There Are Only The Pursued The Pursuing The Busy And The Tired

What does the quote "there are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired" mean?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Asked on by mmcdaid

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This line comes at the end of Chapter Four of Fitzgerald's monumental satire of the American Dream, The Great Gatsby. After he has ridden with Gatsby in his mythological car, hearing Gatsby's history, met Meyer Wolfcheim, listened to the exotic song of the "Sheik of Araby," and talked with Jordan Baker, a phrase beats in Nick's mind,

"There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired."

His meeting with all these people and all those who frequent Gatsby's "splendid roadhouse," give Nick this perception of the world. These people fit into one of four types:  They are either those who "pursue" others in romantic hopes of love like Gatsby, or they are "pursued" as Daisy is by Gatsby; there are those who are "busy" like Tom Buchanan, who fills his life with money and women, or those who attend Gatsby's parties, arriving with the names of great American capitalists.  And, then, there are the "tired," the effete, such as Jordan Baker, who is detached from the others; or there is Meyer Wolfscheim who has now has "little to say." 

These four types represent those who people the Jazz Age, all who have constructed their American Dream on an image, a material goal, connections, an amoral path.  This phrase that beats in Nick's ear presages the inversion of the Dream as he presses to him this "clean, hard, limited person who dealt in universal skepticism."


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