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In the Great Gatsby, numbers such as 3 and 5 reoccur. What could these number motifs...

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manglanda4 | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:25 PM via web

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In the Great Gatsby, numbers such as 3 and 5 reoccur. What could these number motifs represent?

Quotes:

-Dan Cody: The arrangement lasted five years, during which the boat went three times around the Continent.

-When Gatsby is young he resolves to save three dollars a week, instead of five. (174)


-Daisy gets married to Tom at 5 o'clock- “at five O'clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver" (ch. 4, p62)


-Gatsby's reunion with Daisy happens in chapter 5.


-Gatsby meets her after 5 years "Five years next November " (ch 5, p.71)

-Gatsby's funeral happens "about five O'clock …." (Ch 9 p.143)

-A band plays Three O'Clock in the Morning at one of Gatsby's parties. (110)


-Nick comes from three generations of "well-to-do people." (2)

1 Answer | Add Yours

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:47 PM (Answer #1)

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I have found some of the occurrences of numbers you refer to above, but also others:

Nick says that his family has been “prominent and well-to-do” for THREE generations. Daisy’s daughter is THREE years old. Every Friday, FIVE crates of oranges and lemons are delivered to Gatsby’s house. Gatsby was in the THIRD division during the war. Nick often walks across 33rd Street in New York City to go to Penn Station. Nick writes the names of people who came to Gatsby’s party on July 5th on an old train timetable. The horn on Gatsby’s car sounds THREE notes. Mr. Wolfsheim tells Nick and Gatsby a story about one night in New York City when FIVE of his friends were gunned down. Jordan tells Nick that when she and Daisy were young girls, she once came upon Daisy talking with a handsome young officer (Gatsby) and Daisy was so engrossed in the conversation that she didn’t even notice Jordan until she was FIVE feet away. When Gatsby has tea with Daisy at Nick’s house, he tells them that he and Daisy have not seen each other in FIVE years. Tom shows up in a riding party of THREE one afternoon at Gatsby’s, on horseback. A man fainted at Daisy’s wedding and he stayed at her house for THREE weeks afterwards. Gatsby tells Tom he only stayed at Oxford for FIVE months. At Myrtle Wilson’s funeral, at THREE o’clock her husband George starts to figure out that it was Gatsby’s car that killed Myrtle. Nick tries to call Meyer Wolfsheim to tell him about Gatsby’s murder and the operator tells Nick he has rung the number THREE times. Gatsby’s father sends word to Nick THREE days after Gatsby’s murder that he is coming to New York. Gatsby’s funeral is at THREE o’clock. A young Gatsby had written in his journal that he would save THREE dollars each week. At FIVE o’clock, Gatsby is buried. Nick tells Jordan that he is 30 years old, FIVE years too old to lie to himself. At the end of the story, Nick runs into Tom walking down FIFTH Avenue.

Although I don’t believe one can make this statement with 100% accuracy based on the incidents of the occurrence of the number 3 and 5 as outlined above, it seems as if the number 5 is associated mostly with negative things, and the number 3 is associated mostly with positive things. I am not so certain that Fitzgerald intended to use strong symbolism with these numbers, however. For example, if you do some research into what numbers stand for, you will find that it depends greatly on your reference point. For example in Christian-based numerology, the number 3 stands for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Or, this number can stand for stability, as in the 3 sides of a triangle. It can also represent birth, life, death. The number 5 is often associated with instability, radical changes, chaos. Both 3 and 5 are odd numbers, so this could be significant.

Anyway – I have given you something to think about. So, what do YOU think?

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