How is Gatsby's car a sign of his wealth?

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Fitzgerald’s description of Jay Gatsby’s “gorgeous” car, through the eyes of Nick Carraway, is one of the truly splendid elements of the novel, rivaling even his description of Gatsby’s parties. The description is specific enough for the reader to be able to imagine the car (often assumed to be a Rolls Royce) but vague enough to avoid precisely identifying an actual make and model. It also includes some far-fetched details which make it clear that Nick is indulging his tendency to exaggerate or fantasize. Before meeting Gatsby and getting sucked into his world, Nick had imagined himself immune, or at least resistant, to the allure of wealth. His tongue-in-cheek description shows that he retains some of that skepticism but cannot help being impressed.

Nick does not simply say the car is very long; he refers to “its monstrous length,” which is “swollen” by varied contents; it sounds rather like a whale. And rather than just say it was full of boxes, Nick identifies several specific types, some of which have nothing to do with cars: “hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes. “ Nick also terms these items “triumphant” and says the car’s numerous windshields “mirrored a dozen suns.” This part of the description might apply to a victorious warrior or king; he may specifically be alluding to the Sun King, France’s Louis XIV, the quintessential symbol of extravagance.

It may also help to realize that, because of the hyperbole in the description and certain factors such as the colors in which cars were available at the time, true fans have disagreed over the car it is intended to represent. While this is not an issue for a novel’s readers, it has presented challenges to film makers.

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