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Allusions are references in a text which refer to something outside of the text, such as books, movies, historical figures, the Bible, songs...and more, of course.
Fitzgerald uses allusions throughout this novel. Here's one:
Nick has invited Daisy to his cottage as a favor to Gatsby. She doesn't really know why she's there and asks Nick, teasingly, if he's in love with her. He answers and says:
"That's the secret of Castle Rackrent" (p. 90).
This allusion comes from an old Irish novel in which the ownership of the family estate (Castle Rackrent) is under much speculation--and the final resolution remains unknown to the reader. Here, then, Nick tells her she's just going to have to live without knowing.
Perhaps the most memorable allusion is in Chapter One. When Nick Carraway meets Tom Buchanan, Tom emerges as supercilious and arrogant. When Nick innocuously remarks, "You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy," his words are taken up in "an unexpected way" by Tom, who breaks out violently,
"Civilization's going to pieces,...I've gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Coloured Empires by this man Goddard?"
The Rise of the Coloured Empires was written by Lothrop Goddard; it postulates the collapse of the white empire and colonialism, because of the rise in population of the black people. Ironically, Tom misinterprets Goddard's book because Goddard did not advocate a white race bid for world domination as Tom wants to believe. Instead Goddard questions the white man's right to invade other countries and impose its will upon other peoples.
Then, in Chapter Five as Nick brings Daisy to Gatsby's house, Daisy and Gatsby try to act nonchalant. Gatsby looks with "vacant eyes through a copy of Clay's Economics. Henry Clay, of course, was a prominent congressman from Kentucky who sought to bring tarriff laws against the British.
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