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In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick have to restrain his laughter when Gatsby says the...

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loneroy | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:19 AM via web

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In The Great Gatsby, why does Nick have to restrain his laughter when Gatsby says the following?

He is "...trying to forget something very sad that happened to me a long time ago."

From Chapter 4

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Gatsby says this important quote to Nick in Chapter 4, when he tells Nick about the "truth" of his background so that Nick will not be taken in by the elaborate fictions he has heard about Gatsby and his rise to wealth. However, in spite of Gatsby's protestations of veracity, it becomes clear that Gatsby is merely spinning yet another fiction for the ears of Nick. Although Nick is not entirely sure, what clinches his belief that Gatsby is lying is the following phrase:

"After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe--Paris, Venice, Rome--collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to forget something very sad that happened to me long ago."

Note the obvious rehearsed nature of this sentence. Firstly there is little "big game" in the cities of Europe, nor are there many rubies to be found, except in shops. Nick has to "restrain his laughter" because, as he says:

The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned 'character' leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.

Gatsby is so concerned to perpetuate the mystique that surrounds him and to downplay his humble origins that he shares this "truth" with Nick in confidence, only to spread yet more clichés and ridiculous ideas, and it is only later on that Nick finds out the real truth about Gatbsy's rise to wealth and fame.

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loneroy | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 19, 2011 at 6:56 AM (Answer #2)

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Thank you!

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