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I'd like to know the symbolic meaning of "apathetically" in Chapter 2 of The Great...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted March 28, 2013 at 8:53 PM via web

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I'd like to know the symbolic meaning of "apathetically" in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby.

A reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and some milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large, hard dog-biscuits—one of which decomposed apathetically in the saucer of milk all afternoon. Meanwhile Tom brought out a bottle of whiskey from a locked bureau door.

I know this is an example of pathetic fallacy; I suppose, as for me, that "apathetically" means here "slowly and lazily, with no change visible from moment to moment". But I'd like to know your point of view.


Thank you.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 28, 2013 at 9:51 PM (Answer #1)

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Apathetic means having no interest or concern, expressing no energy or care. The dog biscuit "apathetically" decomposes in the milk all afternoon. Considering this as an example of pathetic fallacy, the milk, personified in being apathetic, expresses apathy. Usually, pathetic fallacy taps into the pathos or emotion of the characters or the reader. A common example is the rain (as if nature is crying) which follows heartbreak. In this scene, Nick is drunk, probably to be able to deal with spending time with Tom. Once drunk, he is able to but is conflicted:

I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

He felt as if he was in the room and not in the room, like a casual observer. He even noted prior to this (as narrator) the desire to leave. So, maybe the apathy of the dog biscuit represents Nick's apathy of being there with these superficial people.


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