Could you please tell me the meaning of "knocked down and out" in this excerpt from the chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald? What is the difference between "knocked down" /...

Could you please tell me the meaning of "knocked down and out" in this excerpt from the chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald? What is the difference between "knocked down" / knocked out" and "knocked down and out"? 

Dear Mr. Carraway. This has been one of the most terrible shocks of my life to me I hardly can believe it that it is true at all. Such a mad act as that man did should make us all think, I cannot come down now as I am tied up in some very important business and cannot get mixed up in this thing now. If there is anything I can do a little later let me know in a letter by Edgar. I hardly know where I am when I hear about a thing like this and am completely knocked down and out

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The writer of the note is Meyer Wolfsheim. Nick, who has been forced into handling such matters as funeral arrangements, had sent Gatsby's butler over to New York with a letter "which asked for information and urged him to come out on the next train." Wolfsheim was one person who at least should have been counted on to attend Gatsby's funeral, but he sent back the answer quoted in the posted question.

Wolfsheim obviously is not a well-educated man, although he is intelligent, street-wise, and "connegted." His statement that he is completely knocked down and out is a metaphor borrowed from the world of prizefighting, with which he is probably quite familiar. Boxers often get knocked down without getting knocked out. The referee has to get the opponent to go to a neutral corner and then count fairly slowly over the fallen boxer. If the boxer cannot get up by the count of ten, he is "out." So getting knocked down and out is much worse than merely getting knocked down.

Wolfsheim's reply sounds false and hypocritical. He is neither knocked down nor out by the news of Gatsby's death. He simply does not want to get involved in a situation which seems to have all kinds of suspicious implications and ramifications. Wolfsheim has a shady reputation. There are all sorts of unanswered questions about Gatsby's death, and the police might start wondering if Wolfsheim is somehow connected with them. The police can overlook many things, but when an event receives a lot of newspaper publicity, it forces them to become actively involved.

Fitzgerald had established that Gatsby was a notorious character because of his spectacular parties and his riches. Meyer Wolfsheim might want to avoid the limelight, but Gatsby was flamboyant. He drove the gaudiest car on the market, lived in an enormous mansion, wore fancy, tailor-made clothes, and had his shirts custom made in England. He knew everybody, and everybody knew of him. His murder was bound to receive a lot of attention from the New York newspapers--and the more publicity the three deaths received, the more Meyer Wolssheim would feel inclined to stay undercover--or as he put it, the more he would feel "completely knocked down and out." 

There was only one motorcycle cop at the scene of the hit-and-run death of Myrtle Wilson, but many more will probably be coming. After all, there were three deaths involved: a hit-and-run, a homicide, and a suicide. Who was this Myrtle Wilson? Was she involved with Gatsby? Was Gatsby involved with Daisy? How was Tom Buchanan, the polo player, involved? What was behind all those big parties at Gatsby's mansion? Wasn't Gatsby associated with Meyer Wolfsheim? Weren't they both involved with bootlegging and other criminal enterprises? Did Gatsby's death have anything to do with bootlegging?

Nick describes Gatsby's funeral as a dismal affair.

About five o'clock our procession of three cars reached the cemetery and stopped in a thick drizzle beside the gate--first a motor hearse, horribly black and wet, then Mr. Gatz and the minister and I in the limousine, and a little later four or five servants and the postman from West Egg, in Gatsby's station wagon, all wet to the skin. As we started through the gate into the cemetery I heard a car stop and then the sound of some one splashing after us over the soggy ground. I looked round. It was the man with owl-eyed glasses whom I had found marvelling over Gatsby's books in the library one night three months before.


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The Great Gatsby

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