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Describe the ambiguity in Nick's initial description of Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

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scruff311 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 31, 2012 at 4:34 PM via web

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Describe the ambiguity in Nick's initial description of Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:43 PM (Answer #1)

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Nick's initial encounter with Gatsby is made at a distance. Upon returning from his visit to Tom and Daisy's mansion, Nick observes Gatsby standing outside on his property. Nick had not yet actually met Gatsby, but knew that the imposing property next to his very small dwelling was owned by a millionaire named Gatsby, who was obviously wealthy if he was living in such a place.

Watching from a distance, Nick observes "leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn," suggesting to Nick that Gatsby was very confident of himself and his position in the universe.

Nick thinks about greeting his neighbor, but changes his mind. At first, Nick assumes he simply wants to be alone, but then he makes a curious observation. "He (Gatsby) stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling." This was not the action he expected from a self-assured individual who was completely comfortable with his life situation. Nick was unable to observe anything that might have explained Gatsby's actions, since there was nothing in the direction Gatsby was looking "except a single green light, minute and far way, that might have been the end of a dock."

Gatsby goes inside before Nick is able to see him again. Nick's impression of the night is changed by his observations, however. The pleasant "loud, bright night" when he returned home is described at the end of the chapter, after watching Gatsby, as "the unquiet darkness" - a sense of something unsettled, something foreboding is left with Nick after his distant encounter with Gatsby.

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