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The Great Gatsby

The 1920s

The influence of Jazz Music was enormous. It was the start of the breakdown of strict
barriers, it created a major influence on social and culture, and it reflects how
women’s roles were beginning to change.

In 1931, an article called ‘Echoes of the Jazz Age’; Fitzgerald identified other
peculiarly American characteristics of the 1920s:

We were the most powerful nation. Who could tell us any longer what was
fashionable and what was fun?...

…the generation which had been adolescent during the confusion of the War,
brusquely shouldered my contemporaries out of the way and danced into the
limelight. This was the generation whose girls dramatised themselves as flappers, the
generation that corrupted its elders and eventually overreached itself less through
lack of taste.

That was the peak of the younger generation, for though the Jazz age continued, it
became less and les an affair of youth…

A whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure…

The word jazz in its progress towards respectability has meant first sex, then dancing
then music. It is associated with a state of nervous stimulation, not unlike that of big
cities behind the lines of war… In any case, the Jazz Age now raved along under its
own power, served by great filling stations full of money… It was borrowed time
anyhow – the whole upper tenth of a nation living with insouciance of grand dukes
and the casualness of chorus girls…

NB: Insouciance means impudence, insolence

The metaphorical use of ‘filling stations full of money’ and ‘borrowed time’ reflects
back on some key issues in the novel. For example, by the early 1920s the motor cars
were a newly established feature of American life that represented affluence and
seemed to offer a new freedom. It has an important presence in the novel, as it is both
a status and destructive agent.

Time is a central concept to the novel for example Jazz itself is linked with this.
Fitzgerald has deliberately developed his story during the Jazz age (for the number of
reasons stated in italics above). It was an authoritative and authentic voice of the
period that is not only has a place in history but it is the modern art form to express it.
It was an essentially an American one.

NEW YORK – Background Info


New York State used to be a battleground of revolutionary war. It was the ‘place to
be’, and soon becoming a place of new fashion and excitement that attracted many of
the wealthy classes.

The story is set in the aftermath of the First World War, and this gives the expression
to a mood of disillusion with the institutions of society and despair at its loss of
America was beginning to assert its identity in an international context. Jazz, a
musical medium with its roots in the lives of poor black Americans and owing no debt
to European traditions, was creating a new style. The skyscrapers were an essentially
American phenomenon. The American film industry, more than any other, was
beginning to create a mass culture, which exercised an international influence in
shaping ordinary people’s images of themselves.

American soon constituted to a cultural phenomenon, New York was the new pivot to
such activity, and ‘The Great Gatsby’ gives significance to the city as a magnet in the
post-war years.

When reading the Great Gatsby, we are focused on the elite group, the wealthy class.
America did not have a monarchy. The 1920s was also a time where many new
inventions were taking place such as the dishwasher (only for rich women). It opened
many doors, opportunities, and possibilities. Lavish consumption and self-indulgent
(hedonistic) display were acceptable activities in the 1920s.

Gerald and Oscar Wilde were very caught up with the privilege in their world but had
the insight to see through it, and to see what it did to people. It came to a point where
they thought life was empty once they could have anything they wanted.

New York lures all the characters, just as it initially drew Nick from the exemplars of
the success he wants to achieve in stock broking. On page 56-7, Nick hurries ‘down
the white chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust’ he is in pursuit of such
fabulous wealth as theirs. Yet New York also appeals to Nick in all its social variety
and vitality. He enjoys the ‘racy, adventurous feel of it at night…gives to the restless
eye.’ (pg 57)

He responds to the sense of romance in it for example, ‘…at eight o’clock, when the
dark lanes of the Forties were lined….bound for the theatre district.’

It is clear that the New York situated in the novel pulses with life. The city is filled
with light and colour, for example on that ‘almost pastoral’ Sunday afternoon (Ch 2).
Another example includes when ‘the later afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a
moment like the blue honey of the Mediterranean’. (pg 36)

West Egg & East Egg


West Egg can be seen as representing vulgarity and formlessness, as opposed to the
formality and style of East Egg. New York acts as a magnet to both those possessing
established wealth and those eagerly in pursuit of it. All three locations are the
product of the fabulous wealth that modern society creates. But such a precise fixing
of their social status and identity in the historical context of the 1920s alone would
limit their role and so no justice to Fitzgerald’s handling of them. In the novel, they
are ambivalent locations, which by the processes of Nick’s imagination attain their
own particular radiance, for his relationship with them constantly changes.

