In chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby, who is Trimalchio and how does a reference to him describe Jay Gatsby?

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andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reference at the beginning of the chapter reads:

It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night — and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.

Since Jay had now started an affair with Daisy, he firstly, did not want undue attention drawn to him and thus to Daisy, and therefore stopped his ostentatious celebrations. Secondly, the parties were only hosted anyway, in an attempt to pique Daisy's interest and draw her closer. Once Jay had succeeded in drawing Daisy in, the parties had become redundant.

The only value of the allusion to Trimalchio is to indicate the over-the-top nature of Jay's parties. They were hugely flamboyant affairs and gave all sorts of weird characters access into his lavish home, whether they had been invited or not. 

The fictional character, Trimalchio, whose name means, 'greatest king' featured in a chapter of a Roman work, Satyricon, by the author Petronius. In it, Trimalchio is described as a flamboyant character who had become a freeman and heir to his master's great fortune. He used used his fortune successfully in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures and boosted his wealth.

Trimalchio hosted excessively extravagant dinner parties in which he would brag about his success as a businessman and his great prosperity, to the disgust and envy of his guests. The purpose of his ostentation was therefor only to display his good fortune - there was no other purpose. The whole idea was just pure self-indulgence, unlike jay Gatsby's parties.

Jay hardly ever indulged in the frivolities at his festivities and remained aloof, always hoping that Daisy would, at some or other occasion, turn up. This led to all sorts of rumours and gossip about him, his activities and his past. Trimalchio, in contrast, was the centre of attention at his massive get-togethers. He indulged his and his guests' every whim, getting drunk and expressing his magnificence. The parties were essentially about him and his excesses. He would be incessantly boastful, whilst Jay, on only one occasion, actually bragged about his achievements, in a very private manner when he showed Daisy his huge collection of shirts.

Jay was a private person whose primary focus was Daisy, whereas Trimalchio was an exhibitionist who relished the attention, envy and admiration of many.  


Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 7 of the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Trimalchio refers to a character in the novel “The Satyricon” by Petronius(full nameGaius Petronius Arbiter). The Trimalchio of the novel (full name Gaius Pompeius Trimalchio Maecenatianus), is actually a flamboyant man. This, of course, is what Jay Gatsby is as well, shown precisely in his glitzy parties at his home in West Egg, Long Island.

Trimalchio is a former slave in The Satyricon novel. A former slave is subsequently called a “freedman.” He has now attained a life much different from his prior meagre means. Trimalchio is now a rich man with power to go along with this bounty. Being prosperous and being able to satisfy his whims, Trimalchio has lavish dinner parties for a host of guests, and this is akin to what Jay Gatsby does frequently at West Egg. It is a gaudy show of wealth by both men in the respective novels. Their parties are really overdone – the lavishness of them is overbearing with more than enough food and drink for all – as if winking at gluttony.

It is all show. It is as if these two men are trying to make up for years of want. It seems that they are trying to reach out to others with these extravagant parties, from an inner feeling of emptiness, hoping these parties will satisfy their real human longings. Gatsby’s parties could be a cry for the love of others. Trimalchio’s pretentiousness is a perfect parallel to Jay Gatsby’s - two different men, in two different eras, striving for the same acceptance by others.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Trimalchio was the protagonist in Satyricon, by Petronius. He was a freedman who gained prestige and power through sheer tenacity and hard work. Once he attained his wealth, he enjoyed throwing lavish parties that were meant to impress his variety of guests.

The comparison of Gatsby and Trimalchio is obvious. Both were newly rich, and trying to get the right attention. Fitzgerald's early version of Gatsby was actually titled "Trimalchio in West Egg".

cholita2011 | Student

thanks for your answer it helped allot

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The Great Gatsby

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