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I'd like to know if "we was broke up" in the following excerpt from The Great Gatsby,...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted April 28, 2013 at 3:02 PM via web

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I'd like to know if "we was broke up" in the following excerpt from The Great Gatsby, chapter 9, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, means "it broke our heart" or "we were separated", "we severed all links with"?

"He come out to see me two years ago and bought me the house I live in now. Of course we was broke up when he run off from home but I see now there was a reason for it. He knew he had a big future in front of him. And ever since he made a success he was very generous with me." 

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:00 PM (Answer #1)

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This quotation is, of course, bad grammar showing the speaker's lack of formal education and revealing Gatsby's humble background. The use of the term "broke up" or "broken up" used to be common among simple Americans, and it always means something like emotionally distressed or badly hurt. It is not heard very often anymore but still survives in some regions where you will hear people use the expression "All shook up," meaning upset and agitated.
"Broke up" has nothing to be with being physically separated or severing links, although in a different context a person might say something like, "The family broke up." That was not what was intended in the statement you quote, which is made by Gatsby's father.

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