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I'd like to know the meaning of "with a wish" and "wild" in the following excerpt from...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted August 8, 2013 at 11:53 PM via web

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I'd like to know the meaning of "with a wish" and "wild" in the following excerpt from the Chapter Four of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.

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

Posted August 9, 2013 at 12:22 AM (Answer #1)

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The excerpt is from when Gatsby and Nick are driving together to New York City for lunch.  As Nick is hearing Gatsby describe his past, the collection of images filters through his mind.  Gatsby's car, the description of his background which makes Gatsby sound like a "rajah," and the encounter with the police officer all represent the opulent world of wealth that Gatsby occupies.  The American notion of "self- made" success is something that Gatsby embodies and is what Nick associates with him.  

From this, the drive into the city reveals a look at New York.  This becomes the moment to relate his personal impressions of Gatsby to the larger entity of New York.  For Nick, seeing the skyline of New York in front of him is reflective of what he perceives about Gatsby.  The same tendencies to be "self- made' and to have success "drive" one's sense of self are evident in both Gatsby and America, in general.  When Nick describes what he sees as "white heps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non- olfactory money," it is a reflection of what he sees from Gatsby in American identity.  The "with a wish" reflects hope and promise.  The city rises out of this hope of money and success through idealistic work and elements that are "non- olfactory," not offensive to the sense of smell.  Nick has described as a "Platonic conception of self." In this understanding, Gatsby has been able to reinvent oneself and the reinvention that Nick sees as part of New York, and America, is the idea that it, too, can reinvent itself without the stench of that which is malevolent or evil.   

The sense of idealism within this notion of unlimited and pristine in its reach.  The "wild promise" is a way to describe something that is boundless.  There is a hope and sense of optimism in being able to construct reality as one sees it.  The hope of what one can be is "a wild promise" that is not limited by the reality that surrounds an individual.  In his retelling of his past to Nick, Gatsby embodies this idea.  Nick is able to see this same vision in his sight of New York.  It is a moment where "wish" and "wild" reflect unbounded optimism in the promise of what might be and what can be.  It is here in which dreams, with all of their sweetness and that which is offensive to the olfactory sense, lie.

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