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Gatsby orders Klipspringer, called the "boarder" because he is always there, to play the piano when he, Nick and Daisy are touring Gatsby's mansion the day that Daisy and Gatsby meet again for the first time in almost five years. Klipspringer plays two songs that were popular in the 1920s and that readers would have recognized, 1921's "Ain't We Got Fun," and "The Love Nest," written in 1920. (You can hear both on Youtube to a get a flavor of the time.)
The songs are both significant for their ironies, especially when juxtaposed against each other. "The Love Nest" is a song about houses. It says that a "love nest," a small house on a farm with a vine and a rambling rose, but filled with "warmth and love inside," is better for than a "palace with a gilded dome" or a house built for "pride." Ironically Gatsby is, at this very moment, showing Daisy a house built for pride, a palace, an ostentatious showplace meant to bowl her over with its glamor and grandeur. The second song, the one quoted in the chapter, is a satire that undercuts even the notion of being happy in a humble home. "Ain't we got fun" is an ironic refrain that the singer repeats over and over after outlining all the ways the couple is falling into poverty. The song opens with bill collectors gathering round, moves to unpaid rent and finally to the singer being laid off from work.
Both songs are about money, certainly an obsession of Gatsby's, and both cast doubt on his ability to hold Daisy: he is wooing her with "palaces," which she already has through Tom, and the second song hints that perhaps his "palace" is built on an insubstantial basis: how long will his wealth last and will they "have fun" if it goes? The second song also brings up children and the passage of time, as the quote Fitzgerald includes in the novel indicates: "the poor get—children ... in the meantime, in between time ..." Both children and time are uncomfortable realities for Gatsby, who doesn't want to deal with Daisy's child or the idea that time changes things.
It is directly after hearing "Ain't We Got Fun" that "the expression of bewilderment" returned to Gatsby's face, as if he doubts "the quality of his present happiness." Both songs, but especially "Ain't We Got Fun," foreshadow Gatsby's loss of Daisy, even as he is at the the high point in realizing his dream of regaining her and starting over again.
The song is all about people who have no money, but are extremely happy. The song sets the mood for the entire novel. Gatsby has spent so much of his time by trying to get enough money to get Daisy to love him. Daisy is extremely wealthy, but married to a man she doesn't love and who cheats on her. Gatsby and Daisy both have money and are both unhappy. The song is saying that it doesn't matter if we have money or not, we are just happy together. Gatsby knows that Daisy would never be happy without money, so he thought by getting rich, he could make Daisy happy. Daisy isn't happy, no matter who much money she has. She is a miserable woman and being wealthy doesn't change that fact.
The whole story is about Gatsby getting rich so he would be worthy of Daisy. He has now made it in life, he is rich and now has a chance to prove that to Daisy. In the end, however, we know that money can't make you happy, and it certainly can't make someone love you. Although both Gatsby and Daisy are wealthy, neither one of them is happy.
The song is ironic for several reasons. First, the lyrics refer to people who have little money but manage to live happy lives. Gatsby and Daisy are both enormously wealthy, yet their lives are not happy. It also reminds us that ironically Daisy originally rejected him because he had no money. Now, however, she is happily awed by his mansion and beautiful shirts and clearly attracted to Gatsby again. Klipspringer plays this lighthearted song as Gatsby and Daisy celebrate their reunion, but their getting together again is not spontaneous because Gatsby has carefully orchestrated it.
The website listed below provides the lyrics for the entire song.
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