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Describe Gatsby's father in chapter 9?

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corinne18 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2012 at 8:20 AM via web

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Describe Gatsby's father in chapter 9?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2012 at 10:07 AM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby, the illusionary dreams of Jay Gatsby have come to a crashing end, Nick recalls after two years.  The scene of Gatsby's home was a "nightmare, grotesque, circumstantial, eager and untrue."  After all that has happened, Nick finds that he is alone "on Gatsby's side" because "no one else was interested."

Significantly, on the third day after Gatsby has been murdered, a letter arrives from Henry C. Gatz in Minnesota, saying that he is leaving immediately.  When Mr. Gatz knocks on his door, Nick opens it to a man whose face is flushed, "his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears."  Mr. Gatz is an older man, no longer shocked by death, Nick states.  Yet, any grief that Gatz has seems mitigated by the "awed pride" that Mr. Gatz feels when he looks around the splendid hall and large rooms that open one into another.  After being led to one of the bedrooms, Mr. Gatz tells Nick proudly how Jay had "a lot of brain power" and would have become a great man if he had lived.  Then, after fumbling with the coverlet on the bed, he lay down in a stiff manner and fell instantly asleep.

Then, on the morning of the funeral, rather than appearing grieved, Mr. Gatz paces excitedly in the hall.  Nick narrates,

His pride in his son and in his son's possessions was continually increasing and now he had something to show me....It was a photograph of the house, cracked in the corners and dirty with many hands.  He pointed out every detail to me eagerly.

After holding this picture fondly for some time, Mr. Gatz shows Nick a Hopalong Cassidy book in which a detailed schedule is written on the back cover.  Gatz says to Nick, "I come across this book by accident....It just shows you, don't it?"  To this, Nick ironically replies, "It just shows you."

From his reactions to his son's house, his own actions of displaying a worn picture of this mansion that he carries and apparently displays often, it is obvious that Mr. Gatz is impressed with his son's success and his material possessions much more than he is grieved over his son's untimely death.  That he is not much grieved over losing his son is evinced in his "unpunctual tears" and by his so easily falling asleep in his son's empty house.  And, because he has only an old book from his son's childhood indicates that he and his son probably had not been close, a fact which would explain his lack of grief over Gatsby's death.  He can only take pride in what his son owned, not in anything that they did together.

By his diction ("I come across this book" and "It just shows you, don't it?"), it is also apparent that Mr. Gatz is poorly educated and of a lower socio-economic class, providing some explanation to his being impressed with his son's wealth and success, no matter how it was attained.

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