The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby begins with Nick observing Gatsy's house in flames, this makes sense as a metaphor but is described as an actual event. Is the house in flames or what? The Great Gatsby, Chapter 5 When I came home to West Egg that night I was afraid for a moment that my house was on fire. Two o'clock and the whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light which fell unreal on the shrubbery and made thin elongating glints upon the roadside wires. Turning a corner I saw that it was Gatsby's house, lit from tower to cellar. At first I thought it was another party, a wild rout that had resolved itself into "hide-and-go-seek" or "sardines-in-the-box" with all the house thrown open to the game. But there wasn't a sound. Only wind in the trees which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness. As my taxi groaned away I saw Gatsby walking toward me across his lawn. "Your place looks like the world's fair," I said. "Does it?" He turned his eyes toward it absently. "I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let's go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car."

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No, Nick Carraway’s house is not actually on fire. As suggested in the student’s question, the narrator of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic of American literature The Great Gatsby is employing a metaphor to describe the intensity of the illumination emanating from the mansion next to his humble abode. Jay Gatsby has accumulated enormous wealth, mainly through illicit activities, for the purpose of acquiring that which is most precious to him: Daisy Buchanan. In chapter 4, Nick is engaged in conversation with Jordan Baker. The subject is Gatsby and his relationship to Daisy. It is in the course of this conversation, an informational briefing for the benefit of Nick, that Jordan notes with respect to the proximity of Gatsby’s mansion to the Buchanan estate, “Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.” It is at the end of that day that chapter 5 begins, with Nick returning home to discover a level of lighting coming from Gatsby’s mansion that bathes his own house...

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