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Could you please tell me the precise meaning of "dignified" in Chapter V of The Great...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 5, 2013 at 4:19 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the precise meaning of "dignified" in Chapter V of The Great Gatsby, when Gatsby and Daisy meet again after five years of separation?

She turned her head as there was a light dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.

Does it mean "very measured," "with great restraint?"

Thank you.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 5, 2013 at 5:07 PM (Answer #1)

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In this context, "dignified" does imply a sense of restraint and being serious. Gatsby's been waiting for this moment for five years. When Daisy approaches, he panics and runs out. When he comes back to the door, he is apprehensive, anxious, and tentative. That's why his knocking is restrained and tentative. Gatsby is terrified that the moment will not live up to his expectations and/or he is terrified that he will not live up to Daisy's expectations. For a few moments, his anxiety relegates him to the young, naive boy that he once was. This is fitting since he is trying to relive the past. But he has built himself up over a five year period and wanted to impress Daisy with his wealth and sophistication. However, during the first moments of their reunion, Gatsby is "restrained" and awkward. Notice the moment when he knocks over Nick's clock, as Gatsby's anxiety manifests in an awkward and clumsy moment: 

His eyes glanced momentarily at me, and his lips parted with an abortive attempt at a laugh. Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers, and set it back in place. Then he sat down, rigidly, his elbow on the arm of the sofa and his chin in his hand. 

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