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In chapter 7 of "The Great Gatsby" Fitzgerald uses the oxymoron "unfamiliar and vaguely...

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sashie | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:22 PM via web

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In chapter 7 of "The Great Gatsby" Fitzgerald uses the oxymoron "unfamiliar and vaguely recognizable" What is the importance of that oxymoron?

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 27, 2009 at 12:09 AM (Answer #1)

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To be precise, I'm not sure it is an oxymoron in context, because the entire phrase is "at once definitely unfamiliar and vaguely recognizable, as if I had only heard it described in words." In other words, Nick hasn't ever seen that expression before, but it seems familiar, like he's heard it described. It's important because it comes so soon after that wonderful line about Daisy's voice being full of money. That's an uncommon and impossible phrase, but Nick recognizes its rightness immediately. By contrast, Gatsby's expression isn't clear to Nick. This shows several things: Gatsby fools himself about himself, but not about Daisy, Nick can recognize insight, but his own is only limited, and so on. (It's also a sign in terms of plot that the source of Gatsby's fortune will be revealed soon.)

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