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What does Nick mean in Chapter 4 of Gatsby when he says: "There are only the...

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alexa08 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 4, 2008 at 12:39 PM via web

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What does Nick mean in Chapter 4 of Gatsby when he says: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired"?

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jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 4, 2008 at 1:12 PM (Answer #1)

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Nick's thoughts reflect the angst of modern life.  As he holds the superficial Jordan in his arms, he wonders why any of the pursuit of love, riches, and so-called "happiness" are worth anything at all. 

Break this quote down into pieces and it is much more understandable.  For example, the "pursued" are Daisy by Gatsby, and Tom by Myrtle.  The pursuing are Gatsby, trying to "capture" Daisy, and Myrtle trying to snare Tom.

I would argue that "the busy and the tired" include all of the characters.  These traits, again, are indicative of the shallowness of modern life.  It seems that no one really wants to play the game of predator and prey, yet no one truly wishes to give up the thrill of the hunt either. 

But thrill is temporary, and its promises of pay-off illusory.  In the end, the characters lack rest and contentment, a price they have paid for the more temporal benefits of a quick fix (that is, parties, false camaraderies, fleeting fame.) 

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