Let's talk Jay Gatsby! We know that he is the central character of this novel, and yet we don't learn much about him until Chapter 3. It seems to me that authors usually like to introduce that main character to us much earlier than we see here. In some ways, holding off until this third chapter added this element of mystery that has been built around him.
Right off, I have to say that I loved the descriptions about the party. Maybe it's the foodie in me, but I love some good food references along with the style, fashion, and mood of the scene. The mention of the oranges, the baked meats, and varied liquor all gave it that extra luxurious feel. Fitzgerald didn't have to tell us Gatsby was rich, he SHOWED us in the most alluring ways.
The one thing I noticed outside of the visuals created by the party was the references to colors, "his blue gardens" (39), "yellow cocktail music" (40), and "a uniform of robin-egg's blue" (41). These interested me mainly because I couldn't quite put together why certain colors matched what it was describing. I can see the uniform being a blue color, maybe as a certain stand out color, but gardens that are blue or music that is yellow? I've been mulling that one and have only determined that they lend a certain tone and interest factor to the scene.
What descriptions most stood out to you as you read these chapters?
He smiled understandingly--much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance over it, that you may come across four of five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, hoped to convey. (48)I loved this description of Gatsby, and have to say that besides feeling somewhat sad for him for not being involved in his own parties, I also can see how his actions and descriptions like this make us want to know Gatsby's background so we can understand him better. What kind of sadness lurks behind a facade like this?
So, what is Gatsby's story? He pulls Jordan Baker aside, which Nick later learns has to do with her connection to Daisy. He hears rumors of Gatsby being a bootlegger and a German spy. Then, in chapter 4 Gatsby, himself, introduces Nick to Mr. Wolfsheim--the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series?!? All of the stories, and Gatsby's own "side-eyed" account of his life at Oxford, in the Great War, and awarded a medal of honor from places like Montenegro, all seem too colorful to believe. If true, what a colorful and interesting character.
Once again, I find Nick an interesting observer in all of this. Is Gatsby's interest in Nick just because of his connection to Daisy, and the fact that he is Gatsby's next door neighbor?
My favorite part of the reading for this last section was Jordan Baker's reminiscences and story. We finally get to hear about Daisy's early connection to Jay Gatsby prior to the war, followed by her marriage to Tom--who cheats on Daisy within a week of their marriage. After telling Daisy's story, Jordan reveals her sympathy for all Daisy has put up with in Tom and tells Nick, "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired. And Daisy ought to have something in her life" (79). In other words, she wants Nick to host Daisy at his home so that she can look onto Gatsby's property.
These are interesting turns in the story, and I really was left wondering how Nick is supposed to feel about all of this. Isn't he being pulled into a drama that can only be bad news? These are high-rollers he's associating with, who are "cheating" in their personal and public lives. At this point in the story, let the drama ensue!
We're obviously setting the ground work for additional drama to come. Here are just a few questions I wanted to pose and have been considering:
- What do you think of Gatsby's absence from his own parties?
- Is Gatsby a character you feel sympathy or cynicism towards?
- Are we supposed to feel for Daisy as Jordan does, and if she really wanted to meet up with Gatsby again, wouldn't she already have done it?
- Is there anything else that stood out to you or you questioned?
Just as a reminder, the next couple of days we'll be reading Chapters 5-6. Happy reading! I hope to see what you're thinking!