What is the significance of the names listed at the beginning of chapter 4 being written on a disintegrating timetable?The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Nick's record of the guests on a timetable that disintegrates just as moral values disintegrate in the Jazz Age are testimony to the sordid reality of Gatsby's quest for the grail.  In sharp contrast to the guests of East Egg who of are prestigious names, Gatsby's guests are engaged in illegal activity.  In fact, the timetable is little more than a tabulation of criminality.

Among the guests are men who fight; another man named Ripley Snells stays at Gatsby's for three days before being taken to the penitentiary, so drunk in the driveway that Mrs. Ulysses Swett's automobile runs over his right hand.  A G. Earl Muldoon arrives; he is the brother to the Muldoon who strangled his wife.   Promoters and gamblers with epithets such as "Rot-gut" arrive at Gatsby's.  One man, named Klipspringer is there so much and so often that he becomes known as "the boarder."  People who later kill themselves by jumping in front of subway trains, or suffer injury by having their noses shot off are also present. In short, suspicious and corrupt people such as a senator who takes bribes are among the guests recorded by Nick.

This tabulation of guests of questionable morality points to the canard that Gatsby's mansion, background, and possessions become.  Fitzgerald's satire is clearly present in this chapter as the sharp contrast of all that is Gatsby with what is real comes into focus.  Like the disintegrating timetable, Gatsby's American Dream will soon dissolve into what it has always been--an illusion.

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Great Gatsby is very much about a person's individual significance. Some people believe wealth is what gives them a place in this world, whereas others believe their ability to make an impact on mankind does the trick. One of the great lessons of Gatsby is that he really had no one who cared about him by the end of the book after he spent his life chasing the dream of getting Daisy. This background is important to consider when looking at the symbol of a disintegrating timetable. These peoples' names are representations of their lives. While during their lifetimes many of them had great fame or fortune, that is all they had. Time moves past momentary success or material wealth. Thus, as their lives fade, so do their names' fame. I see this every year when teaching the book because some of these last names were old East Coast family names that many were familiar with. Likewise, the names of Stonewall Jackson and Cecil Roebuck remind students of a great war and a great department store. These names represent many foundational elements of this country, but they too will fade and people will cease to remember them. This is the significance of the disintegrating timetable.

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