Could you please tell me what the "grotesque rose" is in the chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby? "He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through...

Could you please tell me what the "grotesque rose" is in the chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby?

He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. 

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Anne Riley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Nick imagines what Gatsby must have been thinking before he died. According to Nick’s idea, Gatsby looks at the “unfamiliar sky” and “frightening leaves” because he is left with nothing. Gatsby spent five years amassing a fortune just to impress Daisy; now that he’s lost her, he has nothing to strive for. He is scared because he is getting a glimpse of reality, which he typically pushes away. He much prefers the comfort of his own dreams, where nothing goes wrong and everything is perfect.

Gatsby “shiver[s]” because he realizes “what a grotesque thing a rose is.” He had recently endured the death of his dream that he had conjured for five years. The image of Daisy as perfect was etched in his mind during those years, and he expected her to be exactly as he had imagined. All that time, he thought time would stand still and Daisy would be the same girl she used to be. When Tom confronts him, Gatsby is shocked to discover that Daisy is different; she does not stand up for him and she cannot leave her husband. Daisy’s “voice is full of money;” she places wealth and status well ahead of love. Gatsby finally has to face the truth that they will never be together, that Daisy will stay with Tom, that his dream is just a fantasy. Reality can never quite match fantasy. Thus, Gatsby sees the world around him in a different light now as he floats in the pool. He sees the rose, which is typically a beautiful symbol of love or romance, as ugly now because it is no longer covered by fantasy. He sees the truth—it has thorns and can hurt.

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Nick imagines that the world must have grown unheimlich or "unhomelike" for Gatsby as he sat waiting for the phone call from Daisy that never came after Myrtle's death. He had worked for five years and thrown all his energies into reuniting with Daisy, and now she seemed to be slipping away. Gatsby's whole world, as result, must seem eerie and unreal to him—or so Nick thinks. This new perception would make an ordinary rose seem distorted and grotesque. As reality entered his life, Gatsby would find it impossible to see every rose as beautiful, just as would have to face the rawness of the sun on the grass: things are no longer seen through the soft haze of imagination.

The passage points to the power of imagination to alter reality for a person. It is also Nick's perception of what Gatsby must have been thinking and feeling. Nick imagines Gatsby as being, right before his death: trying to readjust his perceptions of his world and ending up disoriented.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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