessed her, so I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl.
"We don't know each other very well, Nick," she said suddenly. "Even if we are cousins. You didn't come to my wedding."
"I wasn't back from the war."
"That's true." She hesitated. "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick, and I'm pretty cynical about everything."
Evidently she had reason to be. I waited but she didn't say any more, and after a moment I returned rather feebly to the subject of her daughter.
"I suppose she talks, and--eats, and everything."
"Oh, yes." She looked at me absently. "Listen, Nick; let me tell you what I said when she was born. Would you like to hear?"
"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about--things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. '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.'
"You see I think everything's terrible anyhow," she went on in a convinced way. "Everybody thinks so--the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything." Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. "Sophisticated--God, I'm sophisticated!"
The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributary emotion from me. I waited, and sure enough, in a moment she looked at me with an absolute smirk on her lovely face as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged.
Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light. Tom and Miss Baker sat at either end of the long couch and she read aloud to him from the "Saturday Evening Post"--the words, murmurous and uninflected, running together in a soothing tune. The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair, glinted along the paper as she turned a page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.
When we came in she held us silent for a moment with a lifted hand.
"To be continued," she said, tossing the magazine on the table, "in our very next issue."
Her body asserted itself with a restless movement of her knee, and she stood up.
"Ten o'clock," she remarked, apparently finding the time on the ceiling. "Time for this good girl to go to bed."
"Jordan's going to play in the tournament tomorrow," explained Daisy, "over at Westchester."
"Oh,--you're Jordan Baker."
I knew now why her face was familiar--its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach. I had heard some story of her too, a critical, unpleasant story, but what it was I had forgotten long ago.
"Good night," she said softly. "Wake me at eight, won't you."
"If you'll get up."
"I will. Good night, Mr. Carraway. See you anon."
"Of course you will," confirmed Daisy. "In fact I think I'll arrange a marriage. Come over often, Nick, and I'll sort of--oh--fling you together. You know--lock you up accidentally in linen closets and push you out to sea in a boat, and all that sort of thing----"
"Good night," called Miss Baker from the stairs. "I haven't heard a word."
"She's a nice girl," said Tom after a moment. "They oughtn't to let her run around the country this way."
"Who oughtn't to?" inquired Daisy coldly.
"Her family is one aunt about a thousand years old. Besides, Nick's going to look after her, aren't you, Nick? She's going to spend lots of week-ends out here this summer. I think the home influence will be very good for her."
Daisy and Tom looked at each other for a moment in silence.
"Is she from New York?" I asked quickly.
"From Louisville. Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white----"
"Did you give Nick a little heart-to-heart talk on the veranda?" demanded Tom suddenly.
"Did I?" She looked at me. "I can't seem to remember, but I think we talked about the Nordic race. Yes, I'm sure we did. It sort of crept up on us and first thing you know----"
"Don't believe everything you hear, Nick," he advised me.
I said lightly that I had heard nothing at all, and a few minutes later I got up to go home. They came to the door with me and stood side by side in a cheerful square of light. As I started my motor Daisy peremptorily called "Wait!
"I forgot to ask you something, and it's important. We heard you were engaged to a girl out West."
"That's right," corroborated Tom kindly. "We heard that you were engaged."
"It's a libel. I'm too poor."
"But we heard it," insisted Daisy, surprising me by opening up again in a flower-like way. "We heard it from three people so it must be true."
Of course I knew what they were referring to, but I wasn't even vaguely engaged. The fact that gossip had published the banns was one of the reasons I had come east. You can't stop going with an old friend on account of rumors and on the other hand I had no intention of being rumored into marriage.
Their interest rather touched me and made them less remotely rich--nevertheless, I was confused and a little disgusted as I drove away. It seemed to me that the thing for Daisy to do was to rush out of the house, child in arms--but apparently there were no such intentions in her head. As for Tom the fact that he "had some woman in New York" was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat out in pools of light, and when I reached my estate at West Egg I ran the car under its shed and sat for a while on an abandoned grass roller in the yard. The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight and turning my head to watch it I saw that I was not alone--fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.
