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The Great Gatsby Chapter Four
Learning Objectives • Develop the symbolic aspects of Gatsby’s car and why it is important • Increase your understanding of Gatsby’s mysterious character and why we can’t trust him • Focus on Meyer Wolfsheim and understand how he adds another dimension to Gatsby’s character
THINK/PAIR/SHARE • THINK – about the three most important things/events/issues that occurred in chapter 4. • PAIR – discuss your ideas with the person beside you. • SHARE – as a group, share your ideas and decide on the top three things you should know about this chapter.
Chapter Summary • Gatsby visits Nick’s house for the first time, and talks of his wartime experience. • They travel into the city, where Gatsby introduces Nick to Meyer Wolfsheim. • Later, Jordan tells Nick about Daisy’s past, her brief love affair with Gatsby, and her subsequent marriage to Tom.
The Animal Kingdom Nick refers to an ‘old timetable’ containing a list he made in the summer of 1922 of the visitors to Gatsby’s back yard, those who ‘paid him subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him’. He lists characters whose names bear allusions to animals of various descriptions. Each of these animal’s carry negative associations, and are shown to belong to the power-hungry, parasitical jungle Nick had already outlined in chapter 3.
The Animal Kingdom • Some of the animals are horned and masculine in nature – the Hornbeams, Blackbucks (note reference to ‘dirty money’), Hammerheads and Cecil Roebuck. Some are animals characterised by their wily, industrious natures – the Leeches, ‘Rot-gut’ Ferret and Edgar Beaver. Another distinct group are characterised by their association to fish and pungent smells – the Fishguards, Ripley Snells, Mrs Ulysses Swett, S.B. Whitebait. Faustina O’Brien also reminds us of the legend of Faust, the character who sold himself to the devil. All of these characters, with their weirdly negative world associations are shown, by their lack of interest in Gatsby, who ‘sold out’ to the world of glamour and wealth.
Gatsby’s Car • We have already discussed the symbolism related to cars in previous chapters but today we will focus on Gatsby’s.
• A potent symbol throughout the entire novel, the care is shown to be both an indicator of status and a harbinger of doom. • As a group, find three quotes which describe his car from the opening pages of chapter 4 and explain what you think it symbolises.
Gatsby’s Car • Gatsby’s car is described as being ‘swollen here and there in its monstrous length’ and like a ‘green leather conservatory’. Gatsby’s car, then, is more like a home in its proportions, being ‘terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.’ The ‘green’ of the leather symbolises wealth in its connection to the ‘green’ dollar, but it also subtly associated with the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. We are reminded throughout the entire novel that the entire show – the car, the house, the parties and the possessions – all exist in order to recapture her.
Gatsby and Nick Look over the conversation Nick and Gatsby have in the car on the way to New York. As a group, discuss what we learn about Gatsby’s character and how Nick feels about him. Think about: • Gatsby's restlessness • His attitude towards all his objects • The information (lies?) he tells Nick about his life
• Quotes which describe the way he says those ‘facts’ • Whether Nick believes him or not You must refer closely to the text and provide quotations and analysis.
Gatsby and Nick • Gatsby’s possessions do not make him happy. He seems to get no intrinsic pleasure from the collected artefacts around him and seems self-consciously aware of the pretence upon which he has built his public persona. As such he ‘chokes’ on his lie to Nick that he was educated at Oxford and seems burdened by an intense energy: ‘he was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand’. He seems to be aware that he could be exposed at any time – unlike the complacent Tom, who revels luxuriously in the splendour of his castle, Gatsby seems never to be at rest with himself.
Gatsby and Nick • He props up his history with handy objects of authenticity such as war medal and photographs of his time at Oxford, almost like a man on the run from the law. His stores are overblown, unrealistic and tinged with equal measure of fantasy and selfpity (note the way he keeps referring cryptically to the ‘sad thing that happened to me’ and, how, when the war came, he ‘tried very hard to die in order to forget it!) These unwittingly comical reflections stretch his credibility to the limit and Nick is left feeling ‘more annoyed than interested’ in the favour that Gatsby has asked him.
Meyer Wolfsheim • Critics have poured scorn on Fitzgerald’s open caricature of Wolfsheim, who seems to embody a very stereotypical Jewish man. In reality, though, it is worth remembering that Fitzgerald portrays white Anglo-Saxon Protestants with equal distaste and that he doesn't single out the Jewish community for any specific invective.
