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What is the importance and symbolism of the clothing Jay Gatsby wears in the novel The...

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pito156 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted February 22, 2009 at 9:56 AM via web

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What is the importance and symbolism of the clothing Jay Gatsby wears in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald?

The question would pertain to any clothing Gatsby had in the novel EXCEPT the scene when he shows Nick and Daisy all his shirts.

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 22, 2009 at 10:28 AM (Answer #1)

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Jay Gatsby wore only the best clothes.  He dressed as an aristocrat of the new money.  His choice of clothing and style of dress was symbolic of the over indulgence of the rich during that time and of the American Dream. The idea that you could become rich, successful and indulgent no matter what you came from.   Jay's reason for the style of dress and the expense of the clothing is to impress Daisy.  Everything he did was to impress and regain the love of Daisy.  His life and dreams centered around his desire and love of Daisy and the clothing is yet another outward expression of that goal.  The self-centered desires of the rich was a central theme of Fitzgerald's stories and novels and "The Great Gatsby" was one of the best of these stories.

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kipling2448 | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 11, 2015 at 7:27 PM (Answer #3)

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, clothes play a prominent role in helping to define individual characteristics.  In the case of Jay Gatsby, this mysterious figure's wardrobe plays an especially important role.  James Gatz has invested heavily -- financially and emotionally -- in becoming Jay Gatsby, and his clothes, especially his finely-tailored suits, are an essential component of his figurative transformation from Midwestern nobody to Long Island elitist.  In Chapter Five of Fitzgerald's novel, the story's narrator, Nick Carraway, describes the tour of Gatsby's mansion that will include a peek into the wardrobe of his famously-wealthy neighbor:

"Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high. ‘I’ve got a man in England who buys me clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall.’ He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel."

Gatsby pretends to an identity that the reader comes to learn is entirely the product of his obsession with Daisy Buchanan and the importance of social and economic status in achieving his objective.  Suggestions of an "Oxford" education, for instance, are part of his grand strategy for ingratiating himself into the company of New York's high society.  His wardrobe is just one more element of a ruse through which others begin to see easily and clearly.


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hsengtch | High School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2009 at 11:11 AM (Answer #2)

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Daisy is often dressed in white, to symbolize her innocence/naive nature, possibly purity (childlike qualities).

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