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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

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The Great Gatsby

by

The Great Gatsby Cover

ISBN13: 9780743273565
ISBN10: 0743273567
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

CHAPTER I

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave

me some advice that Ive been turning over in my mind ever

since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me,

“just remember that all the people in this world havent had

the advantages that youve had.”

He didnt say any more, but weve always been unusually

communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he

meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, Im

inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up

many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of

not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect

and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal

person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly

accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret

griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were

unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or

a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that

an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the

intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in

which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred

by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of

infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if

I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly

repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled

out unequally at birth.

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to

the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded

on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point

I dont care what its founded on. When I came back from

the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in

uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted

no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the

human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to

this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby, who represented

everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If

personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then

there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened

sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one

of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten

thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do

with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under

the name of the “creative temperament”—it was an extraordinary

gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have

never found in any other person and which it is not likely I

shall ever find again. No—Gatsby turned out all right at the

end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in

the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my

interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of

men.

* * *

My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this

Middle Western city for three generations. The Carraways are

something of a clan, and we have a tradition that were

descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual

founder of my line was my grandfathers brother, who came

here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and

started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries

on to-day.

I never saw this great-uncle, but Im supposed to look like

him—with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting

that hangs in fathers office. I graduated from New

Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and

a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration

known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly

that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm

center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the

ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go East and learn

the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business,

so I supposed it could support one more single man. All

my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a

prep school for me, and finally said, “Why—ye-es,” with very

grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year,

and after various delays I came East, permanently, I thought,

in the spring of twenty-two.

The practical thing was to find rooms in the city, but it was

a warm season, and I had just left a country of wide lawns

and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested

that we take a house together in a commuting town,

it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weatherbeaten

cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last

minute the firm ordered him to Washington, and I went out

to the country alone. I had a dog—at least I had him for a

few days until he ran away—and an old Dodge and a Finnish

woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered

Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.

It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man,

more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.

“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.

I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I

was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually

conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves

growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had

that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again

with the summer.

There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much

fine health to be pulled down out of the young breathgiving

air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit

and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red

and gold like new money from the mint, promising to

unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and

Mæcenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading

many other books besides. I was rather literary in college—

one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials

for the Yale News—and now I was going to bring back

all such things into my life and become again that most limited

of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isnt

just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at

from a single window, after all.

It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house

in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was

on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of

New York—and where there are, among other natural

curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles

from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour

and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most

domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere,

the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not

perfect ovals—like the egg in the Columbus story, they are

both crushed flat at the contact end—but their physical

resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the

gulls that fly overhead. To the wingless a more arresting

phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except

shape and size.

I lived at West Egg, the—well, the less fashionable of the

two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the

bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My

house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the

Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for

twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was

a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation

of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one

side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble

swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and

garden. It was Gatsbys mansion. Or, rather, as I didnt know

Mr. Gatsby, it was a mansion, inhabited by a gentleman of

that name. My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small

eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the

water, a partial view of my neighbors lawn, and the consoling

proximity of millionaires—all for eighty dollars a month.

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable

East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer

really begins on the evening I drove over there to have

dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second

cousin once removed, and Id known Tom in college. And just

after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago.

Her husband, among various physical accomplishments,

had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football

at New Haven—a national figure in a way, one of those

men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one

that everything afterward savors of anticlimax. His family were

enormously wealthy—even in college his freedom with

money was a matter for reproach—but now hed left Chicago

and come East in a fashion that rather took your breath away;

for instance, hed brought down a string of polo ponies

from Lake Forest. It was hard to realize that a man in my own

generation was wealthy enough to do that.

Why they came East I dont know. They had spent a year

in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and

there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich

together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the

telephone, but I didnt believe it—I had no sight into Daisys

heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a

little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable

football game.

And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I

drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely

knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I

expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion,

overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and

ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping

over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens—finally

when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines

as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken

by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected

gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom

Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart

on the front porch.

He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he

was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard

mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant

eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him

the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not

even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the

enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening

boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could

see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved

under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous

leverage—a cruel body.

His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the

impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch

of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—

and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.

“Now, dont think my opinion on these matters is final,”

he seemed to say, “just because Im stronger and more of a

man than you are.” We were in the same senior society, and

while we were never intimate I always had the impression that

he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some

harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.

We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch.

“Ive got a nice place here,” he said, his eyes flashing

about restlessly.

Turning me around by one arm, he moved a broad flat

hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken

Italian garden, a half acre of deep, pungent roses, and a

snub-nosed motor-boat that bumped the tide offshore.

