What is the meaning of "squawk" in the following passage of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Chapter 9: When the phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said Chicago was calling I thought this...

What is the meaning of "squawk" in the following passage of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Chapter 9:

When the phone rang that afternoon and Long Distance said Chicago was calling I thought this would be Daisy at last. But the connection came through as a man's voice, very thin and far away.

"This is Slagle speaking . . ."

"Yes?" The name was unfamiliar.

"Hell of a note, isn't it? Get my wire?"

"There haven't been any wires."

"Young Parke's in trouble," he said rapidly. "They picked him up when he handed the bonds over the counter. They got a circular from New York giving 'em the numbers just five minutes before. What d'you know about that, hey? You never can tell in these hick towns—"

"Hello!" I interrupted breathlessly. "Look here—this isn't Mr. Gatsby. Mr. Gatsby's dead."

There was a long silence on the other end of the wire, followed by an exclamation . . . then a quick squawk as the connection was broken.

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In that in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby seems to have made his fortune in shading dealings, we can assume that at the end of the story, word of Gatsby's death has not yet reached all of his business "associates."

Gatsby was the son of poor farmers; early on he decides that he cannot and will not live the life of his parents.

His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people--his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.

Dan Cody takes him away from the life he was born to, but Gatsby's need for wealth comes from his desire to impress and win Daisy Buchanan, the popular young woman he meets while in the service (and his pursuit of the American Dream—of which Daisy is a part).

[...Gatsby]...returns to America and becomes involved in a drug ring. In his criminal affairs, he quickly gains wealth.

Gatsby never gives up his dream of having Daisy, even after she marries Tom Buchanan, something of a brute (though they seem—in terms of their shallow characters—to be made for each other.

Gatsby is relentless in his pursuit of wealth. While rumors swirl around him, it seems fairly clear throughout the story that in truth he has some suspicious business connections. This may be why the call Nick receives after Gatsby's death is terminated the way that it is. I don't know if we can be certain of the reason the person on the other end of the line "squawks," but we can make a couple of logical assumptions.

The word "squawks" is an example of onomatopoeia: a word that describes a sound.

"Squawks" is a word used to imitate the sound a bird makes, usually in anger or fear. It is also used sometimes to describe how a person sounds who is complaining. "Quit you're squawking" would be directed to someone unhappy about a situation...someone who is verbally protesting that situation.

The man on the phone believes he is talking to Gatsby, not realizing until Nick interrupts that he is speaking of things that it might not be prudent to share with anyone other than Gatsby. We know that the police are involved—"bonds" were handed over a counter and "Parke" is immediately arrested. We can infer that whatever took place was illegal. That Gatsby would know about or be interested in this situation is evident in that the caller has contacted Gatsby. However, when the caller squawks and the line goes dead, we can assume that the caller is distressed in implicating his own involvement by relaying the details to Nick, or he is extremely distressed to have learned of Gatsby's death.

Most people desert Gatsby after his death: all his "friends" disappear and very few people attend the funeral—even Daisy leaves behind the man who took the blame for Myrtle Wilson's death. So can we be naive enough to believe that the undesirable criminal element Gatsby is involved with would be crushed at Gatsby's death because of the loss of the man he was? Or would such people be more concerned about themselves: fearful of being associated with a crime, or disappointed that Gatsby would be of no further use to them?

I expect the squawk reflects the caller's concern for himself and what he may have done to perhaps implicate himself: nothing more.

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The Great Gatsby

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