“I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew.” (4)
The name Midas is a classical allusion that refers to King Midas, the man who was given the ability to turn anything he touched to gold. Morgan is a historical allusion to J. Pierpont Morgan, a successful, wealthy banker and financer, who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. J. Pierpont Morgan was also an avid art and book collector. Mæcenas is a historical reference to Gaius Mæcenas, a roman diplomat and wealthy supporter of celebrated poets including Virgil and Horace.
These three people were all wealthy, successful people, such as those that live on Long Island. In this quote, Nick says he “bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities,” with the intention of becoming as successful as Midas and Morgan and Mæcenas, or at least his fellow Long Islanders. This quote reveals to the reader Nick’s aspiration and determination to be like his wealthy and successful “friends” that are not worth anything near how rich they are. So I wonder why Nick would want to be like them.
“They [East and West Eggs of Long Island] are not perfect ovals – like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed flat at the contact end – but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly over head.” (5)
The egg in the Columbus story is a historical allusion to Christopher Columbus’ journey around the world. One time, at a dinner party in Columbus’ honor, some men began to mock him. Columbus gives the men a task; to make an egg stand up straight. After each man had tried and declared the impossibility of doing such a thing, Columbus takes the egg and makes it stand straight by crushing the shell. He then says, “gentlemen, what is easier than to do this which you said was impossible? It is the simplest thing in the world. Anybody can do it—after he has been shown how.”
East and West egg seem to be perfect ovular eggs, but in reality, are crushed. Although they appear to be perfect to the innocent, or in this case “the gulls that fly over head,” they are full of error and imperfections, which is only apparent to those who have lived there and witnessed these flaws up close.
“We backed up to a gray old man who bore an absurd resemblance to John D. Rockefeller.” (27)
This is a historical allusion to John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller was a robber baron; he was a capitalist in the oil business who gained his riches through others’ work and benefited unfairly through the use of natural resources.
Nick is quick to notice the man on the street as being suspicious, comparing him to John D. Rockefeller, when in reality, he is overlooking the resemblance between Gatsby and Rockefeller. Rockefeller, a man driven by competition, represents the competitive nature of the citizens of Long Island.
“Suddenly one of these gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform.” (41)
A popular allusion, Frisco refers to Joe Frisco, a famous jazz dancer at the beginning of the twentieth century.
With his series of shuffles, camel walks and turns, derby hat and cigar, and backing dance line of beautiful women, Frisco was ostentatious with all his performances. In 1958, he died of cancer with not a penny to his name. After his death he was quickly forgotten. Gatsby, too, hid behind glamorous parties. When his death came, he was not poor in wealth, but in friendship, and he and his flashy parties were soon forgotten as well.
“‘Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.’ Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back...
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