In The Great Gatsby is there any historical context in the list of people that are mentioned in the beginning of Chapter 4?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, I don't know about historical context - it seems to me that the list of guests who visit Gatsby's party is a comic set piece, a literary exercise, which includes puns and verbal jokes. It is quite distinct from the lyrical prose in which much of the novel is written. Fitzgerald had a great respect for Thackeray's Vanity Fair, which contains similar lists, and so perhaps this is an act of homage to Thackeray.

Note that there are plant names here: "Hornbeam", "Endive", "Orchid", "Duckweed"; animal names: "Civet", "Blackbuck", "Beaver", "Ferret", "Klipspringer"; and names of sea creatures: "Whitebait", "Hammerhead", "Beluga". Perhaps we can see these names as a satirical strategy, suggesting certain characteristics associated with these natural phenomena. This should serve to draw our attention as attentive readers to the way that Fitzgerald uses names with other characters, such as Gatsby, Carraway and Daisy and Myrtle.

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The Great Gatsby

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