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What did F. Scott Fitzgerald mean by his use of the word "obtrusive" in the following...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted September 11, 2013 at 9:20 PM via web

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What did F. Scott Fitzgerald mean by his use of the word "obtrusive" in the following passage from the Chapter VI of "The Great Gatsby?":

"She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented 'place' that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village—appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing."

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kipling2448 | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 11, 2013 at 9:56 PM (Answer #1)

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Fitzgerald, early in his 1925 classic of American literature, The Great Gatsby, has his narrator, Nick Carraway, draw the stark contrast between the part of Long Island on which he lived, the West Egg, and the more upscale section where the Buchanans lived, the East Egg:

"I lived at West Egg, the -- well, the less fashionable of the two . . . Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans."

The West Egg assumes additional importance in Chapter VI, when Nick observes Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan's interactions during one of Gatsby's famed parties, which took place at the title character's mansion, also on the West Egg:

"Perhaps his [Tom Buchanan's] presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness -- it stands out in my memory from Gatsby's other parties that summer . . . I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn't been there before.  Or perhaps Ihad merely grown used to it, grown to accept West Egg as a world complete in itself . . . and now I was looking at through Daisy's eyes.  It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."

Nick Carroway has lived a socially inferior existence, exemplified by his residency in the more garish section of Long Island in which Gatsby presumes to a greater respectability than is no doubt deserved.  It is in this context that Daisy, who lives a more "proper" and fashionable existence in East Egg, observes the section in which Nick lives.  The "too obtrusive fate" to which he refers in the passage in question is intended to evoke the social and cultural inferiority of this part of New York while emphasizing Daisy's obvious discomfort in her surroundings.  As Nick has come to identify himself with this particular  part of Long Island, Daisy's perceptions of it affect him viscerally:  "She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand."  Nick is living a very different existence than those to whom he has wished to associated himself.  The setting and the people are not to what the Buchanans are accustomed.  To quote Tom Buchanan, "A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know."

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