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How is the word certain in these sentences from The Great Gatsby defined? That is ,...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted April 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM via web

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How is the word certain in these sentences from The Great Gatsby defined? That is , does it mean  "some" or something like "particularly," "specially" (like an intensifier).

Chapter 1 : I couldn't guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking but I doubt if even Miss Baker who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy skepticism was able utterly to put this fifth guest's shrill metallic urgency out of mind.

Chapter 2 : About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land.

Chapter 5 Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decency established itself.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 11, 2013 at 8:42 PM (Answer #1)

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Clearly a master of the nuances of meaning, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs words with poetic precision throughout his narrative.

  1. In the first example, extracted from Chapter One of The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker has mastered a "certain hardy skepticism." Here certain has the denotation of "unique" as having its own essence. Thus, the word certain  suggests that Jordan has a defining skepticism particular to her.
  2. The second example from Chapter Two means "particular" with its denotation of a definite one, not like others; noteworthy, unusual. Indeed, the Valley of Ashes is unusual. 
  3. The third example extracted from Chapter Five calls for a further examination of the context of the word certain in its passage. In this chapter, Gatsby is reunited with Daisy at Nick's house. Haunted by time, Gatsby, "pale as death," knocks a clock from the mantelpiece as he is awkward and uncomfortable in his reunion with the girl of his dreams. When Daisy attempts a matter-of-fact comment, "We haven't met for many years," Gatsby reveals "Five years next November"; his disclosure of the importance of time for him sets Nick and Daisy "back" disconcerting them. Reacting quickly, Nick makes the "desperate suggestion" that they help him make tea, but his man brings it in to them.

Amid the welcome confusion of cups and cakes a certain physical decency established itself. Gatsby got himself into a shadow and while Daisy and I talked looked conscientiously from one to the other of us....

Here, then, certain suggests a semblance of decency has been established. "A physical decency" means that a decorum of physical behavior has been re-established, as Daisy and Nick sit and Gatsby stands in a shadow, but the uncomfortableness of the psychological dynamics remains.


 

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