What is the meaning of "racy" in the following excerpt from the Chapter 3 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby? I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the...
What is the meaning of "racy" in the following excerpt from the Chapter 3 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby?
I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.
The word racy has a couple of definitions. One definition is that racy can mean "lively or spirited," meaning very energetic or active and showing a great deal of nerve (Random House Dictionary). But racy can also mean "improper," "indelicate," or "suggestive," all of which are synonymous with offensiveness and immoral or improper behavior (Random House Dictionary). In the sentence in question, since "racy" is right next to "adventurous" in the phrase, "the racy, adventurous feel of it at night," in this context, it may be better to interpret racy using the energetic, active connotation of the word. All in all, Nick is describing New York as a very daring, risky city full of life and energy.
However, the connotation of the word racy that refers more to immorality shouldn't be discounted. Immoral, improper behavior is a dominant theme in the book, and Nick has already witnessed a great deal of immoral, improper behavior. Specifically, he is well aware that Tom is cheating on Daisy and believes that she should "rush out of the house, child in arms," and escape Tom's immorality (Ch. 1). He even further witnesses Tom's immoral, improper behavior when Tom strikes Myrtle, breaking her nose, for speaking of Daisy (Ch. 2). Hence, while the immediate connotation of racy within the context "the racy, adventurous feel of it" refers more to energy and liveliness, we can easily see that the word has a double meaning that helps paint Fitzgerald's entire central theme.