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At one point toward the end of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker speaks the following words as most of the major characters approach New York City:
“I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away. There's something very sensuous about it -- overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands.”
This is an intriguing statement for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Jordan anticipates that the visit to New York will be pleasant. In fact, it will be anything but.
- Tom has just discovered that his mistress, Myrtle, may be slipping from his grasp because her husband suspects that she is having an affair. Thus, Jordan’s sunny optimism contrasts with the disquiet and disturbance that Tom is now feeling.
- At the same time that he is worried about his relationship with Myrtle, Tom is also worried about his relationship with his wife, Daisy. He fears that she may leave him to pursue a relationship with Jay Gatsby.
- Nick, the narrator, immediately notes that Tom is bothered by the word “sensuous,” perhaps because it reminds him of the growing frustrations of his sexual relations with both his wife and his mistress.
- The idea of fruit falling into one’s hands may have reminded many of the novel’s first readers of the loss of innocence that ensued in the Garden of Eden because of fruit coming into the hands of Adam and Eve. This parallel may seem forced, and perhaps it is, but the book is full of other language with Biblical overtones.
- Jordan’s comment perhaps symbolizes the way she looks at life and the kind of experiences she has had so far in life. She seems to take good fortune for granted. She seems to assume that life will be easy, partly because for her it always has been easy. She is a member of a very privileged upper stratum of American society, and she seems to assume that good things will continue to come to her way easily, just as they always have.
- Jordan tends to think of life in sensuous terms – in terms of merely physical pleasures. She is not an especially thoughtful or self-critical person; she is not an intellectual, nor are her motives deeply spiritual. She is a generally shallow person who looks at life in generally shallow ways.
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