- Quote #1
ch. 1, p. 2 (based on Scribner paperback edition 2004; your page # may not correspond)
[Narrator describes Jay Gatsby.]
If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.… [Gatsby had] an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.
In the introduction to the story, narrator Nick Carraway describes Gatsby as he, retrospectively, perceives him. Immediately, Fitzgerald establishes Gatsby as an exceptionally romantic hero and a hopeful dreamer. The narrator tips his hand and reveals his favoritism for Gatsby. This quote is important because it not only establishes the essence of the Gatsby character but it also foreshadows the very nature of the story and its primary themes: idealism, aspiration, and loss.
- Quote #2
ch. 2, pp. 23-24
[Establishes the domain of the working poor.]
This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-gray men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.… [And the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg] brood on over the solemn dumping ground.
In this dramatic description, Fitzgerald sets the scene for the world of the working poor, where George and Myrtle Wilson live. The “valley of ashes” provides a sharp, poetic contrast to the cool, lush estates of East Egg. What would normally be signs of life—wheat fields and gardens—are merely forms in a smoldering, colorless landscape. Importantly, this scene immediately follows a genteel luncheon at the Buchanan mansion. Sea breezes are replaced by “rising smoke,” extensive green lawns by “grotesque gardens.”
This scene also establishes the class conflict that permeates the book, and is a foreboding allusion to the death that occurs here. We become aware for the first time of the symbolic eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, who watches over this “solemn dumping ground” as a God-like witness to the despair and hopelessness that emanates from the place.
- Quote #3
ch. 3, p. 50
[In the midst of his own party, Gatsby is alone.]
When the Jazz History of the World was over, girls where putting their heads on men’s shoulders … swooning backward playfully into men’s arms … but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby’s shoulder, and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby’s head for one link.
This passage serves to capture a sense of Gatsby’s parties, as well as his place in them. Fitzgerald references a “sensational” piece of music of the day, describes the playful, affectionate nature of the guests, and casually notes the hairstyle that practically defined the “flapper.” In the middle of this scene, a scene that Gatsby himself created (he even requested the song), he stands alone, alienated from his own guests. We are reminded that this whole performance is just that—a show put on for everyone but himself.
(The entire section is 1472 words.)