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Could you please tell me the meaning of "ghostly" in the following passage of The Great...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted March 25, 2013 at 8:56 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the meaning of "ghostly" in the following passage of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapter 5?

Almost five years! There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 25, 2013 at 10:43 PM (Answer #1)

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During the five years Gatsby had been separated from Daisy, he built up a conception of her in his mind that became less realistic and more idealistic over time. As stated in the quote, his idealistic vision of her had became an illusion. That vision "had gone beyond her" beyond the real Daisy, the real person changing in time. Gatsby was trying to relive the past, and this would require him to reunite with the Daisy he fell in love with five years before. She, of course, changed and got married so she was not the same. Gatsby made the vision even more unrealistic by idealizing it, making it impossible for Daisy to ever live up to his vision of her. Therefore, his vision of her was beyond her; it was not her, it was an apparition, "ghostly" and unreal, a metaphysical vision. 

Gatsby himself is haunted by his personal past and his past visions of Daisy. In becoming Gatsby, he had to run from his small town persona of Gatz (his true beginning); Gatsby is always haunted by the past. He is haunted by ghosts and he creates and chases them (the impossibly idealized Daisy). Gatsby is preoccupied with ghosts: his heart is therefore "ghostly." 

Fitzgerald uses the word "ghostly" in other places in the novel. In Chapter 6 when Tom and Daisy go to one of Gatsby's parties, Gatsby points out a famous person, perhaps trying to impress Daisy and Tom: 

“Perhaps you know that lady.” Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy stared, with that peculiarly unreal feeling that accompanies the recognition of a hitherto ghostly celebrity of the movies. 

First, the woman is so beautiful that she doesn't seem human. More significantly, Tom and Daisy seemed to have an "unreal" feeling when seeing a celebrity in person for the first time. Prior to seeing this celebrity, she had been like a ghost; unreal. There is an interesting connection here. Daisy is like a celebrity to Gatsby. He put her on such a pedestal. Like Tom's and Daisy's reaction to the celebrity, Daisy had been like a ghost to Gatsby until he finally reunited with her. 

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