Could you please tell me why Miss Baker says "You ought to live in California" in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby? “Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her...

Could you please tell me why Miss Baker says "You ought to live in California" in the first chapter of The Great Gatsby?

“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It's up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”

“We've got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.

You ought to live in California—” began Miss Baker but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reference to "California" is Jordan's approach to Tom's discussion that advances White Supremacy.  Jordan referring to California is part "other- worldly" and partly dismissive.  California is seen as about as far away from the protected world of wealth and privilege that people like Tom, Daisy, and Jordan inhabit.  Their worlds are spent moving amongst wealthy Eastern circles in the East.  Nick describes Jordan and Daisy as women who act as if they are princesses in an unreal world.  They seem to be other- worldly, themselves.  It is for this reason why Jordan references California, as it is so removed from her own setting.  Tom's rant about the "dangers" that White society faces are about as unreal to her as anything else, hence the reference for Tom to "live in California."  At the same time, the reference to as far a removed place as California is a direct mention of the "scientific"  works that Tom has referenced.  Given its complete geographic diversity from the East Coast that situates the world that Tom, Daisy, and Jordan inhabit, California is viewed as "out there," a statement Daisy is making about Tom's claims of scientific validity.  Her California reference is a dismissive one, indicating her lack of interest in what Tom sees or claims to see as significant.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 1, Nick visits Daisy, and Tom begins to share his views on white supremacy. Tom mentions that civilization is going to pieces and suggests that everyone read the novel entitled The Rise of the Colored Empires. Daisy sarcastically mentions to Nick that Tom is becoming "very profound" because he has been reading books with long words in them. Tom continues to elaborate on the racist themes of the novel, which include the idea that white people are the world's dominant race. Jordan Baker then interrupts Tom by saying, "You ought to live in California —" (Fitzgerald, 7). Jordan Baker's comment could indicate that she is aware that Mexican Americans are the largest minority group in California at that time, which supports Tom's theory that colored people are gradually challenging the white race. Jordan's comment about California could also be a minor way of telling Tom to move to a faraway location, where white people are less vulnerable. More than likely, Jordan is sarcastically commenting on Tom's outrageous claims of white supremacy by telling him to move far away from the busy East Coast, where nobody from a different race will challenge his social life, status, and class.

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The Great Gatsby

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