The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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54 ‘an elegant young rough-neck’ – a typically oxymoronic description of Gatsby. A ‘rough-neck’ implies a tough workingman. Does Nick sense Gatsby’s humble origins?

54 ‘whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.’ – More ambiguity: Gatsby’s words are poised between ‘formality’ and absurdity.

55 ‘Chicago was calling him on the wire.’ – A city famous for many things in this period, among them the bootlegger Al Capone.

55 ‘ “Now you ’re started on the subject,” she answered with a wan smile.’ – Jordan senses that the chances of her getting much of Nick’s attention are beginning to wane. She soon adds to the mystique, however, that surrounds Gatsby, mentioning his claim to be an ‘Oxford man’, and then immediately stating her doubts: ‘I just don’t think he went there.’

55 ‘A dim background started to take shape behind him, but at her next remark it faded away.’ – See above. Nick’s reaction mirrors the reader’s own.

55-6 ‘But young men didn’t…drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island Sound.’ – The image of Gatsby ‘drifting’ subliminally associates him with a boat or raft being blown about the seas.

56 ‘an urban distaste for the concrete’ – Fitzgerald uses ‘urban’ for the more usual ‘urbane’, implying that the new city-based America prefers the vague and ambiguous over the solid certainties of the agrarian past.

56 ‘Vladmir Tostoff’s Jazz History of the World’ – Vladmir is an (intentional?) error for Vladimir, but Tostoff is, of course, a joke and, most likely, a crude one.

56 ‘His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face and his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day.’ – Nick is becoming increasing fascinated with Gatsby. He had hardly noticed him at first, but now he is speculating on how often he has his hair cut. Nick is fastidious about male appearance: the reader will recall his being disconcerted by the lather on Chester McKee’s cheek

57 ‘an obstetrical conversation with two chorus girls’ – Jordan’s undergraduate date pops up again, sounding truly appalling. The band leader has just made an obvious innuendo and conversations are becoming sexually explicit: there is a sense that the party is heading towards an unfortunate climax – or rather anticlimax. Interestingly, the sober Gatsby grows ‘more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased’ (56 – ‘fraternal’ here is more likely a reference to ‘frat houses’ than the brotherhood of man).

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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