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I'd like to know if "what kind of a" in this excerpt from chapter seven of The Great...

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coutelle | Valedictorian

Posted August 24, 2013 at 11:29 PM via web

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I'd like to know if "what kind of a" in this excerpt from chapter seven of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald has more or less the same meaning as "what's the point of or the meaning of":

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

(I must add that I'm not Anglophone)

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:12 AM (Answer #1)

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The passage to which you refer comes from chapter seven of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, a chapter in which Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby have a kind of showdown. For this explanation, context is vitally important.

The five main characters of the story are in a hotel room in the city; it is hot and Tom has just had two revelations. First, he realized that his wife, Daisy, is in love with Jay Gatsby; second, he learned that his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, will be moving away soon. Tom is not very happy about anything, and he turns his anger and frustration on Gatsby. 

Tom has done some research on Gatsby and thinks he is going to expose the man as a liar. Gatsby is not upset by the questioning, which upsets Tom even more. Finally Tom gets angry and has the following exchange with Gatsby:

"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."

"Self control!" repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out. . . ."

In this context, Tom is asking what Gatsby is trying to do by answering Tom so boldly. This is an unusual circumstance because Tom is a bully and generally surrounds himself with people who do not argue with him. Tom does not like it when he does not get his way.

The phrase "what kind of a row" is a figure of speech which, in this context, means something like: "Hey, what kind of trouble are you trying to stir up with my wife and my marriage right now?" Essentially Tom is upset and accuses Gatsby of starting an argument, though Tom is clearly the one who started it. On the other hand, Gatsby is happy to finally have everything in the open so Daisy can tell Tom she loves Gatsby now, so he is the calm one. 

This conversation leads to trouble for Gatsby and the Wilsons; as usual, the Buchanans will carry on unscathed. 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 25, 2013 at 12:58 AM (Answer #2)

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Since you are not a Anglophone, please allow a little more explanation to the adequate one already given.  "A row" is originally a phrase used by the British. Nowadays it is labeled as colloquial; that it, characteristic of familiar or ordinary conversations instead of more formal speech.  Also, colloquialisms are often regional. And, since the New England states such as New York were populated by mostly immigrants from the British Isles until Ellis Island was established in 1892 and other European immigrants entered, many of the Easterners spoke using British expressions.

The ironic thing here, of course, is that Tom Buchanan, who accuses Jay Gatsby of being a phony and assuming a persona that is not his by saying such things as "old sport," is himself taking on airs [an idiom for acting as though he is of a highter social class than he is] himself. For, Tom Buchanan is from not from New York or any Eastern city; instead he has moved from Chicago, which in the 1920s was considered a Western city with its stockyards and such, and one that contained unrefined and crude people in comparison to the East. So, when Tom asks Gatsby what "kind of a row" he is trying to start--what kind of a quarrel--he himself is disrupting the sophistication of the scene with his affectations.

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