I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone--he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.
Excerpted from Critical Studies by F. Scott Fitzgerald Copyright © 2003 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Great Gatsby 1. The Great Gatsby: A Novel of the 1920s
The Jazz Age: 'It was borrowed time anyhow'
The post-war mood
The post-war voice
2. A Novel of Intricate Patterns
The organization of The Great Gatsby
The chronology of events preceding 1922 in The Great Gatsby
The summer of 1922: events in the main narrative
1923-4: after the main narrative
A summary of events
The selective use of time as a narrative device
The relationship between the four locations of action
The valley of ashes
Patterns of imagery
Death and ghosts
Imagery of nature:
The golden sun
3. Alernative Worlds
The Buchanans' glittering white palace
Daisy's home in Louisville, Kentucky: the 'white palace' of the 'golden girl'
Gatsby's first party in early summer
The history of Gatsby's house
'Silence had fallen within the house'
Gatsby's last party
The swimming pool
'It was a photograph of the house'
'A huge incoherent failure of a house'
The flat on 158th Street
4. The Women Characters
The woman in white
5. Gatsby and Nick Carraway
Jimmy Gatz/James Gatz/Jay Gatsby/'Mr. Nobody from Nowhere'
An isolated figure
A mysterious and ambivalent figure
Faithful lover and wealthy parvenu
Gatsby and time
The nature of Gatsby's dream
The destruction of Gatsby's dream
Gatsby as victim
Nick's 'journey' of discovery
Nick's role as observer and judge
Nick as active participator
Nick Carraway and Scott Fitzgerald, writers of 'this book'
6. America: History and Myth
The title of the novel
Myth as history
The heirs of Dan Cody: Meyer Wolfshiem and Tom Buchanan
Symbolic landscapes: Midwest and East coast
Posted January 25, 2002
I, too, read this in high school ten years ago and re-read it recently. This is truly one of the best American novels in existence. It is written with elegance and class and the novel really transports you back to a story you'll never really let go of. Talk about a book that makes you actually feel deep emotions. Setting, character...you get it all with Gatsby.
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Posted June 26, 2001
I also took this assignment during High School. My English instructor that year picked this book with a fine tooth comb. We had to pick out every bit of symbolism there was. I began to love this book. It is written so well, and truely is a beautiful story. One of my most favorite books...and one that every high schooler should read!
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Posted June 13, 2007
Posted November 12, 2006
Reccomennded by my mom, i recomment it to the world! the beginning might be a little slow, but it picks up beautifully! if you like the book, you'll love the movie!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2006
Nick is the main character we see through the eyes of. Fitzgerald's vivid language is captivating. When refering to the polluted city the words he uses sounds like choking- with the gagging sound you can hear it if you pay attention. There is so much symbolism. You feel awful for Gatsby at the end of this love and money story. Don't forget the green light is hope.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 21, 2005
'THE GREAT GATSBY' is one of the most exquisite books I have ever read to date that deals with most if not all aspects of love and the challenges of life. There is so much to learn especially for us in this modern world where so many people use the word 'love' without really knowing what it truly means. The author is so descriptive that I sometimes felt as if I was in the story. He made it easy for readers to penetrate the souls of the characters and relate to their lives.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 1, 2005
The Great Gatsby, a fictional take told by narrator Nick Carraway reveals the dangers of incessant infatuation. Nick Carraway moves to New York to pursue his career in selling bonds. There, he finds a charismatic, wealthy neighbor who causes a stream of chaos. This man called himself Gatsby. His massive mansion made Nick¿s house look like nothing but a storage room. Gatsby was known by the many rumors circled around in the extravagant parties he held. Some rumors dealt with illegal money issues. I agree with author F. Scott Fitzgerald when he says, ¿What little I¿ve accomplished has been by he most laborious and uphill work¿. (Preface) The novel captures your attention and takes you back into the ¿roaring 20s¿. It is a memorable story that cannot be placed down until finished. You¿ll find many hidden meanings by reading in-between the words. This single novel was far better the second time I read it. It was finely written and definitely Fitzgerald¿s best work. Other writers do not capture the unique, in dept, heart felt quality the way F. Scott Fitzgerald does.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 22, 2005
I thought that this book was amazing! It was easy to follow and the beautiful imagery was well done! I did find at times that it rambeld on a little, but I fell in love with the symbolism and the motifs that were hidden in the book. This is a must read for all who want a good read and want some deep thinking to do!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2005
