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What is the literal and figurative meaning of "raw" in the following excerpt from the...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:32 AM via web

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What is the literal and figurative meaning of "raw" in the following excerpt from the first chapter of The Great Gatsby?

The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 18, 2013 at 6:01 PM (Answer #1)

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Nick Carraway's description of Jay Gatsby's mansion illustrates the characteristics of the nouveau riche of the 1920s. As people who have acquired wealth in only one generation; they, therefore, do not have the cultural background in which refinement and good taste is acquired. In other words, although they possess wealth, their manners and tastes are "raw," unrefined. So, in his rapid accumulation of wealth, Jay Gatsby can only hope to imitate what he perceives as symbolic of prestige and cultural refinement, and he chooses a chateau from France as his mansion on West Egg, believing it will impress his neighbors. Nick subtly derogates this mansion as he narrates,

My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water,....

Interestingly, the mansion of Gatsby--a large "eye-sore," Nick implies--is ironically an imitation of "some Hotel de Ville in Normandy," Since the Normans were the conquerors of the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 and the residents of England were, of course, the ancestors of many of the socially elite of New England, the metaphoric meaning of Nick's description cannot be missed as Gatsby hopes to re-conquer Daisy.

Another meaning for "raw" is that found in the description of the ivy. Literally, it denotes new ivy on the structure; in contrast to the old, established, dark ivy on the homes of the "old families" of the East coast. The figurative meaning, then, is that Gatsby's ivy is like his new wealth: unestablished and new.

raw: not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture. dictionary.com

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