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Could you please tell me the meaning of "common" in the following sentence from The...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:44 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the meaning of "common" in the following sentence from The Great Gatsby, chapter 7, by F. Scott Fitzgerald? Does it mean "of ordinary people" or "of everyone"? 

“Madame expects you in the salon!” he cried, needlessly indicating the direction. In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life.

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may-stone | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 24, 2013 at 1:31 AM (Answer #1)

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In this context, “common” means “of everyone.”  In this scene (before the days of ubiquitous air conditioning), everyone is hot because of the summer weather, which makes the party listless; nobody feels like moving.  The butler’s gesture is unnecessary, since everyone knows where the salon is in this house, and so Nick, the narrator, notices it.  His comment in the last sentence of the quote implies that there is a stock of energy that every person shares, a “common store” of energy (like a “common room” in a dorm)—if this were the case, the butler’s use of that energy to make the gesture would have depleted the total amount of energy available to them all.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 24, 2013 at 6:19 AM (Answer #2)

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This quote occurs in Chapter 7, which is of course when Gatsby and Tom have their showdown, and is also when an incredible heat strikes the setting which is so hot that even the conductor just a few lines before says, "Hot! ... Hot! ... Hot! ... Is it hot enough for you? Is it hot? Is it...?" The heat of course represents the simmering tension that is created by the forthcoming conflict that has to happen and will happen in this chapter. The quote indicated in this question is uttered by the butler at the Buchanans' house. Nick notices that he "cried" out his words and also "needlessly" indicated where Daisy's salon was. What Nick finds annoying about this is that the energy expended by the butler is unnecessary and therefore wasting the energy of "the common store of life." Nick uses "comon" in this quote to therefore refer to the energy of everybody: so intense is the heat that any needless wasting of energy when it takes such effort to do anything is impacting everybody else, making them more exhausted. "Common" therefore in this quote does not refer to ordinary people but to the common bond of humanity that all characters share.

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