The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What are some examples of vivid language in chapter 4 of The Great Gatsby? Why does Nick say, "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired"?

The Great Gatsby abounds in vivid descriptions. It is up to the reader to decide if the are effective, although most critics have found his use of language and imagery to reinforce the major themes of the novel. The vivid language does help to convey the world in which Gatsby lives in and the world he tries to create.

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The Great Gatsby, nearly one hundred years after its publication, remains an American classic partly because of Fitzgerald's accomplished and lyrical use of language. One vivid description can be found as Nick narrates Gatsby's famous party: "Benny McClenahan arrived with four girls. They were never quite the sames ones in physical person but they were so identical one with another that it inevitably seemed they had been there before." This description of the interchangeable girls that show up to the party captures both the social whirl of the party, and that nothing really changes about them. It all feels familiar because it is the same party, repeated. Another striking description is of Meyer Wolfshiem, a business associate of Gatsby's. Nick notices his cuff buttons, which, as Wolfshiem informs him, are "finest specimens of human molars." This gives us some insight into Wolfshiem's character, as well as marks him as somewhat eccentric and somewhat suspicious. Who wears human molars for fashion, after all? A third description is of Gatsby's car, which indicates Gatsby's status, his penchant for rich people things, and also foreshadows the ending.

Nick's oft-quoted line about the busy, the tired, the pursued, and the pursuing can work on several levels. Nick is continually trying to make sense of the world around him, especially the world of rich and shallow people. Wealth may confer status and power, but it can also be exhausting to keep up the facade. No one seems to really enjoy their wealth, which may be Fitzgerald's critique of the American Dream. Everyone in the book is in constant motion, but it's a kind of motion in which no one really gets anywhere, so much as stay in place. Nick, more than the other characters, sees through some of the illusions of wealth and status, which is why he says this.

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