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Could you please tell me the precise meaning of "underneath it all" in the following...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted August 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the precise meaning of "underneath it all" in the following excerpt from chapter four of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby? Does it mean "after all"?

“Did I have to know all this before he could ask such a little thing?”

“He’s afraid. He’s waited so long. He thought you might be offended. You see, he’s a regular tough underneath it all.”

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 10, 2013 at 5:01 PM (Answer #1)

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The reference to Gatsby being "a regular tough underneath it all" appears in chapter four of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The phrase comes up in a conversation between Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway. During this conversation about Gatsby, Jordan offers readers a little insight into the character of the infamous Gatsby.

What Gatsby's "a regular tough underneath it all" refers to is that he is not the idol or icon the people of West Egg believe him to be. Instead, Gatsby is "a tough" (used as a noun), not "tough" used as an adjective. The meaning of tough as a noun refers to violent. Therefore, Jordan is stating that Gatsby is a violent person "underneath it all."

"It all" refers to all of the stereotypes and characterizations the people of West Egg have placed upon Gatsby. "Underneath" refers to the real Gatsby. Therefore, the entire phrase refers to the fact that Gatsby is a violent man regardless of what others have painted him to be.

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