The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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43 ‘Taking out my handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon.’ – No one else seems to have noticed it (Chester’s wife Lucille would have been the obvious person to do so). The meaning of Nick’s action – and the fact that he bothers to do this at all – raises several questions. There must be a meaning, however, as he says that it has ‘worried [him] all afternoon.’ Does wiping Chester’s cheek relieve him somehow from the continual stress of observing something that is imperfect, as in the way many feel drawn to straightening a wonky place setting or a tie? Is he afterwards able to stop judging Chester for his carelessness? Or – more controversially – is he subconsciously aware of the homoeroticism of the image, and is it this that is truly bothering him?

43 ‘from time to time groaning faintly’ – The dog is hungry and forgotten.

43 ‘People disappeared, reappeared, made plans to go somewhere, and then lost each other, searched for each other, found each other a few feet away.’ – This mist of inebriation is beginning to settle over Nick, and, indeed, all the others at the ‘party’.

43 ‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ – Myrtle is now drunk enough and angry enough, to risk goading Tom in retaliation for his earlier reference to George.

43 ‘Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.’ – His violence is presented, not as a sudden impulsive outburst, but as a considered, and physically adroit, act of discipline. Here, Tom can do anything. The reader will recall his bruising of Daisy’s finger.

44 ‘Come to lunch some day’ – There’s no record in the text of Chester and Nick communicating at all during the party. Most people seem to like Nick, however, and apparently Chester is no exception.

44 ‘ “Keep your hands off the lever,” snapped the elevator boy. ¶“I beg your pardon,” said Mr McKee with dignity, “I didn’t know I was touching it.”’ – conceivably a sexual image.

44 ‘… I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.’ – The opening lacuna presumably indicates that this is the first thing Nick can remember from the evening since he agreed to lunch with Chester McKee. It is, of course, possible for the imagination to run wild as to what happened between the elevator and the portfolio.

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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