Meyer Wolfsheim As a group, discuss the importance of this character and why he is introduced to the novel. Think about: • What he reveals about Gatsby • Your own impressions of this character • How he is described
• His purpose and role
Particularly distasteful character who has a shallow way of conducting two conversations at once.
Constantly looks around him as if to evade detection from the forces of the law.
Meyer Wolfsheim • Gatsby reveals he is the person who fixed the World Series in 1919, therefore connecting him to characters like Jordan baker who openly cheat in order to gain privilege. His preoccupation with Gatsby’s ‘Oggsford’ education is another indicator of the premium given to Anglican values among the wealthy classes. • Wolfsheim is shown to represent the cut-throat impersonal world of big business, where the players eat each other alive. Nick is understandably disconcerted by him and his connection to Gatsby makes us question his ethics.
Meyer Wolfsheim • Nick’s perceptions of Meyer Wolfsheim is markedly different from the view held by Gatsby. In the narrative, Wolfsheim’s reconstruction of the death of Rosy Rosenthal follows Gatsby’s account of his own history and precedes Jordan's recollection of her encounter with Daisy and the handsome young lieutenant. The placing of Nick’s narrative of Wolfsheim’s tale of violence among gangsters inevitably causes sinister overtones to reverberate into the framing glimpses of Gatsby's past. • Gatsby is dually presented as a heroic soldier and innocent lover as well as hinting at his corruption.
Narrative Deviation At this point, Nick re-tells the story of Gatsby and Daisy’s love affair from Jordan’s point of view. He relates her words as if they were exactly as he remembers them of the October in 1917.
Does this effect the reliability of Nick’s narrative style? Can Jordan be trusted to tell the truth? She has already been shown as a liar – do we feel comfortable hearing the story from her perspective?
Daisy’ Marriage to Tom Jordan recalls her meeting with Daisy, five years previously, Daisy’s surname prior to her marriage was Fay. • In groups, discuss what important information Jordan gives the reader (and Nick) about Daisy and Gatsby’s past. Remember to justify your response with quotes and chart the differing emotions Daisy has about the different men in her life.
Daisy’s Men • Jordan tells how Daisy had been the ‘most popular girl’ in their Louisville hometown when they were growing up. The colour white is mentioned in connection to her three times, thus establishing her as the archetypal fairy-virgin whose parents don’t approve of the relationship she has formed with a young soldier (Gatsby) and force her to finish with him. • She is shown to get over this disappointment quickly by becoming engaged to Tom Buchanan the next February, Jordan, her bridesmaid, tells of how she discovered Daisy drunk on her bed on the day of her wedding breakfast, clutching a letter in her hand (from Gatsby) and crying uncontrollably. Significantly, she attempts to toss away the £350,000 pearl necklace Tom had given her as an engagement present and says she has ‘changed her mind’. This fickle tendency to change her mind will become even more significant at the end of the novel.
Daisy’s Men • The letter and the pearl necklace are important symbols of stability and status at this crisis point in Daisy’s life. As Gatsby’s letter come apart in hands ‘like snow’, her decision seems to have been made for her. Gatsby’s love is perceived as transient and unstable, whereas Tom’s version of ‘love’ represents rock solid permanence, by virtue of its immutable wealth. She didn’t say another word. We gave her spirits of ammonia and put ice on her forehead and hooked her back into her dress, and half an hour later, when we walked out of the room, the pearls were around her neck and the incident was over.
Daisy’s Men • Daisy, through choice, has become an emblem of Tom’s old money. She abandons her romantic urges, casts off her emotional coat and embarks on a marriage which will offer stability of status. Note the effort of the others to ‘ice’ her into submission, cooling her truer passion for the man she loved, and they way they ‘hook’ her into her dress. For she has, indeed, become a piece of meat in this transaction. This is borne out in Jordan’s recollection of how Tom began cheating on her almost immediately after the wedding was over, as well as his love of alcohol.
• Jordan then informs Nick that Gatsby's ‘favour’ is to ask him to invite Daisy round to his house for tea, in an attempt to rekindle an affair that had been extinguished by ice and snow years earlier.
Homework • Read Chapter 5 for Monday!