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Could you please tell me the meaning of the expression "the racy, adventurous feel of...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 18, 2013 at 11:08 PM via web

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Could you please tell me the meaning of the expression "the racy, adventurous feel of it" in the following excerpt of Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby?

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:24 AM (Answer #1)

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Having come from the Midwest, Nick Carraway has lived in a predominantly rural area where even such cities as Chicago, Illinois, or St. Louis, Missouri, lack the urbaneness and sophistication of New York. Now, exposed to the grand city of lights, Broadway plays, and sophisticated people, Nick is awed by its glamor, its "racy, adventurous feel." That is, there is an uncertainty to where they will finish their evening, or what they may witness. For, people move about quickly and spontaneously gathering somewhere until someone suggests another place to go--"the constant flicker of men and women." In his admitted "provincial inexperience," Nick finds satisfaction in observing this tremendous and somewhat hedonistic movement of life; he is temporarily drawn into the materialistic and opulent world in which people enter and exit as though upon a stage. 

Nick's reflection that he likes the "constant flicker of men and women" is followed by this passage,

I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness.

New York provides Nick with fantasy, something he has not experienced in the solid, earthy Midwest. Thus, Nick has a dreamlike quality which will allow him to better understand Gatsby.




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