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Could you please tell me the literal (comedy?) and figurative meaning of "extravaganza"...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted April 27, 2013 at 12:17 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the literal (comedy?) and figurative meaning of "extravaganza" in the following excerpt of the chapter eight of The Great Gatsby?

It was this night that he told me the strange story of his youth with Dan Cody—told it to me because “Jay Gatsby” had broken up like glass against Tom’s hard malice and the long secret extravaganza was played out. I think that he would have acknowledged anything, now, without reserve, but he wanted to talk about Daisy.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 27, 2013 at 3:54 PM (Answer #1)

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As the word suggests, an "extravaganza" is an extravagant display which relies heavily on lavish and spectacular effects, especially in costuming and decorations. An extravaganze is not necessarily a comedy, although some extravaganzas can be comedies or include comedy. It is hard to imagine an extravaganza without beautiful girls in unusual costumes, without loud music, plenty of glitz and razzle-dazzle. The word always seems to suggest phoniness because extravaganzas place so much emphasis on dazzling with noise and color and are so lacking in sincerity or meaning.

The narrator is saying flatly that Gatsby had been putting on an extravaganza at his big mansion and that he himself was the principal performer in that extravaganza. All of it was meant to attract and impress Daisy. Tom Buchanan had destroyed the spectacle by finding out and exposing the truth about Gatsby, which was that he was a gangster, a hoodlum, an imposter and an interloper. The whole story of The Great Gatsby was built on the conflict of two men over one woman, and Tom Buchanan had won. The prize herself was not intrinsically valuable; Daisy was just a trophy.

I don't know why Fitzgerald called Gatsby's extravaganza a "secret," but, of course, it was full of secrecy, including the source of Gatsby's wealth, his associates, his purpose for throwing extravagant parties, and his extravagant dreams about Daisy.

 

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