Why is the music sad in Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby?"...all night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the "Beale Street Blues"   

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout his narrative, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs objective correlatives for abstract ideas. In Chapter One of The Great Gatsby, for instance, the green light at the end of Daisy's pier, symbolic of hope and renewal, is the objectification of Gatsby's renewed quest for the love of Daisy Buchanan.  Now, in Chapter Eight, there is a flashback to Gatsby's and Daisy's youthful encounters. Gatsby discovers that he loves Daisy, but he must go off to war and then Oxford. However, Daisy feels the pull of her world as she waits for Gatsby, and soon she succumbs: 

Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes. All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the "Beale Street Blues" while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust.

In her slippers the color of money Daisy and her careless rich friends dance in contrast to those of places like Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, who were mostly poor in the 1920s. Here, too, is the suggestion of nostalgia for the past as W.C. Handy's lyrics are reminiscent of places the singer has been, and the return to Beale Street is a trip made to recapture a mood.  The "blues," of course, is a style of music that expresses the woes of the musicians and those like them. Thus, with the "hopeless comment" of the music, Fitzgerald employs the objective correlative of Gatsby's having surrendered his spiritual quest to one who is unworthy as he seeks to recapture a mood himself.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daisy is the figure most closely associated with the "hopeless comment" of the blues in this chapter. She has just met the young Gatsby, fallen in love, and he has gone off to war. 

While Gatsby is gone, Daisy feels the pressure of the world pushing her toward the future and the decisions awaiting there. This is sad for several reasons the most prominent of which is Gatsby's absence. 

Daisy would like to marry Gatsby, ostensibly, and in doing so would be liberated from the pressure of decision. Gatsby is not present, however, and so Daisy must either wait or find a subsitute.

This is a difficult position for her. She is a young woman expected to marry soon. Choosing between Gatsby, a person she loves, and another potential husband is a choice between love and necessity. Sadly, Daisy is swayed by the pressure she feels and chooses necessity and Tom. 

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The Great Gatsby

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