What is the interpretation of this important quote from Chapter Eight of The Great Gatsby, when the murder is discovered?
There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of water at the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other. With little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing like the leg of transit, a thin red circle in the water.
It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson's body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.
There are two important conclusions to draw when interpreting this quote. First of all, note how Fitzgerald uses imagery to create a serene and tranquil mood in the first half of this quote. Phrases like "little ripples" and "shadows of waves" help to create this mood. This gives the impression that Gatsby's death, though incredibly tragic and unexpected, has actually released him from the burden of trying to "recreate the past" and win back Daisy Buchanan. As such, the imagery in this quote reflects Gatsby's newfound sense of peace.
Secondly, the use of the word "holocaust" is important here. Remember that Fitzgerald does not use this as an allusion to the slaughter of the Jews in World War Two; this event had not happened at the time of writing. In fact, the word "holocaust" is simply used here to emphasise of the scale of death and destruction which has just taken place. Remember that Gatsby was murdered by Wilson for a crime that he did not commit and that Wilson killed himself after murdering Gatsby. By using the word "holocaust," Fitzgerald is reinforcing the enormity of these two events. Just like Gatsby's dream, this "holocaust" is over because there is nothing left to destroy.
This is of course the famous quote that describes the scene of the murder, when Gatsby's body is discovered and the murder is known. What is so interesting about the quote you have highlighted is the way that the description given associates Gatsby with a kind of tranquility and peace that was completely absent from his life. There is reference to a "touch of a cluster of leaves" that "slowly" revolved the "accidental burden," which gives the horrific scene a somewhat relaxed and gentle tone which is rather incongruous given the actual object that is being described.
Interestingly, the most significant part of this quote is the final section when the gardener discover's Wilson's body and Nick tells us that "the holocaust was complete." This is of course an intentional use of hyperbole. There is no way that Nick is really saying Gatbsy's death is equivalent in scale or scope to the Holocaust. What this denomination does however is to indicate the symbolic importance of Gatsby's death. As he was a man who lived the dream, his death and murder indicates the death of that dream and therefore the inability to change our lives and achieve the American Dream. As Gatsby through his life is a character who proves the life-changing possibilities of the American Dream, his death is tragic and far reaching in the way that it represents the death of such hopes and dreams.