They therefore exist in the time in Nick’s or Gatsby’s experience. Products of wealth
themselves some at least of their appeal to the observing eye of Nick or Gatsby exists
in that wealth. Just as Gatsby’s imagination transfigures his hose into a place of
enchantment, so Nick, a young man setting out to make his fortune, perceives them
with a fresh, optimistic eyes of youthful hope.

Yet in his role of narrator after the events of 1922 are over, he adds a note of moral
awareness, which marks him as receptive to the realities under the glittering surface.
Nick’s dual role of participant and subsequent narrator is an important factor in the
representation of these locations.

East Egg in contrast observes the rules of formality and tradition, at least on the
surface of life. The Buchanans’ world is exclusive, opulent and self-regarding. It
represents the status of inherited wealth and power to which the inhabitants of West
Egg are denied access. The ‘white palaces’ glitter along the shoreline, but there is an
implication that they are rather like whited sepulchres (tomb, grave, vault) inhabited
by people who are just as careless and socially indifferent as the ones who come to
Gatsby’s parties, but their inhabitants live with more style. Nick criticises them on
page 170, ‘They are careless people’.

SOURCE: Penguin, Critical Studies by Kathleen Parkinson

Chapter 1

Page 8

Gatsby hooked up to a machine linked to something that measures the severity of an

earthquake. This is a strange comparison, why did the author write such a thing?

It may represent that he has a ‘larger than life’ kind of character, has the awareness to
detect even the smallest tremors that may shake society or cause a stir. It is very irony,
possibly dangerous as if he is chained to the machine – seeking out large events. It
really makes readers think ‘Who is Gatsby?’ We feel we want to know him since his
character is surrounded with enigma.

‘My family have…’ – Nick could have a larger than life persona as well. He wants
people to stick to simple morals; he is a man of principles. On the very first
impression we instantly take a liking to him, we feel in favour for him. His judgement
is neutral and allows us, readers to judge the characters and events for ourselves
without such a degree of bias presented. From the quote, we could interpret that he
has the desire that society would just return to simply basic morals that conducted

acceptable social behaviour. From here, he is implying that society is corrupted. He is

building up a framework for readers, a premise (an idea).

The ‘Carraways’  they have power, wealth, quite similar to a group of aristocrats.
Why is it important that America have history? This relates back to how America is
quite a young country compared to other countries.
The history behind America is much to do with the Pilgrim Fathers. If America can
date back to them, trace their history back as far as that then it means a lot to

The quote, ‘substitute to the Civil War’ – has that idea of cheekiness and risk-taking.
It is an illegal thing to do after all. The ingenuity of his Nick’s grandfather is

Page 9

Things to think about: how do people regenerate back into society after war? The
stock market was a very appealing and exciting yet risky, what does this tell you
about Nick?

Quote: ‘A guide…settler’ – why is he no longer lonely just after this small interlude?
It relates back to the Pilgrim Father once again, there are connotations of American
History, going back to his history of family. He has never lived alone before, he has
just graduated, and he has never lived in West Egg either. He has to make his own
way. It is very much to do with Nick setting us up in order to meet all the new
forthcoming characters, who believe they are an American (American Identity) but he
to point out that he is different despite being caught up in their world later on.

Page 10

Why is he telling us about those books and names? Ideas: Consumerism, about money
and the names ‘Midas’ and Morgan and Maecenas’ are in his mind as they are
exemplars of the success he wants to achieve in stock broking. Midas was known as
the king who turned everything into gold from just a touch. Maecenas was a very
wealthy Roman and Morgan was a millionaire American financier in the 19th Century.

Always think about American history. Anything European or English, the Americans
would have wanted to copy as it had a culture behind it, therefore it held immense
value. Gatsby’s mansion looked similar to the French style.

Page 11-13

We are introduced to a new character, Tom who is Daisy’s husband. The ‘Georgian
Colonial’ style of the mansion asserts the Buchanans’ place in American history: the
style is imitation but it puts them among the elite and patrician, the established rich
whose fortunes were made in an earlier generation. The description of the gardens
conveys vitality and assertiveness, as if the extensive grounds are identified with their
owner, Tom. The ‘reflected gold’ carries the double implication of sunshine and

The word ‘polo’ is an English sport, and very expensive. It shows a sign of large
wealth. The novel is very much exposing a negative way. Makes us think about the
corruption caused my obtaining a lot of money, and how it breaks down simple
straightforward principles.

