I'd like to know the meaning of the phrase "made me rigid" in this extract from the chapter Eight of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:“I’ve left Daisy’s house,” she said. “I’m...

I'd like to know the meaning of the phrase "made me rigid" in this extract from the chapter Eight of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“I’ve left Daisy’s house,” she said. “I’m at Hempstead and I’m going down to Southampton this afternoon.” 
Probably it had been tactful to leave Daisy’s house, but the act annoyed me and her next remark made me rigid
“You weren’t so nice to me last night.” 

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In a way, Nick's reaction to Jordan in Chapter 8 is building off of his ending note in chapter 7.  The conclusion of chapter 7 is Gatsby “standing there in the moonlight—watching over nothing.”  The image at the start of the novel with Gatsby watching the green light was a dream and its counterpart in chapter 7 is that this dream is "nothing."  It has no value in Nick's eyes and it is worthless, in general.  What Gatsby hopes for and believes is devoid of any value after what happened in the previous chapter.

From this, there is a sadness prevailing in chapter 8 that Nick detects.  The draining of the pool that everyone other than Gatsby has used, Gatsby's almost begging the pool man to wait to drain it so that he can use it just once, and the fact that Gatsby is still waiting on Daisy all conspire to have Nick yell out to him as he leaves for work, "They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”  At this point, it is clear that Nick feels emotionally empty towards the world of Tom, Daisy, and Jordan.  The flapper society that has held so much in way of extravagance and opulence has turned out to be emotionally empty and valueless as human beings.

It is for this reason when Jordan decides to bail out, essentially looking out only for herself and with no regards to anyone else, Nick is at a point where he has little in way of emotional connection.  For her to say, in the midst of everything else that has happened, that Nick "was not so nice to her" is what leaves him rigid.  The idea of being "rigid" is one that reflects stiffness, almost lifelessness.  Nick is struck by Jordan's amorality as well as her self- indulgence.  Nick feels little in way of life or emotions towards her and the social order she represents.  In suggesting that "her remarks made me rigid," Nick is suggesting that he can no longer fathom her sense of selfishness that prevents any real human emotion from being present.  His reaction to her comments as causing him to be "rigid" is closely connected to the tone of her voice, "harsh and dry."  There is little room for any redemptive construction of life in Jordan Baker. Given everything that has transpired, it becomes clear that Nick wants nothing to do with her and thus her remark about how she was "mistreated" while a human being lost her life chasing after a corroded dream, leaves Nick "rigid."

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The Great Gatsby

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