The Great Gatsby – Study Guide
1. Why is Nick Carraway made the narrator?
The device of giving Nick the function of narrator lends psychic distance from the story. Nick is part of the action, yet he is not one of the principals. He shares some of the emotions and is in a position to interpret those of the others. However, the happens are not center on him.
2. What kind of relationship exists between Nick and the Buchanans? It is completely superficial. He speaks of them as dear friends he barely knows.
Actually, the relationship between Gatsby and his sponging guests is hardly less meaningful, and the comparison is a striking one.
3. Why does Daisy always speak in such exaggerated phrases? By overdoing her remarks she manages to minimize everything she says. If she describes something as utterly wonderful instead of merely nice, she makes it seem quite ordinary. She makes everything sound important which reveals nothing is important to her.
4. What is the significance of Tim’s reference to the book he is reading? First, the content of the book implies a certain lack of intellect on Tom’s part.
Secondly, it reveals Tom’s belief that the dominant race must stay in control, that lesser races must be beaten off, an attitude he displays toward Gatsby, whose background places him in a different world.
5. Why does Daisy hope her child will be a beautiful fool? To her superficial appearance is all that matters, so beauty is a necessity. Intelligence, however, might be a hazard, for Daisy lives in a world that does not hold up under inspection, and if she really thought about her life, she might find it unbearable.
6. Why does Nick feel that Daisy is trying to show off her cynicism? This is a current upper-class pose and by adopting it Daisy not only identifies herself as part of a fashionable group, but disposes of the need to live a meaningful life, since life has no meaning anyway.
7. Why does Daisy describe her youth as a “white girlhood”? On a literal level, she always dressed in white and even drove a white car. More important, she remembers her youth as a time of innocence and charming simplicity, in contrast to the tawdry existence she has in the present.
8. Why does Gatsby reach out to the water? He is so near and yet so far. It has taken him five years to come this close to his dream, so close that he can reach out his arms to the light across the bay. This image remains throughout the novel – Gatsby stretching out his arms toward an elusive goal that he cannot quite reach.
1. Why is Wilson covered with dust from the ashes?
He is a dead character, in contrast to the tough vitality of his wife. (The ashes do not cover her). Tom says that Wilson is too stupid to know that he is alive; the others pay no more attention to him than if he actually were dead.
2. Why does Myrtle Wilson behave with such hauteur, both toward her husband and in the city apartment?
Her arrogance satirizes the arrogance of the entire social structure. She believes herself to be “somebody” and looks down on her inferiors. Most of the people in this novel are involved in climbing the slippery ladder toward social success, grasping frantically for the rung above and kicking down at those on the rung below.
3. Why does Nick see himself as both on the outside and inside of the apartment? He may be in it, but he does not consider himself of it. He wants no part of these people or their cheap involvement. He is as isolated from them as he later is from Gatsby’s party.
4. What is ironic about Myrtle saying “You can’t live forever”? She is recalling that his idea motivated her to go off with Tom when he first approached her. The irony lies in the fact that her death is caused by her eagerness later to go off with Tom.
5. What two facets of Tom’s personality are revealed when he breaks Myrtle’s nose? First, it shows his brutality, a foreshadowing of the vicious indifference toward others with which he will send the crazed Wilson off to murder Gatsby. Secondly, the hypocrisy of class consciousness is stressed. It is all right for him to humiliate and wound his wife with his infidelity, but it is unforgiveable for Myrtle to even mention Daisy’s name. Myrtle must be taught to know her place.
1. What is revealed when Nick says that people aren’t actually invited to Gatsby’s parties, that they just sort of go there?
It shows the aimless wandering of these pleasure-seeking crowds, and that all rules have been replaced by casual whims. This reference also reveals specific facet of Gatsby’s character. He is a man who simply provides for others; he can be taken advantage of. This is a foreshadowing of the way he later sacrifices himself for Daisy.
2. Why is Jordan Baker again described as looking contemptuous? She looks down on this party just as she had seemed contemptuous at the Buchanans. This detachment may be part of her attractiveness to Nick, who has had a knack – at the beginning – of remaining uninvolved and aloof.
3. What is significance of the “owl-eyed” man?
He is tied in with the enormous pair of glasses in the sign. Just as the sign seems to represent an all-knowing godlike figure, so this man, checking the books in the library, seems to be the only one who understands that Gatsby has depth.
4. Why does the owl-eyed man describe Gatsby as a real Belasco? Belasco was a famed theatrical producer, and the man with the glasses seems to realize that Gatsby has provided not a home for himself, but a background. His only objective has been to set the stage for his reunion with Daisy.