“It belonged to Demaine, the oil man.” He turned me

around again, politely and abruptly. “ Well go inside.”

We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosycolored

space, fragilely bound into the house by French

windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming

white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little

way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew

curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags,

twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling,

and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a

shadow on it as wind does on the sea.

The only completely stationary object in the room was an

enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed

up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in

white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they

had just been blown back in after a short flight around the

house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the

whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on

the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the

rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room,

and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned

slowly to the floor.

The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was

extended full length at her end of the divan, completely

motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing

something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she

saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it—

indeed, I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for

having disturbed her by coming in.

The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—she

leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression—then

she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed

too and came forward into the room.

“Im p-paralyzed with happiness.”

She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and

held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face,

promising that there was no one in the world she so much

wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur

that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (Ive

heard it said that Daisys murmur was only to make people

lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less

charming.)

At any rate, Miss Bakers lips fluttered, she nodded at me

almost imperceptibly, and then quickly tipped her head

back again—the object she was balancing had obviously

tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a

sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of

complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.

I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions

in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear

follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of

notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and

lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate

mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that

men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a

singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she

had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there

were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.

I told her how I had stopped off in Chicago for a day on

my way East, and how a dozen people had sent their love

through me.

“Do they miss me?” she cried ecstatically.

“The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left rear

wheel painted black as a mourning wreath, and theres a persistent

wail all night along the north shore.”

“How gorgeous! Lets go back, Tom. To-morrow!” Then

she added irrelevantly: “You ought to see the baby.”

“Id like to.”

“Shes asleep. Shes three years old. Havent you ever seen

her?”

“Never.”

“Well, you ought to see her. Shes——”

Tom Buchanan, who had been hovering restlessly about

the room, stopped and rested his hand on my shoulder.

“What you doing, Nick?”

“Im a bond man.”

“Who with?”

I told him.

“Never heard of them,” he remarked decisively.

This annoyed me.

“You will,” I answered shortly. “You will if you stay in the

East.”

“Oh, Ill stay in the East, dont you worry,” he said, glancing

at Daisy and then back at me, as if he were alert for something

more. “Id be a God damned fool to live anywhere else.”

At this point Miss Baker said: “Absolutely!” with such suddenness

that I started—it was the first word she had uttered

since I came into the room. Evidently it surprised her as much

as it did me, for she yawned and with a series of rapid, deft

movements stood up into the room.

“Im stiff,” she complained, “Ive been lying on that sofa

for as long as I can remember.”

“ Dont look at me,” Daisy retorted, “Ive been trying to

get you to New York all afternoon.”

“No, thanks,” said Miss Baker to the four cocktails just in

from the pantry, “Im absolutely in training.”

Her host looked at her incredulously.

“You are!” He took down his drink as if it were a drop in

the bottom of a glass. “How you ever get anything done is

beyond me.”

I looked at Miss Baker, wondering what it was she “got

done.” I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, smallbreasted

girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by

throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young

cadet. Her gray sun-strained eyes looked back at me with

polite reciprocal curiosity out of a wan, charming, discontented

face. It occurred to me now that I had seen her, or a

picture of her, somewhere before.

“You live in West Egg,” she remarked contemptuously. “I

know somebody there.”

“I dont know a single——”

“You must know Gatsby.”

“Gatsby?” demanded Daisy. “What Gatsby?”

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 14 comments:

MrsChocolateMalfoy, November 2, 2013 (view all comments by MrsChocolateMalfoy)
Originally, I was forced to read this book for IB Lit, but a few chapters in, it no longer became a "forced book" to read. This book, much different than Buhrmann's film adaptation, is a brilliant piece full of symbolism, romance, and classic "roaring twenties".
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h, May 4, 2013 (view all comments by h)
Before you see Baz Luhrmann's version of razzle dazzle--3D'd and Jay Z'd--read the original. Fitzgerald's distinctive prose, a wandering romance, the threats to morality from NY money, more and more. The precursor to so many later novels of note, recently O'Neill's Netherland.
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jambyfool, August 30, 2012 (view all comments by jambyfool)
Simply gorgeous. God, what Fitzie does with words.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743273565
Author:
Fitzgerald, F. Scott
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Revenge
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
B102
Publication Date:
October 2004
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
192
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 in 5.6 oz

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The Great Gatsby Used Trade Paper
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Product details 192 pages Scribner - English 9780743273565 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , One of the great classics of twentieth-century literature, The Great Gatsby stands as the supreme achievement of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
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