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In Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, what do readers learn about the characters' histories...

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myth123 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 1, 2010 at 12:44 PM via web

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In Chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby, what do readers learn about the characters' histories and interests from their gestures and mannerisms?

Fitzgerald's description of Tom, Daisy, and Jordan creates not only an impression of physical appearance  but also contains added information.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted October 2, 2010 at 12:04 AM (Answer #1)

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In the first chapter of The Great Gatsby, the characters reveal much about their perceptions of social standing based on their gestures, speech, and mannerisms.  Daisy reveals much about herself during her interaction (or non-interaction) with her daughter.  Daisy treats her daughter more like a pawn that is a necessary part of marriage rather than a cherished addition to the family.  Daisy hands the child back to the caretaker in an unaffected manner, and this action suggests that Daisy feels removed from the life and marriage that she currently has with Tom.  Similarly, Tom receives a phone call from his mistress while he and Daisy entertain company and he tries to hide the fact that the call--and his having a mistress--is inappropriate.  Daisy, however, says openly that she is aware of Tom's affair.  Through his gestures and mannerisms, Tom reveals that he likely has had other mistresses in the past and that he does not feel like his behavior is wrong, only that it is not socially acceptable.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 2, 2010 at 2:21 AM (Answer #2)

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Regarding Tom Buchanan and Jordan Baker, who have not been discussed---

As the villain of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Tom physical aspects denote his brutal nature.  He is a stout, sturdy man

with a rather hard mouth and superciious manner.  Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward.  Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body...a cruel body.

His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.  There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked...

From this description, the reader experiences little surprise when Tom punches Myrtle--"people he liked"--and breaks her nose, or when he has no compunction about implicating Gatsby in her death.

Likewise, the descripton of Jordan Baker suggests her morally effete, and self-absorbed personality:

[with] impersonal eyes....She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised a little s if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall....

At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again--the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and give her something of a fright....Almost any exhibition of self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.

In later chapters, Jordan's having cheated in a golf competition (considered a game of gentlemen and ladies) and her desire to be at parties where she knows no one are clearly in line with her amoral, decadent, and self-absorded character as is her surprise that Nick Carraway is the first to break up with her, rather than the other way around.

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