In Chapter Four, how do Nick's faded timetable (with Gatsby's guests' names) and Wolfsheim's cuff links reflect the theme of The Great Gatsby?  

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Great Gatsby, these two items are linked to the wider theme of the American Dream. The timetable that contains the names of Gatsby's guests functions as a symbol of Gatsby's wealth and influence. Looking deeper, however, the fact that this timetable is "faded" symbolizes Gatsby's failure to realize his dream: winning back Daisy Buchanan, the woman who inspired Gatsby to host these parties in the first place.

In addition, Wolfsheim's cufflinks also function as a symbol of the American Dream—specifically the idea that the American Dream often had a darker side. Remember that the cufflinks are made from human teeth, which shows that Wolfsheim is not afraid to use violence to achieve the things he wants. That Gatsby is tied up with such a violent man shows the strength of his desire to be with Daisy. He is literally prepared to do anything to win her back, even if it means associating with criminals who have gained wealth and status through the destruction of others.

The cufflinks also have a deeper meaning because they flip the philosophy of the American Dream on its head and demonstrate that it is inherently flawed. Remember that the American Dream was supposed to be about working hard in a legitimate field to achieve a better life, not about committing extreme violence to achieve power and wealth, as Wolfsheim did.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The timetable, as a symbol, relates to the novel's theme of superficiality. The timetable listing the names of Gatsby's guests is mentioned at the beginning of a passage where Nick presents the names of the guests and recalls some charicatures of the people the names belong to. There is no depth to the descriptions of the guests, their antics are comical and insincere.Nick also describes this list of people who "accepted Gatsby's hospitality and paid hiim the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him."

The cufflinks made of human molars represent a dedication to pretense, to show and shallowness. Wolfsheim wears these cufflinks as if they are jewelry, though cifflinks made of real teeth would be unacceptable and uncouth to most people. His choice to wear the cufflinks and boast about them demonstrates an inability to see the world as others see it.

The connection between these two symbols rests in this thematic idea of illusion (as a form of superficiality). Gatsby's party guests don't see Gatbsy for who he is, they simply come to the parties. Their relationship to Gatsby is as superficial as the list of names Nick keeps. Wolfshiem's cufflinks portray his character as a superficial man, unable to recognize the maudlin aspect of his "jewelry".

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The Great Gatsby

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