In The Great Gatsby, what is the date of the party that Nick has a guest list for? How might that be symbolic?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby, Nick recounts a record of the guests who attended Gatsby ’s party on July 5, 1922. The event’s date is significantly symbolic because it is one day after American Independence Day. Like Gatsby, his party is a bit off the mark; it...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

occurs not on the actual holiday but right after it. Just as Gatsby misses infiltrating the truly patrician, old-money society thatDaisy occupies, his bash just misses the truly celebrated Fourth of July. The novel explores the failure of the American Dream and Gatsby as an outsider; similarly, his party fails to happen on American’s birthday but remains more like a second-rate after-party or second-class gathering.

Gatsby’s guest list includes moneyed but second-class or less honorable citizens as well. For example, Nick lists people such as:

  • The Leeches (the name appropriately symbolizes parasites that freeload off of Gatsby)
  • Doctor Webster Civet, Willie Voltaires, Stonewall Jackson Abrams, and Cecil Roebuck (people with names close to but not equivalent to their more famous “almost” namesakes)
  • Guests with ridiculous names like Hornbeams, Blackbuck, Catlips, Klipspringer (“the boarder” who stayed over often), James B. ("Rot-Gut") Ferret, Duckweed, Hammerhead, Beluga, S. W. Belcher, Smirkes, and more
  • Guests with dubious achievements, like Edgar Beaver, whose hair turned white one afternoon; Clarence Endive, who attended in white knickerbockers and fought with Etty the bum; Ripley Snells, who became so drunk that he passed out and was run over; Henry L. Palmetto, who committed suicide by jumping onto subway tracks in Times Square; the four McClenahan girls, who could substitute for each other; soldier Brewer, “who had his nose shot off in the war”; and Duke, who is a prince of some place and whose real name Nick forgets.

So it seems quite ironic and a bit sad that the independence for which American soldiers and forefathers fought and declared on July 4, 1776 is celebrated by not-so-reputable, partying twentieth-century Americans; in fact, the guests are not truly independent because they all sponge off of Gatsby as well as their own families' money and social connections. Therefore, it is only fitting that they celebrate at a party Gatsby throws in the hopes of gaining Daisy’s attention on July 5, 1922.

Finally, 1922 was an early year during the historical time period known as the Roaring Twenties or Jazz Age, when America underwent drastic developments in economic growth and social freedom. A decadent shindig like Gatsby’s party is rather characteristic of that time. Furthermore, Prohibition was in full swing; Gatsby's alcohol-soaked festivities (and revelers) demonstrate the lawlessness and dissolute behavior of high society at play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team