Could you please explain the meaning of "I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back" in the following excerpt from The Great Gatsby, chapter 2? I wanted to get out and...
Could you please explain the meaning of "I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back" in the following excerpt from The Great Gatsby, chapter 2?
I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair.
This particular incident is an indication of how helpless Nick Carraway, the narrator, feels about being manipulated into situations which he does not particularly want to be involved in. In this case, he has been coerced by Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson (Tom's mistress) to be part of their little party in a New York apartment Tom has arranged for her. The apartment is where they conduct their tawdry and adulterous relationship.
Tom and Myrtle introduce Nick to some of her associates who apparently do not interest Tom. In fact, he mocks them. He makes a particularly sarcastic remark to Mr. O'Keefe, a struggling photographer, that Myrtle will arrange for him to meet people. In this instance, he is mockingly referring to Myrtle's husband, the washed-out, dull, and poor owner of an unsuccessful garage in The Valley of Ashes.
Nick remarks that "I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon." Throughout his visit, Nick is plied with alcohol and he, as well as the other occupants of the apartment, are quite inebriated by the onset of late afternoon. Obviously, they are all encouraged by the liquor and start talking louder and begin incessant and insignificant little arguments.
Nick feels uncomfortable and wishes to leave but cannot. Each time he decides to leave, one of his loud companions draws him into some or other dispute, and because he is drunk, he lacks the will to resist becoming involved. Also, his homely good manners do not allow him to be discourteous. Thirdly, because he is a guest he feels obligated to stay and indulge the others.
Nick's actions, in this regard, reflect his role throughout the novel. It appears that he permits others to manipulate him easily into doing their bidding. He, for example, feels obligated to accompany Jay Gatsby when he gets to meet Meyer Wolfsheim. He also helps Jay arrange a secret liaison with Daisy Buchanan, initiating their affair. He feels, in some way, that he has a duty to Jay, and even attends his funeral while those Jay has had a much longer association with are absent.
Nick tries to be an uninvolved, unbiased, and objective narrator, but somehow always allows himself to get dragged into uncomfortable situations from which he feels there is no escape.
The narrator, Nick, is describing how he is uncomfortable at the party and wishes to go somewhere more peaceful, but every time he tries to get away, he ends up involved in one of the many conversations that are taking place around him. The arguments are "wild" and "strident" because people are expressing their opinions loudly and forcefully and becoming emotional when others disagree. Nick is drawn into the arguments when others ask about his opinion and then insist on arguing against his views. Because he lacks the self-confidence and social skills to disengage from the conversation when he chooses, he feels as if he is physically trapped. This is one of many occasions in the novel when Nick feels overwhelmed by the fast paced world around him.
Nick is trying to describe how any time he tries to walk away from a party he just gets pulled back into conversations that are usually irrelevant and just not worth his time. However he stays in the conversation to be polite and to not insult the other person. It is almost like Nick's politeness is restraining him from doing what he wishes to do most which is go be in peace and quiet.