F. Scott Fitzgerald¿s most well known work, The Great Gatsby, eloquently paints a realistic picture of the Jazz Age¿s American Dream. This glorious and ever satiable craving for the 'American Dream' leads Jay Gatsby to desperately need it. He devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, his now-married sweetheart, which amounts to the same thing. While on the brink of obtaining them, his world collapses. An accident, for which his is falsely blamed, sets off a sequence of disastrous events that culminate in his murder. Yet, the compelling message of Gatsby affirms that romanticism is within us all - there is such an incorruptible truth. If Gatsby had not fallen prey to greed, lust, and money, he could have actualized it and brought it into the reality. This book is the great drama written pertaining to the corruption of the American Dream. Simply amazing. A must read for everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 30, 2004
This book was an easy read, Fitzgerald has a way of drawing you into this book so you can't seem to put it down. While reading this book I felt mixed emotions, i felt mad when Tom was having his affair, and I also felt hope when it seemed like Nick and Jordan might hit it off. When i learned how much this book resembled his life, it took on a whole new meaning. Overall I thought this book was really good and I would recomend it to anyone looking for a good book to sit down and read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 1, 2004
I usually don't read these types of books but I had to for one of my college classes. It took me a while to get into it but once I did I realized that it isn't all that bad. Fitzgerald, I think , tries to relate himself to Gatsby in the way that he is rich, powerful and loves to party.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 24, 2004
Fitzgeralds, The Great Gatsby, is a well known classic. I personally did not enjoy the novel, although I have talked to many who loved the story. The novel starts off very slow in the beginning which requires a level of patients to get through the book. Another key part to the book is that the climax comes in the very end of the story, which is very different. I would recommend this story because it is a quick read, and as a reader there are elemements that could help people in how they carry themself in the world.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 13, 2004
This book is truly one of my favorites. I read it when I was a junior in high school, and have raved about it to people ever since. It's an incredible story, and very interesting. A very well written book...Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2004
After reading Jacob Gulczynski's One long Soap Opera review, I felt compelled to respond. I too am a high school student and read this novel as part of the A.P. English curriculum. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful novel that has nothing to do with a love affair. It is highly symbolic narrative about the corruption of the American Dream in the 1920's. It is a shame that your teacher was unable to show you this.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 14, 2003
I cant think of many books that are better than the Great Gatsby. Sure, there are probably faster moving novels with more action and adventure, but there are few others that explore the depth of human emotion and spirit as Gatsby does. He had a talent for hope, so Fitzgerald describes in the novel. A talent for hope, isnt that what everyone really desires in this world. Gastby will motivate you, send you into a direction of thinking that nothing is impossible and that maybe the past can be recreated if you orchestrate the present perfectly. This is a beautiful novel, meant to be read over and over again. You will be better for it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 29, 2003
The Great Gatsby is one of those novels that gets better and better each time you read it. Unfortunately, most people only read it once in high school, and don't appreciate what an amazing achievement it is. Gatsby resonates, it's polished and deep and beautiful. It epitomizes not only a generation, but the American Dream, our belief in the past and the future, in all that is symbolized by the green light across the lake. It creates a certain mood, a tragic, romantic tone that lingers throughout the book. There are some passages that are absolutely brilliant. I've read quite a bit, but there are few novels that stand on the same level as this one. This is definitely one of the masterpieces of American Literature. For those who appreciate great literature that penetrates both the mind and the heart, I highly reccomend this novel.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2003
Honestly this was perfect writing. i appreciate the elaborate detail Fitzgerald indulges in. But the story itself seemed as though there was something missing, something that wasn't quite explained why this all happened. I think everyone should read it becasue its amazing writing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 16, 2003
