In Chapter IX of The Great Gastby, what is Nick's fantastic dream?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question is incredibly interesting in that I have never heard of anyone asking this before, and yet it is a situation that has always intrigued me as both a reader and a teacher.  The entire idea feeds into one of the main themes of The Great Gatsby:  appearance vs. reality.  After the main part of the plot has ended and we have entered the falling action, Nick discusses his thoughts about the East after moving back to the Midwest.  Your question refers to the following excerpt of the text:

West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams.  I see it as a night scene by El Greco:  a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon.  In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress.  Her hand, which dangles over the side, sparkles cold with jewels.  Gravely the men turn in at a house--the wrong house.  But no one knows the woman's name, and no one cares. (Fitzgerald 177-178)

So interesting!  Especially in regards to the reference to El Greco (who was such an individual artist that he didn't really fit into any one movement with his tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasm-like pigmentation).  One can imagine, then, the nightmarish colors and forms in Nick's dream of selfishness and carelessness.  Obviously a dream of great wealth and riches, . . . which do nothing for the happiness of the characters who live within it.  No one even cares for this rich drunken woman, much as no one cared enough about Gatsby to attend his own funeral.  Here is the appearance of wealth amid the reality of disaster.  Nick's fantastic dream:  a testament to what the true "Roaring Twenties" was doing to American societal values.

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The Great Gatsby

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