The Great Gatsby, Chapters 1-3

Why does the author choose to set the story of the novel as a flashback? And why does he choose to make Nick Carraway the narrator? “Gatsby” is created as a flashback at least partially to allow the narrator time to reflect on what happened, and how he feels about it; he chooses Nick to narrate because he was there, and yet apart from everything at the same time, giving us both a first-person narrative and a somewhat-more-objective viewpoint of the story
Who said, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had”? The father of Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book
What do we know about Nick Carraway after only a few pages into Chapter 1? He tends to reserve judgment about people, the story he’s about to relate happened about a year ago, and made him want the world to stand at a kind of “moral attention”–oh, and he’s from a wealthy family
What does Nick say is “gorgeous” about Gatsby? “A heightened sensitivity to the promises of life…an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness”
Nick tells us in the first chapter that he is disillusioned with mankind–is it Gatsby or something else that causes his disillusionment? It’s not Gatsby, but what Nick feels preyed on Gatsby, the “foul dust [that] floated in the wake of his dreams”
Why does Nick decide to go east? He wants to get away from the Midwest, what he calls “the ragged edge of the universe”
What occurs in this one summer in the east that makes Nick feel like his life is beginning over again? And why does he even WANT a new beginning? Nick moves to West Egg in the spring, and has a sense of being a part of it, even giving a stranger directions–he wants a new beginning to deal with his time in WW I
How is West Egg different from East Egg? They’re only alike in size and shape–East Egg, more fashionable than West Egg, is populated by “old money,” while West Egg is full of the “nouveau riche”
Is “nouveau riche” a complimentary term? No, it’s a rather disparaging remark, indicating that the person has recently become rich
What do we learn about Tom Buchanan before we even meet him? He is a very rich 30 year old, and a former star football player for Yale–he has come east from Chicago looking for something, and seems to act like his power, strength, and wealth mean he knows more than anyone else
Describe Tom Buchanan Rich, well-built, aggressive
Describe Daisy Buchanan Slim, languid, refined, and she has a very attractive voice
What is Daisy Buchanan’s most noticeable feature? She has a low, thrilling voice, a voice that seems to indicate that she has just done something exciting, and is about to do something exciting in the next hour
What is the opinion of Daisy of many readers at this point in the story? She is very pretty, but seems somewhat vain–everything revolves around her
Is Daisy’s comment, “That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen,” complimentary to her husband? No, she seems to be indicating that he is mean-spirited
When Daisy says that “Tom’s getting very profound,” what is her tone? Sarcastic, and perhaps a little sad
What does Nick mean when he says about Tom, “There was something pathetic in his concentration”? Nick seems to be telling us that Tom, who is somewhat smug and complacent, finds thinking to be a difficult task
Who is Tom’s mistress? We don’t know who Tom’s mistress is in Chapter One; we just know that it is rumored he has one
How does the reader find out that Tom is seeing someone outside of his marriage to Daisy? Tom is called to the telephone during dinner, and Jordan Baker tells Nick about the rumor
What is Jordan’s occupation? And what unattractive character trait does she show in trying to listen to the argument between Daisy and Tom? She’s a professional golfer, and is both a gossiper and an unabashed eavesdropper
Why does Nick say that, “No one was able utterly to put this fifth guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind”? Who is this guest? The guest is the ringing of the phone, and everyone at the party realizes that it’s probably the same person calling back–a person Jordan has told us might be Tom’s mistress
Why do you think that Nick wonders if he should move “to telephone immediately for the police”? The situation between Daisy and Tom seems volatile, and could turn into a fight–this subtly foreshadows what could happen later
How does Nick know Daisy and Tom? Daisy is Nick’s second cousin while Tom was Nick’s classmate in college
How is the reader is first introduced to Gatsby? Nick first sees Gatsby standing on the lawn, spreading his arms wide while he faces the green light, “…he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…I could have sworn he was trembling”
The novel that Tom reads about in Chapter One is about A. Equality B. White supremacy C. Total control of the government D. Morals in high society B. White supremacy
What is the significance of the green light? The green light is on the end of the dock at Daisy’s house across the bay from West Egg, and could represent Daisy herself, possibly even fabulous wealth
About whom is the following statement made: “He reads deep books with long words in them”? And what is meant by this statement? Tom–there is an implication that he reads important-sounding books so people will think he’s smart
If the Midwest is “the ragged edge of the universe,” what is the East? The East is the “center of the universe”
What is the “valley of ashes” that the author describes in the opening of chapter two, and what might they symbolize? The “valley of ashes” is literally that–a large dump for ashes, and as the residue of something which has burned seems to represent something which has been burnt out or used up…like people, perhaps
Is the area around the “valley of ashes” pastoral? No–the area around the “valley of ashes” might be a bit rural, but it doesn’t seem very peaceful–life is hard
