The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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7 ‘The abnormal mind’ – A phrase which implies Nick’s Middle-Western ‘normality’ and which also exemplifies his tendency to judge others from a particular standpoint.

7 ‘a politician’ – meaning an artful or cunning manipulator. This sense had supposedly become obsolete by the time Fitzgerald was writing ( O.E.D .).

7 ‘secret griefs of wild, unknown men’ – This rather remarkable phrase suggests several possible contexts of meaning, but Nick is presumably using ‘men’ in the restricted sense of ‘college men’, so that to be ‘unknown’ implies to be an ignored and unpopular denizen of a fraternity house.

7 ‘quivering on the horizon’ – This is jocular in tone. The image is perhaps of a ship, or an island, or the sun seen through a heat haze. The ‘secret griefs’ Nick mentions foreshadow Gatsby’s own. It is also interesting that there is a nautical element to this image, one which relates to the whole notion of an overpowering dream, and both of these ideas will be of central importance in the novel.

7 ‘plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions’ – This is judgemental, from a man who boasts that he ‘reserve[s] all judgement’. These words could easily be applied to Gatsby’s various accounts of himself, while there are also ‘obvious suppressions’ in Nick’s narrative as well.

7 ‘my father snobbishly suggested…and I snobbishly repeat’ – Nick clearly does have an awareness of his own prejudice (and its source), but he never actively challenges the assumption that the Middle-Western perspective on life is the best.

7 ‘a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.’ – Nick interprets his father’s words as a reflection on the whole question of social mores and morality (both important themes in Gatsby ). The implication is that that those who break the Mid-Western code ‘know no better’. Fitzgerald is cleverly creating the impression of a character who is limited , but far from trapped , by his own cultural background.

7 ‘after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit.’ – This is typical of Fitzgerald’s mode of composition. His narrator makes a statement which he subsequently contradicts – or rather limits in this particular instance. The overall effect is of layer upon layer of complexity, so that the reader’s sense of grounding is compromised, despite the strong presence of an authorial voice. In this respect, Fitzgerald shows himself to be very much an American writer, one who has drunk deep from the wells of Hawthorne and Emerson.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul