The title character of The Great Gatsby is a young man, around thirty years old, who rose from an impoverished childhood in rural North Dakota to become fabulously wealthy. Indeed, Gatsby has become famous around New York for the elaborate parties held every weekend at his mansion, ostentatious spectacles to which people long to be invited. And yet, Nick Carraway’s description of the protagonist asserts that Gatsby seems curiously out of place among the ‘whole damn bunch’ which inhabit this lavish, showy world. Indeed, despite the aura of criminality surrounding his occupation, his love and loyalty to Daisy Buchanan and ultimately his capacity to dream, set him apart from the inhabitants of East Egg and West Egg.
A key criticism made in Nick’s first person, self-aware and retrospective narration is that the ‘whole damn bunch’ entertained by Gatsby lives in extravagance. In Chapter Three, comparative adjectives and adverbs allude to the idea that the parties they attend grow ever increasingly lavish; the narrator expresses how ‘laughter is easier’, an ‘opera of voices pitches a key higher’ and ‘groups change more quickly’. In fact, the sheer scale of the operation required to keep them excited is emphasised by details that Nick gives, including ‘a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.’ But the ‘vacuous bursts of laughter’ and the dancing ‘in eternal graceless circles’ lend a degree of artificiality to the proceedings. Indeed, the tone of the narration reveals another major shortcoming, suggesting that this outward show of opulence by the inhabitants of West Egg and East Egg is used to cover up their inner corruption and moral decay. This decadence is first exemplified by the length of festivities. Nick states that after ‘the first supper’,