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Gatsby Ain't So Great

February 08, 2005

Two scenes in particular have stood out to me in my reading of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby":

The first is when Nick, Tom Buchanan, Myrtle and friends are at Mrytle's apartment drinking. Myrtle cries out at one point, "I'm going to give you this dress as soon as I'm through with it. I've got to get another one tomorrow. I'm going to make a list of all the things I've got to get."

This story is about people who have so much money that they can get a new dress on a whim and give the old one to a friend. This reminds me of a very scary Paris Hilton on David Letterman, encouraging him first to change his name to London and then bragging about only wearing each fancy schmancy dress she owns only one time.

Later in the evening, when Mrs. Wilson and Tom Buchanan are fighting over whether or not Myrtle has the right to mention Tom's wife's name, an episode of violence erupts:

"Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand."

What stands out to me is not so much the fact that Tom broke his lover's nose, which is awful as it is, but that none of the other parties goers seemed much to care! I mean, the women complained loudly as they stumbled around cleaning up the blood, but Mr. McKee just kind of looked around and said "screw this!" and left, followed closely by Nick.

This leads me to think, then, that perhaps violence towards women was not as frowned down upon as it is today. Obviously a man beating the crap outta his mistress was a-okay. To me, that action was absolutely appalling! If that happened today, I would hope that at the very least one of the men would step up and say "Hey, that's so not cool." Then again, we see so many women staying with men who abuse them that maybe the violence is just as prevalent but more subversive than it used to be. What do you think?

Another scene that caught my attention was the party at Gatsby's house:

"In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

This sentence displays an incongruency in the way that men and women are viewed in this culture. Note that the party-goers are men, implying mature and secure individuals, and girls, implying giggling mindless idiots. (well, i think so). Where does the power lie in this situation? With the men, of course. The introductory paragraph continues to describe Gatsby's two cars, eight servants, including a gardner.

This paragraph in particular caught my attention:

"Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York - every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen would 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."

This paragraph illustrates the sheer material excess of the culture where Gatsby is the King: Five crates of oranges and lemons is a whole crapload of oranges and lemons, probably dozens and dozens of the things. Then, we have this amazing machine that can extract the juice of 200 oranges in only half an hour, truly an amazing feat that Gatsby could brag about to his friends. Of course no one cares about the butler standing back in the kitchen pressing the button. The butler is lower class and therefore indispensable.

Moira at 01:41 PM :: Comments (4) :: ::
Comments:

Paris Hilton...I won't even get started on that for fear of being banned from the blogs system because I cannot stand her and the things I could say...HOWEVER, very amusing analogy.

As for the scene with Myrtle and her dress. I apparently missed somewhere that Myrtle had money? Or was Tom going to buy it for her? Because I thought she came from a frowned-upon-side-of-town and her husband owned a gas station or something of the like, I wouldn't think they would be too rich and she especially does not come off as the sophisicated aristocratic type that most of the other characters do.

About the broken nose incident. I felt that the only reason no one paid much attention to it was because they were all drunk. They could have just written it off. Or because as you said, maybe that type of violence was not as frowned upon as it is in our day and age. Also, maybe because she was his mistress so no one cared since she wasn't technically tied to him like Daisy was. She was just his floosie when he felt like catching a call.

I also don't think Gatsby's intent was to brag to everyone else, as in your example for the oranges and lemons. I do however, believe he wanted to brag and impress Daisy - hence why he got all Gothy McEmo when he felt she didn't enjoy his party and presence at the end of Chapter Six.

However, I've never read the story before, so I could be wrong on a lot of my assumptions.

Posted by: Lesley at February 8, 2005 07:14 PM

Moira:

I thought that the story between Gatsby and Daisy was adorable. I can't believe that didn't stand out to you. I guess maybe it's just me.

I haven't yet reached the sections you are talking about, however I will be sure to pay close attention to those that you pointed out.

I would have to also agree with you that yes, women abuse was not nearly frowned upon enough in the day's of Gatsby. I think that had women stood up for themseleves sooner that things would have been better.

Lesley:

I think that Gatsby's parties were meant, as Jordan says, to draw Daisy to him and then when that didn't work Gatsby used Nick...

Posted by: Tiffany at February 9, 2005 12:11 AM

hola ladies! i actually haven't finished reading the chapters yet so although what both of you are saying is probably true, i haven't gotten far enough into the book to make sense of it! i was just pointing out two things that i noticed, whether or not they have anything to do with the story as a whole (which, apparently, they don't!) ;c) I'll keep what you said in mind as I continue reading.

Lesley - I'm going to reread that part with the dress. Perhaps she was being facetious and I didn't catch it? ;c)

Posted by: moira at February 9, 2005 08:12 AM

Myrtle IS poor. She wants to make a list to buy before Tom leaves her and she has no more access to the good life.

As for the nose breaking, he did this to her because she dared mention his wife's name, especially after he told her not to. Compare it to the scene with Daisy in Ch 1, who sassed Tom and repeated the word "hulking" after he said he hated the word. He could not punch Daisy; he could punch Myrtle. He was telling Myrtle, in effect, "I may sleep with you and buy you things, but don't ever think you are anywhere near as good as my wife, you low-class whore."

Posted by: camille at October 28, 2005 07:23 AM
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