The Great Gatsby – Study Guide
1. Why is Nick Carraway made the narrator?
The device of giving Nick the function of narrator lends psychic distance from the story. Nick is part of the action, yet he is not one of the principals. He shares some of the emotions and is in a position to interpret those of the others. However, the happens are not center on him.
2. What kind of relationship exists between Nick and the Buchanans? It is completely superficial. He speaks of them as dear friends he barely knows. Actually, the relationship between Gatsby and his sponging guests is hardly less meaningful, and the comparison is a striking one.
3. Why does Daisy always speak in such exaggerated phrases? By overdoing her remarks she manages to minimize everything she says. If she describes something as utterly wonderful instead of merely nice, she makes it seem quite ordinary. She makes everything sound important which reveals nothing is important to her.
4. What is the significance of Tim’s reference to the book he is reading? First, the content of the book implies a certain lack of intellect on Tom’s part. Secondly, it reveals Tom’s belief that the dominant race must stay in control, that lesser races must be beaten off, an attitude he displays toward Gatsby, whose background places him in a different world.
5. Why does Daisy hope her child will be a beautiful fool? To her superficial appearance is all that matters, so beauty is a necessity. Intelligence, however, might be a hazard, for Daisy lives in a world that does not hold up under inspection, and if she really thought about her life, she might find it unbearable.
6. Why does Nick feel that Daisy is trying to show off her cynicism? This is a current upper-class pose and by adopting it Daisy not only identifies herself as part of a fashionable group, but disposes of the need to live a meaningful life, since life has no meaning anyway.
7. Why does Daisy describe her youth as a “white girlhood”? On a literal level, she always dressed in white and even drove a white car. More important, she remembers her youth as a time of innocence and charming simplicity, in contrast to the tawdry existence she has in the present.
8. Why does Gatsby reach out to the water?
He is so near and yet so far. It has taken him five years to come this close to his dream, so close that he can reach out his arms to the light across the bay. This image remains throughout the novel – Gatsby stretching out his arms toward an elusive goal that he cannot quite reach.
1. Why is Wilson covered with dust from the ashes?
He is a dead character, in contrast to the tough vitality of his wife. (The ashes do not cover her). Tom says that Wilson is too stupid to know that he is alive; the others pay no more attention to him than if he actually were dead.
2. Why does Myrtle Wilson behave with such hauteur, both toward her husband and in the city apartment?
Her arrogance satirizes the arrogance of the entire social structure. She believes herself to be “somebody” and looks down on her inferiors. Most of the people in this novel are involved in climbing the slippery ladder toward social success, grasping frantically for the rung above and kicking down at those on the rung below.
3. Why does Nick see himself as both on the outside and inside of the apartment? He may be in it, but he does not consider himself of it. He wants no part of these people or their cheap involvement. He is as isolated from them as he later is from Gatsby’s party.
4. What is ironic about Myrtle saying “You can’t live forever”? She is recalling that his idea motivated her to go off with Tom when he first approached her. The irony lies in the fact that her death is caused by her eagerness later to go off with Tom.
5. What two facets of Tom’s personality are revealed when he...
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