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Hello! Could you please tell me the significance of "conceits" in this excerpt of...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 1, 2013 at 11:33 AM via web

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Hello! Could you please tell me the significance of "conceits" in this excerpt of Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby? (Does it mean dreams or delusions of grandeur?) Is there a metaphor in "drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace" connecting to the idea of "conceits"?

 

But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

 

Thank you.

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

Posted April 1, 2013 at 1:55 PM (Answer #1)

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The term "conceit" has two general meanings, both of which have a bearing here. Most broadly the term refers to ideas upon which other ideas or plans are made. The basic idea for any novel can usually be described as a conceit in this regard (eg. conceit = conceptual notion). 

The other meaning commonly attached to this term relates to arrogance. In this sense, conceit is a false exaggeration of one's worth. 

Each of these can be read as part of the meaning in Fitzgerald's use of the term. 

In this passage, a retrospective Gatsby is depicted as dreaming of the vast and ostentatious material success that he actually does achieve. The shape or outward manifestation of his achievement of wealth is all part of Gastby's plan, his conceptual notion of success. 

The language used to personify drowsiness is metaphorical, but does not directly connect to the idea of Gatsby's conceits. Metaphor, again speaking generally, can be taken as a term describing most uses of figurative language (non-literal language). 

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