Monday, November 13, 2006

Essay on Chapter Four of "The Great Gatsby"

How Do the Parts of Chapter Four Fit Together?

I think that the parts of chapter four serve two purposes. The first purpose is to expand on the myth of Gatsby. The second is to show how Nick is being drawn into the world of illusion that surrounds Gatsby.

The first segment of the chapter is simply Nick listing the quantity and variety of people who take advantage of Gatsby’s parties. Show business people, politicians, high society and low attend, usually without ever actually seeing their host. Nick seems to view all of these people with some measure of contempt, yet he is attracted enough to the phenomena of their revelry to record their presence.

The next part is Gatsby telling Nick his life story. It is so obviously a fabrication that Nick is hard pressed to keep from laughing. He doesn’t laugh, though, nor does he make any attempt to get the truth out of, or even to let Gatsby know that he knows that the story is made up. Nick would probably want us to believe that he is just “reserving judgment,” but it seems more like he is unwilling to pop Gatsby’s--or his own--bubble. In fact, that seems to be the case through most of the novel. As long as things are going well, Nick seems to go along with them.

The next part, lunch with Meyer Wolfsheim, adds another layer to the mystique of Gatsby. Wolfsheim is obviously a shady character, yet Gatsby seems eager for Nick to meet him. I have to admit that the logic of this part eludes me, but I think that Gatsby’s purpose in this chapter is to impress Nick sufficiently that he will go along with the plan to get him and Daisy together. Maybe he intended buy Nick off by making a “gonnegtion” between Nick and Wolfsheim, but aborted the attempt when he saw Nick’s surprise. Or he may just have been trying to impress Nick with how gonnected he himself was. In any case it tends to heighten the mystery of just who this Gatsby fellow really is. When he disappears after being introduced to Tom, this mystery intensifies even more.

The next part is what Joyce might call the epiphany of the chapter. We finally get enough information from Jordan to make sense of Gatsby’s bizarre behavior. The realization that Gatsby was the love of Daisy’s youth brings together all of the seemingly unrelated parts of the novel together. The hidden relationship between Daisy and Gatsby ties all the characters together in a new way, deepening the significance of Nick’s relationships with both the Buchanans and with Daisy. Nick becomes the catalyst for Gatsby’s plan.

The final part of the chapter show us how much Nick has been drawn into the world of New York society in general, and of Gatsby in particular. Not only has he allowed himself to become part of Gatsby’s plan, but he has become involved with Jordan. The romance that surrounds him has swept him away. The fact that it involves infidelity between Daisy and Tom reflects interestingly on Nick’s own predicament with his girl back home.

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