The paragraph ends with the picture of Tom in the traditional pose, a man of
possession. We are aware of his mannerisms, ‘legs apart’ and this tells us about his
character. It is all about image, looking fashionable. What do you think of this when
you read ‘cruel body’? It may mean he is capable of cruelty, he represents as one of
the cruel members of society, yet in physically it suggests he is incredibly strong,
almost invincible. He has wealth – meaning he has power.

NB: The author tends to reveal character through physical features.

Page 14-15

Daisy is associated with the song of birds, her voice being the source of her sexual
attractive, which draws men to her. Her voice exercises ‘a singing compulsion’, it is
‘glowing and singing’ (pg 19); when she returns to the table after a tense and angry
exchange with Tom about the telephone call, she glances at Nick and remarks, in her
usual style of inconsequential whimsy is a feature of her charm.

Page 20

‘I looked outdoors for a minute…He’s singing away,- ’ Her voice sang: ‘It’s
romantic, isn’t it, Tom?’

Why is it important that the author describe Daisy’s voice? It really determines how
we perceive someone. It gives impression, and tells us about her character. Think how
many times we have to think before we speak…we have to think what and more
importantly how we speak.
When do you change your voice? E.g. bad news, you often speak in soft sad tones,
when you want to get a point across you have a rather firm and clear voice, slightly
dominant and even loud. It depends on who you talk to, a news reader often has to
have their voice neutral.

As you can see, voice is a very important aspect of a person. If someone has a terrible
voice, then it is difficult to concentrate on what they are saying. It could even make
you hate that person. So this is how Daisy captures the hearts of people, her voice
somehow makes you feel special.

Her suggestion that the bird has come over from England on a luxury liner introduces
an indirect reference to another nightingale in a summer, flower-filled garden, and the
cadence of her voice is used to stress that association. Daisy is being identified by
Fitzgerald with the nightingale in Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ in which the poet
creates out of the bird’s song an ecstatic moment that seems to transcend pain, death
and time; such a transfiguring moment cannot last, and the song fades, leaving the
poet to face the reality of harsh experience. In this way, Gatsby’s romantic vision of
Daisy is given universal validity as an act of the creative imagination.

Page 14-22

There is a real shift in pace and tone in this passage. On page 16, ‘Tom Buchanan
compelled me from the room’, you can imagine the discomfort Nick is feeling. In this
passage, there are some tense moments between the married couple; you don’t know
whether Tom and Daisy are being sarcastic or serious.

Tom blatantly talks about the racism that existed in America. The shift in mood –
includes going from one extreme to another. Daisy’s status is similar to one of
American gentry, her sole purpose is to breed and entertain, and she fulfils this
obligation. Life must be frustrating for those women who had some intelligence.

Jordan is very forward for her time. She plays golf, even in the modern century we do
not have many female golf players. Perhaps, this is what attracts Nick to her – she is

We forget the profound things Daisy says on page 22. Her life is empty, pointless in
some ways, and in that passage on page 22, we get a glimpse of the unhappiness she
feels. And on top of all this, we are told that Tom is having an affair. It makes us feel
sorry for Daisy. It is one of those issues (affair/betrayal) where we have strong
disapproval of things – the concept of fidelity. It is how people view loyalty and trust
– a relationship tells us this
Therefore, that moral dilemma of being faithful has been bought early into this novel.

Page 25

When Nick first glimpses the distant figure of his neighbour gazing across at the
green light, it is ‘a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees’, and thus Gatsby
too is drawn into this referential pattern of images.

Chapter 2

The valley of ashes is a stark contrast to all the beauty described in chapter 1, look at
the desolate description on page 26. Think about the language, the repetition of dist,
grey and ashes. ‘Borough of Queens’ – it was a site used in 1920s for throwing away
ashes from domestic heating.

The eyes on the billboard acts omnipotent, makes him God-like. Not necessarily, God
though, think of the time it is set. Because it is a time more in advance in science,
church seen less important. The rich and wealthy people in the book are living a
hedonistic life; they do not regard God at all. They do what they want and when they

Someone must be watching them…these eyes judge them. Fitzgerald switched the
idea or deity of god with something materialistic and moneymaking.

The ‘ashes’ motif has a negative attachment to the relationship between Myrtle and
Tom’s relationship; it suggests it was doomed from the start which is then echoed
when Myrtle dies. The word ‘saunter’ suggests a strong confident stroll with the
knowledge that you know you’re looking good and you’re going to show it off.

A story called ‘Simon called Peter’ is about a young clergyman, lost his faith in WW1
in God. At this point, people don’t have much faith in God. It just shows how much
the WW1 had a lot to play in causing people to lose their faith, so it is not surprising
that it was a bestseller during that time.

Page 25

‘Ectoplasm’  splodge
The pattern in the conversation that the characters have is identified as meaningless,
insignificant and we doubt they are listening to each other at all.

What type of people arrived at the apartment? – Minor celebrities is one way you
could put it, they are obviously slightly lower class people, definitely lower class than
Tom. Myrtle acts above her station, Caroline seem possessive of her belongings.
Myrtle, his mistress is beneath him in terms of class, and she is trying to be above her
own class. The apartment itself if very small and overcrowded.

When she says, ‘Daisy! Daisy!’ It is almost as if she wants to be her, actually she
DOES want to be her. The irony is that, Daisy is not exactly better off. This is
reflected on page 22, where we do feel that Daisy is not happy. Similarities include
that all these people – East and West both talk of pointless things. The conversations
are very empty, though one difference includes that Tom tries to talk about politics to
Nick who he considers his equal in intellect.

The word ‘castile’ is known for Spanish lace. The metaphor ‘trembling opal’ is
referring to the material of her clothes, the colour changes under the light. How has
Fitzgerald set up the opening for the party scene?

Look at this phrase: ‘bewitched to a dark gold’, the language is rich with colour and
other sensory images. It further emphasises the grand wealth. The word ‘gaudy means
overdone, the description starts with taste, moves on to music and then adds colour.
The description, ‘minute by minute’ and ‘laugher is easier’ the gradualness of it is
akin to the effects of champagne, such as becoming drunk, senses become slightly
Another lines that illustrates drunkenness is ‘dances out alone’.

There is definite change of pace, author builds up by using the language, the music
also adds to the quickening pace. Atmosphere built up through repetition of ‘laughter’
and ‘minute’.

Chapter 3

Page 44

Sarcasm – ‘her remark was addressed to the premature moon, produced like the
supper, no doubt, out of caterer’s basket’ meaning Nick is saying everything here is
bought. It is all too perfect that I bet he (Gatsby) even bought the moon, since the
mood and atmosphere is almost too perfect to be true – must be all planned, man-
made, not natural, artificial.

The beauty that money can achieve possesses charm and allure, and the contrasting
landscape figure as characters’ psychological states.

The ‘wanderers’, confident girls are important features of the swirling hedonistic
crowd who came to Gatsby’s hose, swimming with the social tide, unconcerned about
the sources of his wealth.

Page 46

The library described is one of traditional cliché ones and it adds to the Gothic
element. The underlying sarcasm here is how can you import a library? ‘What
realism!’ the pure amazement of the man with the ‘enormous owl-eyes spectacles’
illustrates his disbelief that someone can own something as grand as this, and once
again shows Gatsby’s outstanding wealth.

Car crash – someone could have died but the situation is handled once again with
frivolity. This way of life is damaging, and it sums it all up – it’s a great contrast to
the scene previously.
It seems that although women have this newfound freedom, they still depend on men
a lot, e.g. (Pg 51) ‘girls were putting their heads on men’s shoulders…arrest their

Things to think about:

1) What are we learning of Nick, and how he spends his time?
Nick chooses to write about the significant parties, doesn’t focus on the work,
therefore we assume that Gatsby’s parties and his character gradually become
more important to Nick and has a larger impact on his life than his work.
2) ‘Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you can ever blame deeply’ – what do you
make of this?
It may be that this kind of trait can be overlooked in women because other
important characteristics such as beauty and posture are more valued. In
essence, it seems society is damning the female population.
3) And ‘I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known’.
It is his take on society. People hide their identity, hiding behind a mask and
they are really just being dishonest with themselves. Daisy is upset with her
marriage but does nothing to confront it and pretends nothing is wrong. Myrtle
is having an affair and there are rumours of Jordan being a cheater. With all
these negative aspects pointing towards women, it is no wonder Nick says the
quote, ‘Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you can ever blame deeply’.

