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I'd like to know if "individualistically" in this excerpt from the chapter Three...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:13 PM via web

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I'd like to know if "individualistically" in this excerpt from the chapter Three of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald means "in her own ways" or "alone", "without partner": 

"and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps. "

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted June 4, 2013 at 11:53 PM (Answer #1)

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I think that the some of the beauty of Fitzgerald's language use in The Great Gatsby would consist of moments like this one.  There are multiple ways to view one sentence, the use of a single word.  These paths enable the work to reveal more of its intrinsic greatness and help to solidify the work as a giant of literature.

On one hand, the use of "individualistically" can be seen as one in which the girls dance "alone."  They dance alone because of their freedom that Gatsby's parties represent.  These gatherings are described in terms that are akin to amusement parks or fairgrounds.  So much of what makes his parties so well attended and such a symbol is because of the freedom that the party- goers have.  Little exists in ways of rules and structure.  Women and men are free to use their power of choice in whatever way they wish and the dance that women do, "individualistically," could be a reflection of this condition.

At the same time, the girls could be dancing "individualistically," meaning in their own ways, apart from anyone or anything else.  Part of what helps to enhance the feel of Gatsby's parties is this sense of elusiveness.  It is elusiveness that drives Gatsby's desire to hold on to Daisy, and not to let her get away again.  It is elusiveness that attracts so many people to Gatsby's parties, in that there is a drive or hope for the happiness that so many lack.  The dances that are a part of these gatherings are attempts to reflect and hold, if only for a moment, the happiness and sense of satisfaction that is passing, transitory, and thus not real.  The girls dancing "individualistically" could be a reflection of this condition of being.  It is one in which these "single" girls dance in their freedom, under the assumption that being free means being unattached to anything or anyone.  As they dance in their own ways, the girls' dance can be seen in a larger context in how people of the 1920s believed that the use of their freedom for individualistic ends was seen to deliver happiness.  The hollow nature of such pursuits was masked by people who, like the girls, "danced in their own ways" until the party was, in fact, over.

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