The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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41 ‘then I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.’ – Myrtle’s idea of ‘being a gentleman’ is essentially financial. This anecdote is a telling example of the shame of poverty.

42 ‘Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I saw him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.’ – The whole theme of observation is one that pervades Gatsby , informing, for example, the recurrent images in the book of T.J. Eckleburg’s giant spectacles and, later, Owl-eyes’ ‘thick glasses’ (181). As an observer , Nick feels a need to be outside this scene – he has just expressed the wish ‘to get out and walk eastward toward the park’ (41) – but every time he tries to leave he is ‘entangled…as if with ropes’ by some ‘wild, strident argument’ (42). This epitomises the inherent ambiguity of his narration: to observe he must be ‘without’, but, inevitably, he is ‘within’ the situations that he depicts – and they involve him and affect his judgements as effectively as the large amount of liquor he has consumed during the evening. And yet, ironically, his inebriated behaviour ‘within’ this situation comes close to revealing something potentially vital about his character, because if he is, indeed, inclined towards homosexuality and has a one-night-stand with Chester McKee, does that inevitably skew his portrayal of Gatsby ? There are some indications that this could be the case, and the whole question remains one of the key ambiguities of the novel.

42 ‘Myrtle pulled her chair close to mine, and suddenly her warm breath poured over me’ – Practically all the women Nick has encountered in the novel so far seem to be attracted to him, something he never draws attention to in his narration.

42 ‘He had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes’ – Myrtle is swept off her feet by a man in a good suit; she had earlier cried buckets because her husband had been forced by thrift to borrow his wedding suit.

42 ‘I’m going to make a list of all the things I’ve got to get.’ – Myrtle’s character is probably intended to be emblematic of the acquisitive culture of the time. She is dreaming of what she can buy now that her dreams have come true.

42 ‘those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring, and a wreath with a black silk bow for mother’s grave that’ll last all summer.’ – Myrtle is obviously sentimental about her mother whose photograph is prominently displayed. She is being satirised by Fitzgerald as somebody of lowly origins who is attracted to kitsch (the wreath is presumably made of artificial flowers).

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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