Chapter 4

Page 60
The quote, ‘better impression than my generalities of…’ this is ironic since Nick gives
us a very good impression, better than anyone else does. The names are humorous; the
names listed are satirically suggestive. For example, the names of the Stonewall
Jackson Abrams of Georgia and Mrs Ulysses Swett create deliberate reminders of
Civil War heroes but imply the decline of America’s heroic past. A number are

implicated in violence: for instance, there is the man called on the gravel that Mrs
Swett’s car ran over his right hand. Among the movie moguls is ‘G. Earl Muldoon’,
brother to that Muldoon who afterwards strangled his wife’; from New York came
Henry L. Palmetto ‘who killed himself by jumping in front of a subway train in Times
Square’, and there is the young Brewer ‘who had his nose shot off in the war’. They
all represent an energetic, careless, and callous society, which is breaking away from
past moral and social restrictions. When she attends Gatsby’s party, Daisy is appalled
and offended by their noisy vulgarity and she fails to understand their vitality.

So the question: Why tell us all these names? What does Nick want to do for his
Suggestions: It illustrates the wide diverse of people that arrive to Gatsby’s party, it
could be purely for comedy purposes, the silly names could represent that they are
silly people…or simply they are just names.

Page 67
‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over the bridge’ – this is a very good quote
to describe society. The American dream is probably only possible with people who
are already rich – only they can get richer. Get real is what Fitzgerald is trying to get
across – there are people living in poverty, who are poor and won’t be coming to
Gatsby’s party anytime soon.

The quote, ‘white chauffer’ illustrates the idea that there were immigrants arriving,
black people were receiving opportunities to be rich, and from our perspective, we’d
see this as a positive change in the social structure. However, the white people in the
novel during that time would not have seen that or be in favour of the idea.
Some changes were embraced, others discomforted.

Page 68
How can someone’s nose be ‘expressive’? It is kind of animalistic, like a dog sniffing
to decided whether he trusts you or not. Wolfshiem works around dodgy business, and
because Gatsby associates with him, shows he is also within the dodgy business. The
peope Gatsby hangs around with are even more corrupt.

Page 72
Jordan is the narrator of Daisy’s story of how she met Gatsby. Why does Fitzgerald
get Jordan to tell the story and not Nick?

Well firstly, Jordan has the knowledge of Daisy, which Nick doesn’t. As a female, she
can catch small details, ‘I was scared’. The danger of hearing it from Nick is that he
may have left out some of the parts, he would have heard it from someone, therefore
the account may have been distorted, biased since Nick tends to be a judge.

Jordan is the narrator of Daisy’s affairs, never of her own. She is able to fill in details
because she speaks as a woman and a former member of Daisy’s drunkenness on the
eve of her wedding in 1919, when the pearl necklace was cast aside in the wastepaper
basket, conveys that she was rather sceptical of the strength of Daisy’s resolution. She
raises a doubt about Daisy’s resolution. She raises a doubt about Daisy’s ‘absolutely
perfect reputation’ (pg 75) since her marriage judging that she needs ‘something in
her life’ (pg 77) now.

Daisy and Gatsby’s story of how they met is important, it is INTEGRAL part of the
story plot. So it NEEDS to be in detail. Nick doesn’t want to influence us in out
understanding of how the couple met. Jordan doesn’t even condemn Gatsby, we do
not what was written in that letter for instance, so even Jordan tries to be subjective
and fair.

Why are there no speech marks when Jordan is telling the story? What has it
done, if you do not realise that the narrator has changed until written in

The lack of speech marks indicates that Nick is STILL telling the account, it is still
from his perspective. It is an account of the discussion. We are reading Nick’s
perspective of Jordan’s narrative. The author does this because he doesn’t want us to
judge, he provides the information from a direct source, rather than second hand.

The other main reason is that it does not disrupt the flow of Nick’s narrative. The
change of narrative if so swift and smooth that we do not get weighted down on
Jordan’s feelings, subjectivity or thoughts – we can exclude this.

As Nick listens to her, sitting with his arm around her in a carriage in Central Park,
Nick feels attracted to ‘this clean, hard, limited person, who dealt in the universal
scepticism’ (pg 77), and is glad that unlike Daisy, whose feminine charm is carefully
preserved and protected, she has no haunting quality of mystery to turn her into ‘a girl
whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs’ (pg 78).
She is a realist, not a romantic, and at this point Nick welcomes such an attitude,
seeing a promise of his own emotional tranquillity in it.

