In The Great Gatsby, what is the function of this song in chapter4 ? Oh, I’m the Sheik of ArabyAnd all the women worship me.You should see them follow me around. Not bad.Even wives of all the...

In The Great Gatsby, what is the function of this song in chapter4 ?

Oh, I’m the Sheik of Araby
And all the women worship me.
You should see them follow me around. Not bad.
Even wives of all the other sheiks,
They beg to kiss my rosy cheeks
And that ain’t bad — in fact, that’s good, I’ve found. I’m a cad!


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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his lyric Realism, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs music as a subliminal force for his narrative.  Interestingly, James Joyce alluded to Araby in his short story "Araby," published in 1914 as the narrator's uncle recites a poem entitled, "The Arab's Farewell to his Steed" a poem by Caroline Norton of Ireland.  Araby is the poetic name for Arabia; a location connected with exoticism, sensuality, prodigious wealth, and refined cruelty. Ted Synder's song, "The Sheik of Araby" was written in response to the 1921 popular movie of the same name starring the "Latin Lover" Rudolph Valentino. So, the connotations of this song are also sensual and exotic.

In Chapter Four there is much that seems exotic about Gatsby who is rumored to having lived "like a young rajah."  Further tales of his past indicate that Gatsby has led a charmed, "an enchanted life" as he was educated at Oxford.  His possessions are on a grand scale: His car seems almost mythical with "fenders like wings" and "a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns";his mansion has Marie Antoinette rooms. In addition, Gatsby plans to claim the wife of another, Daisy Buchanan. Certainly, the Jazz song playing in the background of "The Sheik of Araby" suggests these ideas of exoticism, sensualness, illicit affairs, and wealth on an unconscious level.  This song, therefore, acts as an appropriate backdrop for the scenes in Chapter Four. 

As Nick rides with Gatsby, Gatsby relates his past; he, then, pulls out a photograph that he carries of himself with several other young men taken at Oxford.  Nick comments,

Then it was all true.  I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depth, the gnawings of his broken heart.

Clearly, "The Sheik of Araby" becomes a metaphor for the wealthy and enigmatic Jay Gatsby. 

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