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Hello! I asked lately:   I'd like to understand what Daisy means in the first chapter...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 2, 2013 at 8:36 PM via web

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Hello! I asked lately:

 

I'd like to understand what Daisy means in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby, when she says she is "sophisticated". Does she mean she is "blasé" (she says she has been everywhere and seen everything and done everything")?

 And I was told :

“You see I think everything's terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I've been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom's, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. “Sophisticated—God, I'm sophisticated!”

 

This is a moment of irony, though because there are possibly several layers of meaning the irony is a bit difficult to sort out. 

One meaning is clear in Daisy's claim to be sophisticated: She feels that the idea of being sophisticated is somehow a false and boring notion. 

While rejecting the value of being sophisticated, she also claims sophistication. She seems to be expressing a disdain for being sophisticated, but as she gives Nick something of a wink after this speech Daisy is also trying to claim that she is sophisticated. 

To this end, she is expressing the idea that she is blase, as you suggest. Life is blase. Yet the excitement that constantly plays in her voice (and, here, in what Nick recognizes as her performance) contradicts her subtle claims of boredom. 

Excitement is an integral part of Daisy's character. It is this that constitutes her allure and, to some extent, her danger. Her attitude regarding sophistication is telling in the way she places herself above the concept, subtle espousing her superiority to a concept even as lofty as this one. 

Additionally, the reader has been surprised along with Nick to discover that this well-to-do couple, the Buchanan's, invited him to dinner apparently in order to play out a drama regarding their unhappiness. Tom's infidelity is literally featured as dinner conversation and Nick is rather amazed that these are the kind of people occupying the upper echelon's of society. 

Earlier, the reader is told that Nick has aspirations for self-improvement. He has brought certain books along with him to the east and plans to become sophisticated himself. However, from his reaction to the dinner at the Buchanan house, Nick clearly wants little or nothing to do with their sort of "sophistication". 

Nick listens, somewhat astounded but understanding the subtext, as Daisy goes on talking on the veranda. This speech extends to Daisy's proclamation about her daughter as well. There she says that she hopes her daughter grows up to be a fool. 

This is contrary to the general conception of sophistication, of course, and underscores the irony of Daisy's claim on sophistication. Nick's take on the episode helps us to see that Daisy is playing a part (a distasteful one) in order to entertain herself while also demonstrating her self-identified qualities. 

 

Now I'd like to know which synonymous you could give me for "sophisticated", according to you, in this context (I'm French, so it's not easy for me to understand some nuances).

Thank you.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 2, 2013 at 11:36 PM (Answer #1)

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Sophisticated can mean "mature of thought", "able to think complexly", or, more simply, it can mean "cultured".

The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers "cosmopolitan", "smart" and "worldly" as synonyms as well. 

There are connotations of the term that suggest one who is sophisticated might be able to encounter new ideas through the lens of culture and in doing so apply erudition (intellectual knowledge) in the assessment of new ideas.

There is an idea of intellectual development attached to the term sophistication and, to a degree, an idea that people who are aware of cultural developments are sophisticated. This would entail being aware of new writers, new ideas, famous thinkers, plays, films, music, etc. 

So, a person of sophistication will be a well-rounded thinker, probably with a well-rounded education. In the era of Fitzgerald's novel this may have included the study of some Greek and Roman culture (Greek tragedy in the works of people like Sophocles and the Roman works of Ovid and Virgil written in Latin). At the very least, a person of sophistication would be culturally informed and mentally mature, to a degree beyond the average.

However, as we see from Tom's example, people in this world who might claim sophistication are not necessarily fulfilling the prototypical expectations of the term. Instead of reading The Aeneid, Tom is reading The Rise of the Colored Empires, a racist diatribe.

Daisy uses the term to mean cultured or culturally aware and is making a rather complex comment about herself and the people who define culture (to her thinking). She says everyone says "things are terrible". The people who say so are sophisticated. They make this proclamation from a position of supposed "cultural awareness". They are the smart people. They are the people in the know. 

Daisy shows some disdain for these people when she says, "God, I'm sophisticated!" as a sort of epithet. In doing so, she subtly places herself above these "sophisticated" people, suggesting perhaps that she is not only "culturally aware" and cosmopolitan but something more in addition to this. 

(I hope this helps to clarify things. This is a tricky passage in the text, ripe with meaning. The term "sophisticated" shouldn't get you too caught up though. It is used here mainly as a means for Fitzgerald to convey that 1) Daisy is performing a part quite often in social settings, 2) Daisy is unhappy though she "has everything" and 3) Daisy is capable of complex levels of communication, yet it is easy for an honest person like Nick to see through her shades of meaning and recognize that she is mostly just looking for attention and praise.)

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