I'd like to know if "across the table" in this excerpt from the Chapter Seven of The Great Gatsby means just "sitting on the other side of the table" or "leaning across the table":
"Daisy and Tom were sitting opposite each other at the kitchen table with a plate of cold fried chicken between them and two bottles of ale. He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own. "
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When Nick describes what he sees when he peers inside through a "rift in the sill," it is quite telling. Both Daisy and Tom have begun the process of retreating into their protected world of wealth, exclusion, and self- indulgence given what has happened with Myrtle. Their world is ill- equipped to deal with the gravity of life and this becomes clear as Nick stares at them. When Nick describes Tom talking "intently across the table at" Daisy, it is a way to articulate how Tom is talking to Daisy. His words enable his presence to carry across the table. It is not a mere sitting on the other side, as that reflects a type of detachment.
Tom is intent on ensuring that Daisy join him in his retreat from the terrors of the real world. His presence is one that leans across the table, seeking to bring Daisy into his own world of retreat and selfishness. For her part, Nick notes that Daisy "once in a while nodded." The "earnestness" with which his hand covers hers is a way for Tom to ensure that Daisy joins him in this retreat from the difficulty of being in the world. The only way this is accomplished is through talking with a presence that carries across the table, hoping to pull her into his own world of retreat.
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