Which moments from the end of chapter six of The Great Gatsby (below) do you find particularly interesting with regard to Gatsby's feelings or character, notably the imagery of a mother and child denoted by the 'pap of life' and 'milk of wonder'?
He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was. . . .
. . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees — he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.
Through all he said, even through his appalling sentimentality, I was reminded of something — an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago. For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.
1 Answer | Add Yours
As Gatsby contemplates reliving his past with Daisy, he goes into what Nick playfully calls "appalling sentimentality." Gatsby is steeped in nostalgia and idealism. Nick suggests that Gatsby wanted, not only to win Daisy back but, to recover some forgotten part of himself. That is, Nick thinks that Gatsby also wanted to recover some part of his past self. In trying to relive the past, Gatsby was, in a sense, trying to be reborn. Being reborn, reliving the past, Gatsby intends to go back to a former version of himself (and Daisy) and thus he would be younger; like a child. Being young and full of life; this might tie into the notion of the "pap of life" and gulping the "milk of wonder." There doesn't seem to be any indications of Freudian analysis (Oedipus Complex) here. It seems that Gatsby is simply devoted to the idea of remaking the past with Daisy. And with the associations of the past and "pastness," come images of youth. So, in addition to reliving the past, there is also the general dream of wishing to be younger, or to be young again.
Additionally, the flowery and poetic language of "pap of life" and "mild of wonder" suggest a spiritual or Biblical language. This is the extreme extent of Gatsby's praise of his and Daisy's potential reunion. He is so full of this vision that he gives it characteristics of a new Eden. Even the imagery of the sidewalk rising to the trees (Tree of Life, Tree of Knowledge) suggest Biblical images and a ladder to heaven.
Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
We’ve answered 315,675 questions. We can answer yours, too.Ask a question