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Could you please tell me the literal and symbolic meaning of "absolutely" in the...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted April 14, 2013 at 6:18 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the literal and symbolic meaning of "absolutely" in the following sentence of the first chapter of The Great Gatsby?

“No, thanks,” said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in from the pantry, “I'm absolutely in training.”

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 15, 2013 at 3:20 PM (Answer #1)

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There is some humor in this line, but the term "absolutely" means "definitely" or "without compromise". 

In this era, an assertion of unnecessary strength like this one carries the humor of overstatement. This similar to hyperbole. 

Hyperbole - obvious and deliberate exaggeration or an extravagant statement. It is a figure of speech not intended to be taken literally since it is exaggeration for the sake of emphasis.

The idea that this line is intended to be humorous is reinforced by the phrase, "said Miss Baker to the four cocktails". While she is saying no to the implicit offer of cocktails, Fitzgerald purposefully phrases the line to emphasize the ambiguity (Is she speaking to the cocktails or "speaking to" the implicit offer?)

This verbal play is meant to be funny as is Miss Baker's statement about being "absolutely in training". Daisy's response suggests that Miss Baker is not being truthful and so is simply speaking for effect - to make an impression on Nick. 

Nick/Fitzgerald records Daisy's response to Jordan's refusal of a drink with this line: 

"Her host looked at her incredulously."

Daisy, a person who knows Jordan as well as anyone, cannot believe that she has turned down the drink. This detail also adds to the humor of Jordan's line. 

The idea that she is so emphatic about something that is not true is comical. 

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