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Could you please tell me the literal and metaphorical meaning of "to fight off...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 8, 2013 at 2:17 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the literal and metaphorical meaning of "to fight off interferences" in the following excerpt of the last chapter of The Great Gatsby?

 

One afternoon late in October I saw Tom Buchanan. He was walking ahead of me along Fifth Avenue in his alert, aggressive way, his hands out a little from his body as if to fight off interference, his head moving sharply here and there, adapting itself to his restless eyes. Just as I slowed up to avoid overtaking him he stopped and began frowning into the windows of a jewelry store. Suddenly he saw me and walked back holding out his hand.

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

Posted April 8, 2013 at 2:56 PM (Answer #1)

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The idea that Tom looks prepared to "fight off interference" means that Tom will not allow anyone to interfere with his progress down the sidewalk. He is determined and prepared to physically insist on continuing along his path. If he had to, he might push his way through a crowd or past a man attempting to stand in his way.

We might draw a sports analogy and suggest that Tom is moving like a determined soccer player toward the ball. If an opposing player were to challenge him for the ball or attempt to impede his progress, Tom would fend off the opponent aggressively, using his arms. 

Tom's physical bearing is repeated in this section once again, further associating him with brute strength and even some brutality of mindset. Tom is a bruiser, an intimidating physical presence, and he is willing to use this trait to his advantage to get what he wants. 

The overall impression the reader has of this character is his physical power and brute strength.

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