A Smile Is Worth A Thousand Words

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"It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or 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 like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey." The Great Gatsby p. 48

 

A splendid example of how lovely words can be.  I imagine that even Gatsby's actual smile would have lacked the luster of the text Fitzgerald used to describe it.  I have yet to come across such a smile in my own life, hopefully someday. To possess a smile capable of so much reassurance would be a talent worth mastering.  More to the point, I think the smile gave away the true nature of Gatsby's character; behind the rumors and the role he attempts to play emerges the "fundamental decencies" of human character mentioned previously on page 2. Decencies which are as the author reminds us "parcelled out unequally at birth."

Another thing, I was curious about perhaps a less obvious significance to those eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg (p. 23) considering the design on the front cover also features a pair of peering blue eyes?  

 Original Dust Jacket

5 Comments

Rachael Sarver said:

I find it interesting that you chose that quote; it is something that I overlooked. Smiling is a simple human gesture that can make a world of difference. You can tell when a smile is fake or genuine, malicious or kind. Nick seems to see something in Gatsby's smile that is endearing and says something about his character.

Andrew Adams said:

Passages such as these make me really enjoy F. Scott Fitzgerald's writing. Depicting a smile in such a way really brings his character's to life, and adds to the mystery and allure of Gatsby. Gatsby is obviously great, but we do not know why yet at the point in the story where this quote comes from.

The eyes are certainly important. There's also the owl-eyed gentleman at the party, and the weeping singer whose eyes drip mascara. Different editions of the book will have different covers, so you'd need to look at the cover of the original 1925 edition of the book -- maybe you can find an image of that cover on Amazon or at books.google.com? If the design is something that a recent editor chose, without consulting Fitzgerald, then we can see the design as evidence that the publisher thinks the eyes motif is important, but the cover of the book doesn't really tell us much about what the book's original audience might have made out of the many references to eyes.

April Minerd said:

I found some note worthy tidbits about the original dust jacket for The Great Gatsby from an article on the University of South Carolina's website. In advance to the books publication a cover was designed by an artist named Francis Cugat. Apparently this cover has been revered as "the most celebrated, and widely disseminated, jacket art in twentieth-century American literature." During finalization of his book Fitzgerald was quoted from correspondences with editor, Maxwell Perkins, as saying, “For Christs sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me. I’ve written it into the book.” There are also a few opinions about what and who the eyes might represent. If anyone would like to read the actual article, I added a link to my original blog above.

April M. Minerd said:

I looked and found what appears a valid article on the original dust jacket. The source of that article quotes a comment Fitzgerald made about writing the cover into the book. I placed a link to the information on my original blog.

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