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Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby describes Gatsby's "little party." What are details...

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nickoole | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:01 AM via iOS

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Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby describes Gatsby's "little party." What are details about the party itself, about the guests, and about their conversation and behavior?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 23, 2013 at 5:26 PM (Answer #1)

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In his inimical lyrical and imagist style, Fitzgerald opens Chapter Four--

On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages along shore the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby's house and twinkled hilariously on its lawn.

This sentence is connotative of the illicit activity and amoral character of Gatsby's guests who have given up their revelry in his illusionary "blue gardens" in Chapter Three. Certainly, they are not of the social class that would attend a party in East Egg. Characteristic of Gatsby's party is the wanton excess: crates of fruit arrive, "corps" of caterers come with hundreds of feet of canopies and a plethora of colored lights. There are lengthy buffet tables set with enough for a medieval feast. Inside the mansion in the main hall, a "real bar with brass footrail" is set up and stocked with liquors, gin, and drinks so old-fashioned that none of the guests even recognize them.

Serenading everyone is a complete orchestra. The falsity and moral decadence of the scene on Gatsby's lawn is conveyed by Fitzgerald's depiction of the guests,

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun and now the orchestra is playing yellow [image of corruption] cocktail music ...Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word....through the sea-change of faces of voices and color under the constantly changing light.

Continuing the image of yellow as suggestive of immorality and decadence, Nick describes two girls in "twin yellow dresses." Artificiality is also continued as actors and actresses appear. There is "a notorious contralto" who sings "in jazz" while "happy vacuous bursts of laughter" and "fraternal hilarity" increase. However, at the end of the evening, the joyous mood deflates as wives have fights with men "said to be their husbands." Some of the women are taken home, "lifted kicking into the night." 

Jordan Baker, who represents "East Egg condescending to West Egg" observes that she loves such large parties because they are "more intimate." She tells Nick, "At small parties there isn't any privacy." This remark suggests that Jordan can disguise her less than moral behavior in a crowd.  As she and Nick leave, he notes that

[A] sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with comploete isolation of the figure of the host....

Nick's parting remark underscores the unreality of Gatsby's opulent party that has so many guests who have been "brought in" while it also so significantly foreshadows his standing alone under Daisy's window in Chapter Eight as he "watches over nothing."

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