Please help explain this quote from The Great Gatsby:
“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity of the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of ‘creative temperament’ – it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again."
And what does "creative temperament" mean?
In this quote, Nick uses "creative temperament" to define a person's ability to adapt and change persona to suit the situation. "Temperament" can be loosely defined as a person's personality or general disposition. For example, someone is an extrovert or an introvert and these are aspects of a person's temperament. If one has a creative temperament, he can be shy or outgoing, confident or awkward.
This ability to behave in different ways is true of Gatsby, but Nick thinks "creative temperament" is too general, too loose, or too clinical (Nick uses the word "flabby"). Since Gatsby exhibits this ability out of a naive romanticism and sublime hope, Nick finds Gatsby's "creative temperament" the result of a focused dreamer, rather than the result of a mental disposition.
Instead, Nick chooses to call Gatsby's malleable personality with the phrase "romantic readiness." In other words, Gatsby was not "an unbroken series of successful gestures." Gatsby's personality had significant breaks, the most significant break being the transition from Gatz to Gatsby. Gatsby's "heightened sensitivity to the promises of life," his "romantic readiness," emerged, not from some genetically or culturally induced predisposition in his personality; his "romantic readiness" emerged from his hope and determined optimism.
This is why Nick makes the comparison of Gatsby and the earthquake machine with the phrase "as if." Gatsby's adaptability and fervent romanticism are not machine-like functions; they are much more organic and spontaneous. Gatsby's abilities to be intuitive and to adapt his personality are fueled by his determination to pursue his dream; and that is fueled by hope; not some clinical diagnosis of a "creative temperament."