The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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63 ‘I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove.’ – Very much a ‘movie-style’ fantasy. Notice these are ‘romantic women’ rather than, necessarily, attractive or sexually alluring ones (though, of course, they may be both). Nick’s emphasis seems to fall upon a desire for some special magic or charm – some never-to-be-forgotten brief encounter – and, in this sense, his fantasies seem rather ‘literary’ and – as already suggested – cinematic. He is seeking some kind of unattainable beauty, some kind of unique, perfect experience, and the irony of this is that he seems to be remarkably attractive to women, so his gloom is difficult to account for. Jordan has been pursuing him with some vigour. But the conventional experience of ‘love’ – an ‘affair’ – seems something he is prepared to ‘let…blow quietly away’ without any obvious feelings of regret.

63 ‘At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others – poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner – young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.’ – A beautiful sentence, with a deliciously ambiguous poise to it: Nick sympathises with those who feel the same ‘haunting loneliness’ that he feels – or, just possibly, does he feel something more than just empathy for those ‘poor…young clerks in the dusk’ waiting for someone to join them for a ‘restaurant dinner’?

63-4 ‘Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were lined five deep with throbbing taxicabs, bound for the theatre district…Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited…’ – The influence of T.S. Eliot on these sentences is particularly marked: cf. ‘staring forms/Leaned out, leaning hushing the room enclosed’ ; ‘At the violet hour, when the eyes and back/Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits/Like a taxi throbbing waiting’ .

64 ‘I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.’ – Nick’s feelings for Jordan might reasonably be contrasted with his reaction to Gatsby’s smile. His attraction to her is an intriguing one, however, regardless of its depth: he senses that she has a secret – and this excites his ‘curiosity’, but also his more ‘tender’ feelings as he senses a weakness in her that attracts him. Of course, this could imply that he has some such secret himself (as Jordan intimates at the end of their relationship), but there is no particular necessity to take that view.

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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