Jordan tells Daisy Fay’s story to Nick in Chapter IV as they drive through Central
Park. Naturally, she tells it from her point of view as Daisy’s younger friend who was
impressed and was flattered by Daisy’s notice. She observed that young Lieutenant
Jay Gatsby gazed at Daisy ‘in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at
sometimes’ (pg 73), which she calls romantic. She tells Nick of the rumours that
circulated soon afterwards about Daisy Fay in 1917, ‘…how her mother had found her
packing her bag one winter to go to New York and say goodbye to a soldier who was
going overseas. She was effectually prevented, but she wasn’t on speaking terms with
her family for several weeks’ (pg 73).

Daisy is not allowed by the selective techniques of the narrative to tell her own story,
on this occasion Jordan, so noncommittal about herself, tells it eloquently for her.
Thus Daisy’s emotions are filtered through another’s woman knowledge, just as
Gatsby’s are through Nick.

What do we think how Daisy and Gatsby meet?

Nothing wow, we have this disappointed feeling and we are now forced to ask, why is
Gatsby in love with Daisy? We do get an insight into Daisy’s life and her social circle.
She gets married rather soon, as it was expected of her. She does not fail to fulfil her
obligation as an upper class American lady. It sort of brings the question, that
perhaps, Gatsby was in love with the idea of Daisy, and not really the woman herself.

The characters are very realistic, naturalistic – the dialogue they say is exactly how
people would have spoken during the 1920s. Daisy does sound immature, we get the
impression that she is too young to know what she wants. She is so pretentious, so
shallow and yet when we realise the limited options she had in life, we may feel
sympathetic towards her.

But right at the end of the novel, when Daisy does not confess to her ‘car accident’
and she runs into Tom’s arm to protect her, we are once again, forced to look
unfavourably at her.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 introduces the heart of the matter: Gatsby’s dream of Daisy. Through Nick,
Gatsby is brought face-to-face with the fulfilment of a dream that he has pursued
relentlessly for the past five years of his life. Everything he has done has been, in
some sense, tied to his pursuit of Daisy. In a sense, Daisy’s and Gatsby’s encounter
marks the book’s high point—the dream is realized. What happens after a dream is
fulfilled? Unlike other novels in which characters work to overcome adversity only to
have their dreams realized at the end of the book and live happily ever after (or so the
implication goes), Gatsby has his dream fulfilled early, suggesting to astute readers
that this won’t be the typical rags-to-riches story. The second half of the book
describes what happens when one chases, and then obtains one’s dream. The end need
not be ‘happily ever after.’

On the day of the appointed visit, Gatsby arrives an hour in advance, giving us our
first glimpse of his vulnerability. Wanting to make sure every detail of his meeting is
perfect (meaning it measures up to his dream) Gatsby has Nick’s grass cut and has “a
greenhouse” of flowers delivered prior to Daisy’s arrival. Gatsby dresses for the event
in a “white flannel suit, silver shirt, a gold-coloured tie.” His clothes, like his parties,
his house, and his car, are an overt reminder of his newly earned wealth. It is as if he
wants to make sure Daisy does not miss the fact that he now has that one thing that
eluded him before: money.

At one point, in his nervousness, he knocks a broken clock off the mantel, catching it
just before it hits the ground. The symbolic nature of this act cannot be overlooked.
Although on one level it is just another awkward incident caused by Gatsby’s
nervousness, it goes beyond that. The fact the clock is stopped is significant. In a
sense, the clock stopped at a specific point in time, trapped there forever, just as
Gatsby’s life, in many regards, stopped when he was hit with the realization that while
he was poor, he could never have Daisy. Gatsby is, in essence, trapped by his dreams
of ideal love with Daisy, just as the clock is trapped in that exact moment when it
stopped working. Following this analysis through to its final conclusion, one must
wonder if Fitzgerald isn’t also trying to say that Gatsby’s dream stopped his growth in
some respects (specifically emotionally); he’s been so busy chasing a dream rather
than enjoying reality, that like the clock, he is frozen in time.

As the three people make their way up to and through Gatsby’s mansion, Gatsby
revels in the impact his belongings have on Daisy. They have, in essence,
accomplished that which he intended: They impress her. In fact, Gatsby is able to
“[revalue] everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from

her well-love eyes.” Keep this image in mind during Chapter 9, when it is inverted as
Gatsby’s father revalues his son based on the beauty and number of his material
possessions. In another of the book’s memorable images, Gatsby takes out a pile of
shirts and throws them in the air.