5. What is the contrast between Gatsby and his party?
He seems totally remote from it, as if he has merely furnished the necessities for the enjoyment of others and not himself. He is quiet, self-controlled, sober, and pleasant, while the party is drunken and rowdy.
6. What is the significance of Jordan’s lies?
Her dishonesty is part of her basic character, just as it is part of the social structure in which she takes an active part. Her cheating at golf, part of her drive to win, is the kind of dishonesty that society can accept. Gatsby’s drive to succeed is unacceptable.
1. Why is the catalog of Gatsby’s guest included?
The long list of these worthless people combined with the trivia that Nick recalls about them stresses the meaningless of this world. These are the shady, not quite nice people, whom Daisy later finds distasteful and for whom Tom displays contempt. There is, however, not much difference between them and the kind of people with whom Tom chooses to live his other life in the apartment in the city.
2. Why does Gatsby call Nick “old sport”?
This is a reflection of Gatsby’s phony side, an affectation which he hopes will reinforce his claims to status and particularly his claims to attendance at Oxford. However, this specific expression is significant. Gatsby is a “sport” in the best sense of the word, as his later gallantry toward Daisy will demonstrate. By using this word as a form of address to others, he shows that he trusts the world, to treat him in a sportsmanlike manner, tragically, is not the case.
3. Why does Wolfsheim mourn the passing of the Metropole? Like Gatsby he craves a return to the past; he mourns an era that is gone. But, unlike Gatsby, he does not try to recapture it.
4. What is ironic about Gatsby’s appraisal of Jordan?
He admires her honesty, which, as Nick has already noted, is one virtue she lacks. Gatsby’s inability to see through her is a reflection of his tragic inability to understand character – both others and himself 5. What is significant in Jordan’s remark that Daisy’s voice has an amorous tinge? It foreshadows Daisy’s love affair with Gatsby. The reference also ties in with later remarks from Nick and Gatsby about the affect of Daisy’s voice.
6. Why does Gatsby want Daisy to see his house?
It is not enough that the two lovers are reunited. They must be joined in the settling which Gatsby thinks is not only necessary and appropriate for her, but almost in itself a part of her. Daisy and the dream of material success are inseparable.
1. Why is Gatsby dressed in a gold tie and silver shirt?
He has costumed himself, perhaps unconsciously, in the trappings of wealth. His outer self, like his house, must reflect his material success. His inner self, which Nick finds later to be superior to the characters of the others, is ignored.
2. Why does Nick reject Gatsby’s offer of business?
Nick can’t be bought – except by the admiration and respect that Gatsby later inspires in him. This show of integrity on Nick’s part makes him a person that the reader can trust to judge Gatsby fairly at the end of the book.
3. What is significant about Nick’s embarrassment during the tea, and the fact that he leaves and walks around the house?
Gatsby had done the same thing earlier. This repetition indicates that Nick is beginning to identify with Gatsby, to share his emotions and attitudes.
4. What hint is given in the story of how Gatsby’s house was built? It was constructed by a successful brewer who wanted to make his mark in the social world. He failed to do so and later died. This background is parallel to Gatsby, who makes his fortune from bootlegging, buys the house as an entry into society, and will meet his own death there.
5. What is ironic about the cottage owners’ refusal to put thatched roofs on their homes? The brewer had offered them money as an inducement to put thatched roofs on their cottages, so that he might look out upon the re-created vista of a feudal estate. However, the local people refused to put themselves in the position of peasants. In America everybody has his dream of status, of being somebody. Their desire is no different from the brewer or Gatsby’s.
6. Does Gatsby really believe, as he tells Daisy, that his house is always full of interesting, famous people?
Perhaps not. Perhaps he really knows his guests for the mediocrities they are. But this is not important. He is creating an illusion as a background for the Daisy he loves, who is really the flimsiest illusion of all.
7. What is significant about Klipspringer’s song?
Again, the perfect background for Daisy must be established. Gatsby calls forth a musician, like a medieval king displaying the splendors of his court. The song itself has tremendous irony. Its theme is that money is not necessary for happiness, which may sound fine but has not relation to the actions of the people in the music room. Klipspringer himself abandons Gatsby as soon as he can no longer sponge off an agreeable host, Daisy had deserted Gatsby during the war for a wealthier man, and Gatsby himself has been trapped by the belief that material possessions are absolute requirements to happiness.
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1. Why is Nick Carraway made the narrator? The device of giving Nick the function of narrator lends psychic distance from the story. Nick is part of the action, yet […]