The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What does Nick say is gorgeous about Gatsby in The Great Gatsby?

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The famous quote about Gatsby being "gorgeous" is as follows:

there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.

Nick goes on to explain that this sensitivity is tied to Gatsby's exceptional hopefulness, which Nick calls a "romantic readiness." Gatsby is willing to dream big, to believe that we can achieve our deepest desires, and to be ready to take risks for what he wants most in life. 

However, if we dig deeper into Gatsby's "gorgeous" risk-taking hopefulness—symbolized in the great parties he throws, the car he drives, and the pink suits he wears—we find this quality is connected to death as well as hope. To fly as high as Gatsby dares to, to come so close to the "sun" of his desires, is to court death.  

For instance, we learn of "Gatsby's gorgeous car." This car, of course, will be the instrument of Myrtle's death that leads to Gatsby's own death.

Second, when Tom and Daisy finally come to one of Gatsby's grand parties, they are faced with a "gorgeous" image of death, "scarcely human," a woman who is both "gorgeous" and "ghostly." This detail is not random:

Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree. Tom and Daisy stared, with that peculiarly unreal feeling that accompanies the recognition of a hitherto ghostly celebrity of the movies.

Finally, the last time Nick sees Gatsby alive, in a scene fraught with foreboding, he is wearing  a "gorgeous" suit: 

His gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps

To dream too big carries risks—Gatsby pays a high price for the gorgeous hope he embodies.

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After saying that Gatsby represents all the things that he detests, Nick says that Gatsby was not so bad. Gatsby is an exception to Nick's pattern of attitude and predilection.

Gatsby is quite literally exceptional in ways that Nick is hard-pressed to directly express. Despite the difficulty of pinning down the qualities that make Gatsby exceptional, Nick makes an effort:

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life.…

It is Gatsby's hope and self-belief that make him exceptional. This self-belief is not exactly the same as confidence. It is wrapped up in a sense of destiny that goes beyond mere confidence. Gatsby's penchant for hope and faith in himself are unique in Nick's experience. 

These qualities set Gatsby apart from other people Nick has known, including those discussed in the narrative of the novel. 

The "gorgeous" aspect of Gatsby is what leads both to his success and his ultimate failure. He pursues a vision unwaveringly, but that vision includes a degree of idealism that makes it nearly impossible to achieve and certainly impractical. The fact that Gatsby believes so fervently in this vision speaks to an innocence in his character.

He believes in the impossible as possible, in fantasy becoming the basis for reality. This makes him a somewhat poetic figure and one that Nick finds a kinship with, as Nick is also something of a romantic in his own way.


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