Why are the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg blue? As a contrast, perhaps, to the grey of the “valley of ashes”
In Chapter Two, where do Nick and Tom stop before going to New York? A garage in the “valley of ashes”
Describe George Wilson. Poor, blonde, anemic, and spiritless
What does the word “anemic” mean? “Anemic” means “lacking vitality”
Describe Myrtle Wilson. Slightly heavy, but very sensuous–she has a strong vitality, but is somewhat coarse
How do we find out that Myrtle is somewhat coarse and not an intellectual? Her reading material seems to be limited to scandal magazines, and she seems to have a lack of interest in most things
What is Myrtle’s role in the novel? We find out that she is the mistress of Tom Buchanan
At the party in the apartment in the city, what social classes are represented, and by whom? Myrtle Wilson represents the working class (even though she herself does not work), The McKees represent the middle class, and Tom represents the upper class
Does Myrtle really mean it when she says, “It’s just a crazy old thing…I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like”? Not really–she wants the attention of being told that it looks good on her
What social class is Nick from? Nick is not of either the middle or the upper class–he has the tastes and advantages of the upper class, but is not financially as well-off as the Buchanans
Why does the author even bring the McKees into the novel? They represent the middle-class for Fitzgerald, and his book is really an exploration of the classes that make up his society in the time of the novel–the middle class is generally depicted as bored, insensitive, and maybe even a little dim-witted
How is the party in the city with the McKees different from the dinner party at the Buchanans’ in Chapter 1? The dinner party at the Buchanans’ is more elegant, compared to the raucous feel of the party in the apartment, but both have a sense of boredom and meaninglessness
Is Tom acting “discreetly” in taking Myrtle to the city? A little–he tries to be unnoticeable in looking for her in George Wilson’s garage
Do you think Tom will leave Daisy for Myrtle? It is unlikely that Tom would leave Daisy, especially for Myrtle–he hits Myrtle, breaking her nose, showing his lack of tenderness for her–he does this in defending his wife, Daisy
Do you think that Tom sees Myrtle as being somewhat “provincial”? Definitely–Tom sees Myrtle and her husband as unsophisticated people, which is probably why he feels it’s all right to carry on with Myrtle in the first place
What types of things tell us that “Gatsby’s parties were expensive, elaborate, and raucous affairs”? Gatsby employs full orchestras rather than five-piece bands, his guests behave grandly, and are loud in their enjoyment of the night’s events
Who says, “I hate careless people. That’s why I like you”? Jordan Baker
Why do Nick and Jordan leave the group from East Egg? The East Egg group at the party is too polite and reserved
What does Nick say the guests at Gatsby’s party behave like? What does he mean? The guests at Gatsby’s party behave like people going to amusement parks–he is contemptuous of them
People at the party whisper about Gatsby–why does Nick remark on that? The people populating the Gatsby party generally find little to whisper about in the world, so the fact that they whisper about him implies that they find him mysterious and/or powerful, and respect him
What does Nick say about Gatsby’s smile? Nick says the smile of Gatsby has a “quality of eternal reassurance in it”
What figure of speech is Fitzgerald employing when he describes the smile of Gatsby as something that “concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor”? Gatsby’s smile is a synecdoche, the smile acting as a symbol for all of Gatsby, Gatsby himself
When Fitzgerald has Nick describe Gatsby as “an elegant young roughneck…whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd,” what is he suggesting about Jay Gatsby? Fitzgerald seems to be suggesting that Gatsby is somewhat hard-looking and choosing his words very carefully
What do Gatsby and Nick have in common? Nick and Gatsby were both in the Third Division in France during the war
Why does Jordan not believe Gatsby when he says he attended Oxford? Gatsby must not seem refined or polished enough to fit her idea of what an ‘Oxford Man’ should be
How is Gatsby’s behavior at his party not the same as his guests? Gatsby doesn’t drink, and his behavior tends to become more correct as the evening progresses
What do you think Fitzgerald is trying to convey about Gatsby’s parties in the way they end? For all their opulence, Fitzgerald seems to be saying that the parties always end in drunkenness and unhappiness
Who is athletic but arrogant, cruel and elitest? Tom Buchanan
Whom does Tom take Nick to meet? Why? Myrtle Wilson, because she is Tom’s mistress
What does Mrs. Wilson buy when she is out with Tom and Nick? Mrs. Wilson buys a puppy
Who is Catherine? Catherine is Myrtle’s sister
What is the significance of 158th Street? Tom and Myrtle’s secret apartment is at 158th Street
What reason does Myrtle give for marrying George Wilson? Myrtle married George Wilson because she believed that he was a gentleman
What does Tom do to Myrtle when she mentions Daisy’s name? Tom breaks her nose by hitting her in the face
What kind of people come to Gatsby’s party? All kinds of people go to Gatsby’s parties–people just show up for his parties
Why does Nick go to Gatsby’s party? Nick goes to Gatsby’s party because he was actually invited
How does Myrtle travel to avoid being seen? Myrtle travels in a separate cabin
Who is Tom talking about when he says, “He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”? George Wilson, who thinks his wife goes to New York to visit her sister, Catherine

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