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

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted May 11, 2013 at 11:43 PM via web

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I'd like to know the meaning of "row" in this excerpt from the chapter Seven of The Great Gatsbyand the reason why Tom says "what kind of a row are you trying to cause" and not ""why are youtrying to set my couple at odds"?

“Wait a minute,” snapped Tom. “I want to ask Mr. Gatsby one more question.”

“Go on,” Gatsby said politely.

What kind of a row are you trying to cause in my house anyhow?”

They were out in the open at last and Gatsby was content.

“He isn’t causing a row.” Daisy looked desperately from one to the other. “You’re causing a row. Please have a little self control.”

 

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted May 12, 2013 at 1:27 AM (Answer #1)

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In this passage, the word "row" means quarrel or argument.  It is a noun, not the verb that we use to mean putting one's oars in the water to move one's boat.  Now, the word "row" as a disagreement can also be used as a verb, for example:

The couple frequently rowed over how to bring up the children. 

The only way to tell which meaning is meant is to see the word within the context of a sentence, where the surrounding words help us to understand which definition is correct.  Contrast these sentences:

They rowed against the current to reach the shore.

They rowed ceaselessly over everything. 

Why Fitzgerald used the word "row," rather than some other way of expressing his idea is probably because the word was much more commonly used in times past in the United States than it is today.  It is still a fairly common word in British English, and if you read contemporary English literature, you will see if far more often than in contemporary American literature. 

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