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I'd like to know the meaning of "fresh" in this excerpt from the last chapter of The...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 4, 2013 at 11:28 PM via web

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I'd like to know the meaning of "fresh" in this excerpt from the last chapter of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

"And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world." 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 5, 2013 at 12:33 AM (Answer #1)

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This passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby occurs after Nick Carraway, the narrator, has been disillusioned by the lack of turnout at Gatsby's funeral and Tom and Daisy's careless behaviors. Gatsby's manor has been abandoned and everything that was once alive with lights and sounds is now dark and silent, as the summer has come with an end. 

Nick "wander[s] down to the beach and sprawl[s] out on the sand" where he looks across the water toward the far shore.

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes--a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams....

Nick experiences a kind of vision or dream in which all of the current buildings and structures "melt away" and he imagines the island as it must have been for the first settlers who arrived here hundreds of years ago. He refers to this pristine land he envisions as "a fresh, green breast of the new world."

In this context, then, "fresh" means original, "not stale, sour, or decayed." It is not marred with anything impure, and that does not mean just the buildings. It is fresh and new, free of the greed, lust, violence, faithlessness, lies, excess, and ugliness which now mar the site, at least for him.  

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