The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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In The Great Gatsby, what is the interpretation of the scene where Mrs. Sloane invites Gatsby to dinner?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The scene illustrates the enormous gulf in class between East Egg and West Egg. Despite being fantastically wealthy and living in a huge mansion, Gatsby isn't on the same social level as the likes of Mrs. Sloane. He desperately wants to be accepted by the East Egg social elite, but he's destined to be disappointed, because they never will. Gatsby may be rich, but to the East Eggers, good breeding and pedigree count for so much more than money, and the brutal truth is that Jay just doesn't have either of these essential qualities.

The blue-bloods have their own little codes of conduct which, to outsiders, may seem somewhat strange. Only those within the charmed circle are able to make sense of them. That's why Gatsby, not unreasonably, assumes that Mrs. Sloane's dinner invitation is genuine rather than merely a formal expression of politeness. As someone who isn't a member of the old money elite, he doesn't understand what Mrs. Sloane is really saying. Gatsby's confusion highlights the uncomfortable fact that he isn't really a part of this world, no matter how much he wants to be, and that for all his vast wealth, large house, and fine clothes, he's still an outsider and always will be.

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 6, Tom Buchanan and the Sloanes stop at Gatsby's home to have a drink while they are out riding horses. Gatsby politely asks the group to stay for dinner, and Mrs. Sloane courteously invites Gatsby and Nick over for supper. Gatsby looks at Nick questioningly and cannot tell that Mr. Sloane does not want them over for dinner. Nick understands that Mrs. Sloane is simply being polite. He also notices that Mr. Sloane does not wish to have them as guests, but Gatsby is naive and agrees to eat dinner with them anyway. When Gatsby leaves, Tom comments, "My God, I believe the man’s coming...Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?" (Fitzgerald, 111). The group then leaves without waiting for Gatsby to follow them.

This scene illustrates Gatsby's naivety and innocence. He genuinely believes that Mrs. Sloane wants him over for dinner and does not notice her superficial courtesy. It also displays the contempt that the East Egg residents have towards the newly rich West Egg citizens. Tom and the Sloanes are depicted as insensitive, haughty individuals who do not mean what they say. Gatsby's willingness to belong to the wealthy East Egg community is portrayed in his excitement to join them for dinner.

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mwestwood, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At one point, Nick describes Gatsby's aspirations as

a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

Thus, Jay Gatsby places more value upon the gestures and words of the upperclass than is warranted. Their money and social status notwithstanding, the residents of East Egg possess the same pettiness and idiosyncrasies of other people.  In fact, they certainly are more pretentious. 

When Mrs. Sloane invites Gatsby to join them, she knows that he has no horse; therefore, she assumes that Gatsby will decline the invitation as, of course, Nick Carraway does.  But, with his ingenuous nature coupled to his desire to become part of Daisy Buchanan's world, Gatsby accepts the invitation.  It is apparent that Mrs. Sloane toys with him, knowing that Gatsby is unsuspecting of her treachery.  Her husband, who is less subtle, preceives no reason to have any conversation with Gatsby for any reason, just as Tom Buchanan feels.

This scene underscores the danger of Gatsby's idealism. Here he is slighted and victimized by his naivete; this scene presages others to come that will have more harmful results. 

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