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I need some precision about the interpretation of a sentence from the Chapter Six of...

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coutelle | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted August 4, 2013 at 9:39 PM via web

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I need some precision about the interpretation of a sentence from the Chapter Six of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald :

"He was left with his singularly appropriate education; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man."

 I was told on a previous question that  "In this case, Gatsby thought he was going to get an inheritance but did not; this is a particularly suitable ('singularly appropriate') lesson for him to learn at this stage of his life, for it is a pattern which will repeat itself many times. As he matures, he will lose things he desperately wants, and perhaps feels entitled to--including Daisy, twice. Sometimes it will happen and he will not even really understand why, just like his lost inheritance." And in fact "it is this experience, this loss, which completed his transformation from boy to man."

Usually, however, people understand this passage as meaning that Gatsby’s legacy was not the twenty-five thousands dollars Cody intended he should inherit but only an education particularly suitable for his aims, thanks to his five years with Cody.

So here's my question:

Which of these interpretations is true, or are they compatible?

(i.e. Gatsby educated himself thanks to his life with Cody and, in particular, he was given a lesson on this occasion, in so far as from then on he understood that one who wanted to prosper should get money by hook or by crook, like Ella Kaye.)

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 4, 2013 at 10:43 PM (Answer #1)

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The second interpretation that is suggested in the more accurate of the two. For, Gatsby's "singularly appropriate education" is in criminality as the expedient method of wealth. His learning to be a bootlegger is "appropriate," or suitable, to Gatsby because it quickly allows him to acquire the means of purchasing a mansion near Daisy Buchanan, his "holy grail" for whom he has during the last five years created "the contour of Jay Gatsby: honored soldier, graduate of Oxford University, "Trimalchio" of renowned fame. Moreover, his falsely gained fortune parallels his mythological identity which, although filling him out as the "substantiality of a man," contains details that do not match the facts.

Shortly before the passage of Chapter Six which is under consideration, there is another passage about how Gatsby began to create himself with "the pattern of his fancies"; these reveries became "a satisfactory hint" to him that 

...a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.

Thus, material values are bound up with his dreams. The "drums of his destiny" are his ill-gotten gains and the green-light of Daisy's dock. Gatsby attains "the substantiality of a man," appropriately for his dreams of materialism, but his is a false essence, a "grotesque rose," as later Nick Carraway observes. 


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