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What is the meaning of "resourcefulness of movement" in this extract from chapter 4 of...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:59 PM via web

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What is the meaning of "resourcefulness of movement" in this extract from chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby?

He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American—that comes, I suppose, with the absence of lifting work or rigid sitting in youth and, even more, with the formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games. This quality was continually breaking through his punctilious manner in the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.

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appletrees | College Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted March 28, 2013 at 3:48 AM (Answer #1)

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The narrator is describing a type of movement and physicality that embodies both grace and restlessness. That it is somehow emblematic of being "American" expresses a frequent theme in Fitzgerald's writing, in which being American is often seen at worst as a source of shame or, at the very leastm the reason for a vague yearning to advance beyond one's upbringing. The "resourcefulness" suggests a body that is not comfortable being still, always wanting to move, to change, to experience what comes next. This speaks to another theme that runs through the novel: ambition driven by a desire to transform oneself into something greater than one's origins. Gatsby himself is the prime example: he rises from humble beginnings to be wealthy and admired, and does so to prove himself worthy of Daisy's love but also of Daisy's world of wealth and privilege.

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