When defining words from The Great Gatsby for both connotation and denotation, what does the following instruction mean?"Make sure your definitions fit the context of the word within the text." I'm...

When defining words from The Great Gatsby for both connotation and denotation, what does the following instruction mean?

"Make sure your definitions fit the context of the word within the text."

I'm not sure if the instructions are telling me to write the definition or relate the word to the book. Some vocabulary words I have for Connotation vs. Denotation are bendiction, jaunty and elude.


Asked on by kiki16

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby the word eluded appears in a remark of Nick Carraway:

The nature of Mr. Tolstoff's composition [a musical piece,
Jazz History of the World,"] eluded me, because just as it began, my eyes fell on Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps and looking from one group to another with approving eyes.

Making use of the directives of the previous post, the appropriate denotation for this word is to slip away from. In a sense, the word is used literally in the above passage as Nick is distracted and does not listen.  However, usually elude is applied to a person or animal.  For example, The criminal eluded pursuit.  So, here there is a figurative meaning that applies as well.

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

but how do i put both into the word like benediction- ....ect ect or benediction-definition/the part from the book?

In literature as in The Great Gatsby, words are often used in a non-literal figurative sense. This means that you must know something about the culture portrayed in the story or novel in order to know what the author means by his figurative statements.

In order to fulfill your instructions and fit the definition you provide with the context of the text's story, you must know whether the word is being used with a special cultural figurative meaning or a regular literal definitive meaning.

Take benediction for example. Collins English Dictionary (available at Dictionary.com) states that benediction is a noun that is:

1.     an invocation of divine blessing, esp at the end of a Christian religious ceremony
2.     a Roman Catholic service in which the congregation is blessed with the sacrament
3.     the state of being blessed

When Mr. Wolfshiem raises his hand in benediction in the restaurant at his parting from Gatsby, he is certainly not giving a divine blessing at the end of a Christian ceremony nor is he ending a Catholic service with a sacrament nor is he proffering them a state of being blessed.

From this you know that Fitzgerald did not use the word benediction according to its literal denotative definition. Fitzgerald used the word according to its connotative figurative meaning. So what is the connotative figurative meaning? It is that Wolfshiem is acting as though he were bestowing the gift of a blessing on the others--which incidentally adds to Wolfshiem's characterization and also indirectly to Gatsby's characterization because he associates with Wolfshiem.

So your defintion will give the connotative meaning that reflects the events, characters, and word usage in the novel; you will not give the denotative meaning because you can see that denotation is wholly out of keeping with the context of the novel.

Additionally, the connotative figurative use of benediction is now so common in English that Random House Dictionary (on Dictionary.com) gives the connotative usage an entry under the head word benediction: "–noun 1. an utterance of good wishes." Incidentally, when you undertake elude, you'll see that in at least some instances elude is used according to the literal denotative meaning [see Random House meaning 2 (escape perception) and Collins meaning 3 (escape understanding)].

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It appears to me your teacher is asking you to find both the denotation (the dictionary definition) and the connotation (how it's used in the text) for each of your words.  For example, the word benediction is literally a blessing or some kind of an official religious ceremony.  However, there are no actual prayers or ceremonies in The Great Gatsby. This word is used in chapter 8 to describe an action of the sun:

...the sun...seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing city.... 

Clearly the sun can neither pray nor perform any sacred rite.  Instead, it's a figurative (connotative) use of the word--the sun spread like a prayer over the city. So, take each word and find both the dictionary meaning as well as its usage in this text.  Good words!

kiki16's profile pic

kiki16 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

but how do i put both into the word like benediction- ....ect ect or benediction-definition/the part from the book?

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