The shirts keep coming, and Gatsby keeps throwing them. Shirts of every colour,
every style, and every texture become strewn about the room in a glaringly obvious
display of his wealth. How can a man who isn’t well off afford to have such an array
of shirts? The shirt’s impact is not lost on Daisy, who is always appreciative of a great
display of materialism. In fact, the excess and bounty of Gatsby’s shirts causes her to
put her face into them and cry, sad because she’s “never seen such - such beautiful
shirts before.” Although a seemingly non-sentimental statement, it is really a good
indication of her true nature. She isn’t weeping for a lost love; rather she is weeping at
the overt display of wealth she sees before her.

Gatsby and Daisy are, as is evidenced in this chapter, generally a good match.
Gatsby’s dreamlike nature compliments nicely Daisy’s ethereal qualities. Gatsby, the
collector of “enchanted objects,” as Nick says, seems the perfect match for the
otherworldly Daisy who runs exclusively on emotional responses. As if caught up in
Gatsby’s dream vision, Daisy calls him to the window to look at the “pink and golden
billow of foamy clouds,” declaring to Gatsby that she’d “like to just get one of those
pink clouds and put you in it and push you around.”

As the chapter ends, Nick, the trusted voice of reason, offers an astute reading on the
whole situation. He interprets a look of Gatsby’s face to indicate that perhaps he is
dissatisfied with the whole affair. What occurs to Nick, and perhaps to Gatsby, is that
once a dream is achieved, life must still continue. How does one go about the business
of reordering his life after bringing a fabrication, a fantasy, to life? For Gatsby, who
has spent the past five years dreaming of Daisy, one wonders whether through
the five years he was in love with Daisy, or the idea of Daisy? His relentless pursuit
of his dream has allowed him ample opportunity to construct scenarios in his head and
to imagine her not necessarily as she is, but as he perceives her to be. As Gatsby peers
into Daisy’s eyes and listens to her enchanting voice, he becomes more and more in
love with the vision he has conjured in front of him.


The Daisy he loves is an object of Gatsby’s longing and the creation of his
imagination, and by concentrating on this feature of her charm he is able to ignore her
identity as a woman of varying moods, full of inconsistencies or flaws. As a dream
figure she can remain perfect. While showing her over his possession he looks at them
in a dazed way, ‘as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any
longer real’ (pg 88).

The intensity of his emotion puts immense pressure on Daisy. When his shirts,
described in sensuous detail, become for him the symbols by which to express those
five years of devotion and struggle, Daisy is shaken by feeling, and she sobs as she
buries her face in hem. There is nothing she can say when confronted by such
devotion. In any case, the narrative allows her no depth of feeling.

So absorbed is Gatsby in his own experience at this point that he seems almost
unaware of the actual Daisy beside him. The green light burning at the end of her
dock has exercised a hold over his imagination because it symbolises the unattainable:
‘It had seemed as close as a star to the moon’ (pg 90). Daisy’s actual presence with
her arm through his reduces the green light to its ordinary identity, ‘His count of
enchanted objects had diminished by one’ (pg 90).

What could Daisy possibly say or do to live up to such a vision of herself? There is
actually little that Gatsby can say to the flesh and blood Daisy. Both need Nick’s
presence, and there is comic pathos when Klipspringer the ‘boarder’ begins to play
‘The Love Nest; on the piano at Gatsby’s command. Nick speculates that already
Gatsby must be experiencing a reaction, ‘a faint doubt…as to the quality of his
present happiness’ (pg 92).

It is inevitable that any discussion of Daisy turns into a discussion of Gatsby. His
vision of her imprisons her in a moment in time 5 years earlier. Like the lovers
perpetuated in clay in the eternal act of pursuit and escape in Keats’s ‘Ode on a
Grecian Urn’, Daisy is timeless in his vision.

She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,

For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair.

SOURCE: Kathleen Parkinson, Penguin Critical Studies


Mencken looked for social criticism and strong social awareness in literature and a
real sense of moral crisis. His comment to Fitzgerald on ‘The Great Gatsby’ was ‘The
story is fundamentally trivial’, this is said to be truly misguided. Mencken misjudged
the novel when he termed it trivial, for it is a bitter, savage satire on the moral failure
of the Jazz Age which many view this of American success and American history.

Fitzgerald techniques of selection and his narrative structure enable him to move
easily between the elements of social realism and the symbolic landscapes to define
the moral chaos of a society, which has rejected any values but wealth.

SOURCE: Penguin, Critical Studies by Kathleen Parkinson