Free Study Guide-The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald-Book Notes |
After these opening comments, Nick explains his Midwestern background and ethics in some detail. The action of the entire novel, set mainly on the flashy islands of East and West Egg, New York, is in total contrast to Nick’s stable background; and yet Fitzgerald makes Nick’s participation in the story plausible by creating him as a well-to-do young man with social graces. He happens to be the cousin of Daisy Buchanan and the neighbor of Jay Gatsby. He also prides himself in not judging people, therefore, often serving as a confidante.
The contrast between Nick’s background and the East is the first of many in this chapter. West Egg, peopled by the “nouveaux riches” is contrasted to East Egg, home of the old money. Gatsby’s gaudy mansion, full of flash, imitation, and newness, is contrasted to the stately Georgian mansion belonging to Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Tom’s dark, sturdy, powerful image is in stark contrast to the airy, floating, white image of his wife Daisy. Nick’s purpose and planning in life (he is all business between soldiering and learning bonds) is in contrast to the aimlessness and drifting of Tom and Daisy.
Not surprisingly, Nick is uncomfortable with the contrast to the Buchanans that he feels. His decent Midwestern upbringing is shaken by Daisy’s wanting to bring her daughter up to be a fool, by Tom’s having a mistress who is bold enough to call his home, by Tom’s open hostility to his wife in conversation, and by their drifting nature and inability to plan. It is no wonder that when he leaves the Buchanans after dinner, he feels unsettled - -“confused” and “disgusted.” Fitzgerald is already developing the theme that “money corrupts.” Daisy and Tom have unlimited wealth, but limited inner strength or purpose.
Ironically, when Nick returns home from East Egg, he receives his first glimpse of his neighbor, Jay Gatsby, and it is a symbolic image. Gatsby, already defined as a romantic, is outside in the dark, staring at the stars, almost in the appearance of worship. He then stretches out his hands toward a green light on the shore of East Egg. The green light, which is at the end of the Buchanans’ dock, is the visible representation of Gatsby’s unattainable vision - - to be something he can never be, to have something he can never have. The light, significantly, is green -- the color for “go,” the color of new life, and the color of hope. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the identical Egg Islands, the color of green is also money, a corrupting influence in life.
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. 09 May 2017