The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Some kind of sexual encounter certainly seems possible, but if something did happen (a first level of ambiguity), has Nick simply forgotten it, or is he suppressing his memory (providing a second level of ambiguity)? To summarise: one possibility is that nothing happens other than a bizarre alcohol-fueled conversation in which Chester McKee removes his clothes for some unexplained reason. The assumption then would be that Nick is presumed heterosexual. However, it is equally possible that something happens between them and this would indicate that Nick is, at least, homosexually inclined – an element of his personality which may be so suppressed that even he is unaware of it when sober, or which he may be unwilling to admit either to himself or the reader. One can only admire the skill with which Fitzgerald has created all these possibilities in just a few paragraphs of narration.

44 ‘Beauty and the Beast … Loneliness … Old Grocery Horse’ – McKee is attempting, like Nick, to be an artistic interpreter of his world. The titles of his photographs are probably intended to sound rather trite and unimaginative.

45 ‘blue gardens’ – which like the earlier ‘blue honey’ perhaps suggests something impossible or extremely rare, like a blue moon.

45 ‘men and girls came and went like moths’ – fluttering evanescent creatures attracted to light. Gatsby, later in the novel, has every room in his mansion lit, as if symbolically trying to attract Daisy’s attention.

45 ‘drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam’ – ‘cataracts’ is an odd usage here and refers to the wash created by the motor-boats. An aquaplane is a board used in much the same way as a pair of water-skis.

45 ‘his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug’ – something small and observed like the ‘moths’ described in few lines above. Nick, at this point in the narration, is like a pair of ‘Celestial Eyes’ looking down from above. There is a disorientating element in this particular description, partly due the mismatch of size. Bugs do not really ‘scamper’, so the vehicle is a small animal of some kind before it becomes an insect.

45 ‘a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges’ – The almost childish fascination with new gadgets is probably a feature of the times (cf. Myrtle’s love of ‘those cute little ash-trays where you touch a spring’ (42)).

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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