What does this quote from the great Gatsby mean? "Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and Daisy gleaming like silver, safe, and proud above the hot struggles of the poor."

The quoted lines from chapter 8 reveal Nick's interpretation of how Jay Gatsby, who grew up poor, saw the rich, lovely Daisy Buchanan when they first met. The lines convey how dazzled Jay was by Daisy's wealthy social world, and how protected she was from knowing the harsh reality outside of that environment. Nick uses silver rather than gold to imply that Daisy is not the most precious metal, and her gleam can dim as silver tarnishes.

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The quotation comes from chapter 8, in which Jay finally tells Nick the story of his history with Daisy. In the written narrative, Nick is also interpreting Jay's story in light of what he knows happened later. Nick's interpretation includes his judgment of Daisy's social world, in which she was raised not to think about people in lower social classes. Her sense of pride likewise derives from her upbringing, not from any personal achievement.

Nick clearly contrasts her detached superiority to the way Jay grew up: he embodies the hot, struggling poor, but does all he can to hide his background from the girl. Jay seems to imagine Daisy floating in the air, out of reach. Daisy thus becomes not just an individual person but also an abstracted representation of the best and the worst of that world.

Throughout the novel, Daisy is frequently compared to silver or gold, and adjectives such as "gleaming" and "shining" is often applied to her and to elements of her social world. The "freshness" around her also recurs. Earlier in chapter 8, Nick has Jay describing the romances unfolding in Daisy's luxurious family home as

fresh and breathing and redolent of this year's shining motor cars….

On the page following the quotation, as Nick interprets Daisy's experience while Jay was serving in the war, he describes the dances she attended:

a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust.

In the quote "Daisy gleaming like silver," it is possible that Nick compares her to silver because like silver, her shining will tarnish over time.

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