In Gatsby Chap. 4, the guest list...is there any particular significance to the fact that a huge number of last names  were animals?Included among guests are Roebuck, Klipspringer, and...

In Gatsby Chap. 4, the guest list...is there any particular significance to the fact that a huge number of last names  were animals?

Included among guests are Roebuck, Klipspringer, and Blackbuck ( antelopes); Beaver (rodent), Ferret, Civet (small predators); Hammerheads (shark), Beluga (Whale). Also included are, Bull, Leech and Whitebait. The plant kingdom is also represented: Duckweed, Palmetto, Endive, Orchid, Hornbeam and Lilly (not the flower's spellling),

And  Is it a coincidence that he describes the Blackbucks as folks who flipped up their noses LIKE GOATS (where the scientific name of the Black Buck is  Antilope cervicapra; and cervicapra means deer-goat).

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald based Jay Gatsby on a character called Trimalchio in Petronius's Satyricon. In fact, to the alarm of his editor, Fitzgerald wanted to name his novel Trimalchio. 

In the the original work, Petronius makes fun of Trimalchio, a former slave who has become rich in underhanded ways. Trimalchio throws lavish, vulgar parties that parade his wealth. He often serves his guests such treats as live birds sewn up into pigs.

The parallels with Gatsby's life are obvious: Gatsby too is a self-made man from the lower classes who has obtained his money illegally. He also throws ostentatious parties. While he does not serve live birds sewn up into pigs, his guests come from all walks of life and would be seen by upper-crust people like Tom Buchanan as little more than animals.

We remember that the story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, whose background is similar to Tom's. He does not have Tom's wealth, but the two went to college together, and Tom accepts Nick as a "Nordic" like himself. Nick falls under the spell Gatsby casts, especially after Gatsby's audacious dream becomes clears to him, but Jay also exhibits snobbery towards his friend. For example, Gatsby lies and says he "lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe ... hunting big game." Nick wants to laugh at him for his ignorance of Europe, and, as a joke, he imagines that Gatsby "pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne," a park in Paris where no tiger hunting goes on. 

So whether these people at the parties really had the last names Nick lists or he made them up as a sort of snobbish joke, we do not know for sure,. They do, however, reflect Nick's sense that it was animal-like riffraff that attended Gatsby's parties.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a FASCINATING idea!  I'm sure one could write a dissertation on this particular topic, ... and yet with Fitzgerald being dead and with no one having asked him when he was alive, we can never be sure that the list has any significance in regards to its animal counterpart.

Generally, the list is a testament to both East Egg and West Egg:  an example and glorification of the party nature of both old and new money.  Gatsby's parties are one of the few things that could unify this group of rich "separated" by the bay.

My thoughts on this subject migrate to the phrase "party animal," although I have no way of knowing whether Fitzgerald was thinking along the same lines.  A general definition of "party animal" is as follows:

a very sociable person who enjoys lively social activities, a sociable person who loves and goes to many parties

Could dictionary.com be credited for many euphemisms?  This definition seems to be a euphemism.  The connotation of "party animal" is generally negative, referring to the more base activities that occur at parties and specifically at Gatsby's parties:  public drunkenness, debauchery, gluttony, etc.  This is precisely why the term "animal" is used in the phrase:  it refers to a lack of thought, doing what just "feels good."

I wonder what Fitzgerald himself would say about your idea.  It boggles the mind.  And yet, I'm afraid we will never know.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course. Fitzgerald was meticulous with this novel, rewriting and perfecting until the very last moment--and beyond. Thus, the names are not random or accidental choices. Fitzgerald consistently describes the "careless" behavior of these party-goers. They trample things, just like animals. They are often their with people other than their mates. They eat great quantities of food and drink excessively, which leads to their being out of control. There is a kind of herd mentality about this bunch, so the names are perfectly suited to the behavior.

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is interesting that all of the animals are rather distasteful ones -- they are rodents, pests, predators, or just plain large.  I think that Fitzgerald is creating a list of names that suggest their behavior as suggested by auntlori.  They take advantage of Gatsby's generosity by attending without being invited, staying later than they should, drinking and causing accidents, not even thanking their host, etc.  There names reflect their attitudes and behavior. 

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The Great Gatsby

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