How do the books that Jay Gatsby has in The Great Gatsby support the theme of the hollowness and artificiality of the upper class?  

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the first of Jay Gatsby's parties that Nick attends, he and Jordan stumble into the library and on a man in his middle age in wearing "owl-eyed spectacles." This man is very drunk and begins speaking to them, asking what they think of Gatsby's books. He explains that they are real books rather than cardboard, and that the pages are uncut. At this time, some of the pages in books would actually be connected to one another as a result of the way they were printed. When one bought a new book, one would have to cut the pages apart in order to read the book. The fact that these pages remain uncut proves that Gatsby has not actually read any of these books and implies that he has only purchased them for show. Owl-eyes tells Jordan and Nick that Gatsby is a "regular Belasco"; Belasco was an American theatrical producer, and thus an expert at staging scenery and creating false realities that appeared real. To point this out is to reveal the pretense and obsession with appearances that occupies the upper class. These seeming realities are artificial and actually hollow; Gatsby isn't well-read, he only appears to be.

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The Great Gatsby

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