Well, while i was starting the chapter one when a guy named Nick was authoring the book. It was alittle bit boring but when i started reading the the other chapter specially chapter 4 to 5 it was very overwhelming. Because this was the when Gatsby the main character in the book. And the girl named Daisy, she was the one who keep breaking the heart of Gatsby. Gatsby was really obesses about this girl Daisy. He became the richest guy ever just for this girl not only that he waited 5 years just to be with this girl but it didn't happened. why, it didn't happened because he was killed by a guy named Wilson, well you should read the book to find out who is he??well, anyway this Wilson guy is bad, of course he killed Gatsby for no reason.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 2, 2002
While others view this book as a classic of the 20th Century, I could not disagree more. It is an overly exagerated love story, and it bears no real significance of love. Gatsby and Daisy were together a month when they decided to get married. Gatsby goes off to the war, and then Daisy leaves him. It's too simple, and yet it's extended to a boring, long, tedious novel. What disappointed me most was that the people in this book lack a hold of reality. They party all night long, and talk about the most ridiculous things, things I don't think of as entertaining at all. It isn't intriguing, it just takes up space on the page. The only part of the book I ever enjoyed was a chapter dedicated to my question of how ridiculous these people can be. A final apifany comes over the narrator and he feels compelled to attack these mindless people. It was short lived. I would of made the book center around their stupidity. The characters are well described, and a lot of symbolism is used. While it is well written, the book itself is incredibly boring. I couldn't stay awake while I was trying to read it. Nevertheless, High Schools around the country recommend this "Wonderful" book. It's very sad that they make children read these, and then wonder why they hate it. I wouldn't recommend this book to any man. It may arouse some sort of romance within a woman, as I've seen this happen in the past. I don't know why, but I don't wish to enter those issues. This is probably one of the worst books I've ever read. I am a High School Student, and while my oppinion counts for little, I'm always happy to offer it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 15, 2002
While reading The Great Gatsby, I found it to be very educational. The novel seemed to show the reader how life was during the Roaring 20¿s, and how money became the root of all evil. This was a novel that had me expecting the unexpected. The plot, romantic yet challenging, was more believable than the conflict. The characters were distinguishable, each having different outlooks on life at the time. F. Scott Fitzgerald did a splendid job on separation of social class. He placed the more refined in the West Egg and the lower class in the East Egg. I liked the mood toward the end it kept me reading and pondering Gatsby and Daisy¿s decisions. The ending in the novel shocked me, I expected something more 'Cinderella.' I found the novel easy to get into, and simple to follow along with. The flashback in the opening scene to the closing scene was interesting, but it did not give away the conclusion. The flashback only hinted at the final scene leaving the rest to be revealed. I think a person who can relate to Nick, open-minded, tolerant, and a good listener will enjoy this novel the most; considering the novel is seen from Nick's point of view. Nick had the most compassion for Gatsby, and understood him the best. I highly recommend this book. It portrayed how we can sometimes take things for granted like life and money. It also showed how corruptive power and love could become. Gatsby was willing to do anything to please his past love, Daisy. Even throwing lavish parties began an attempt to win Daisy¿s heart. The Great Gatsby lead to a win-lose situation; in which Tom, Daisy¿s husband, won, and Gatsby sadly lost. Fitzgerald also did a tremendous job with the use of imagery. Gatsby¿s vision of the ¿green light¿ started the plot, his dream of being with Daisy once again. Another use of imagery was Dr. Eckleburg¿s eyes. The eyes were on a billboard over looking Mr. Wilson¿s garage. They had a role like God where they saw everything in pure and evil in town. To add, one part in the novel that appeared scandalous was both Tom and Daisy¿s affairs. The affairs were a way to see how Tom and Daisy looked at their marriage. They saw it as a commitment. I think the novel would have been more interesting if either Tom or Daisy had cared about the others affair. The Great Gatsby is like a nesting doll, every doll holds another surprise until you reach the final one with an empty inside, like Gatsby. The novel is definitely worth reading once and maybe even twice. Once you start you won't be able to stop, so begin reading to figure out just how 'great' Gatsby really is.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.