Saturday, May 4, 2013

Absurdity & Moral Corruption: The Great Gatsby Chapter 2 – 3

This is part of chapter posts I make for WEM Self-Project. You can find the first chapter here.

Meeting Myrtle and attending Gatsby’s party

Tom brought Nick to meet his mistress Myrtle Wilson, wife of the owner of a small garage, and went together to New York to the couple’s luxury apartment. There and during the journey Nick witnessed the hedonic lifestyle they had, the shameless way Tom showed off his infidelity to public, and how rich women thought any men who were not wealthy and success were too “low” for them. The day was closed by the brutal scene when Tom broke Myrtle’s nose from being too noisy about Daisy.

Nick sensed emptiness and loneliness in the absurdly-luxury parties at Gatsby’s mansion, and in the metropolitan bustles of New York. There was a vulgar indifference in how strangers kept coming to and enjoying Gatsby’s parties without being invited or knowing the host, but even spread bad rumors about him. Nick also sensed the same vulgar indifference in Jordan Baker’s taking so lightly that she was endangering others by driving carelessly.

(They) came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.” ~p. 43.

The infidelity

The shameless affair of Tom and Myrtle is a product of moral decay of the society. Not only that they take it very openly, Myrtle’s sister thinks it’s all right. Myrtle thinks her husband is “lower” than her; but chooses Tom whom she takes as a “gentleman” because he is both rich and success. I only feel pity on Myrtle who takes “gentleman” as rich + success. Anyway, only a very foolish woman who calls her man gentle after he broke her nose….

Valley of ashes

I found quite a lot of metaphors in chapter two. First the valley of ashes; this is a quite dejected area where Wilson’s garage is; a land which is: “…so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land.” At first I thought it represents people who lost the battle of success, displaced by the new wave of wealth. However, considering the straight next metaphor, I changed my mind….

Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg

The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic. (…) They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose. (…) (The eyes) brood on over the solemn dumping ground.”

When I first read this passage, I instantly remembered a drawing made by a child who is asked to draw about his imagery God. And the child drew Him as a pair of enormous eyes looking down from a pair of enormous glasses; he imagined God as an observer who sees everything human does. So, I instantly thought that the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg billboard is probably representing God. The billboard is somehow overlooked, dejected, forgotten, and the eyes that “brood on over the solemn dumping ground”, I perceived, reflecting that God is observing sadly the moral corruption in His people, but on the other hand, these moral-corrupted people has also been abandoning God to pursue their new gods (money and leisure).

The yellow color

From chapter two alone, I have met quite a lot of things in yellow, cream or golden color; the Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s spectacles, the yellow brick house where Wilson’s garage is, the dress of two girls in Gatsby’s party, yellow cocktail, dark gold turkeys, Myrtle’s cream-coloured dress in New York apartment (where her personality changed under the influence of the dress), and yellow windows of that apartment.  Browsing about the Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, I got to learn that Fitzgerald did use several colors metaphor to represent moralities in this book. From all the yellows above, it’s not hard to guess that yellow here means moral decay or falsity.

Confusing passages

Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes, but after a certain point I don't care what's founded on” –I didn’t find any satisfying answer over the internet, but I perceive it means that it doesn’t matter what an action had been intended for at first, the only think is important, is only the end result. If the result is the same, well….just ignore whether the first intention was right or wrong. Are you agree?

“… I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands. Beauty and the Beast … Loneliness … Old Grocery Horse … Brook’n Bridge…” –Although there are many sites or blogs that suggest that Nick is either gay or bisexual, I think this only reflects what Nick had vaguely remembered about that brutal night in Myrtle’s apartment, which he left in a drunken state; small pieces of disgusting senses that had troubled him when he was awaken from sleep at McKee’s house. Or else, McKee—as he is a photographer—has taken photos which showed the proofs of those disgusting moral decay. What do you think? :)



  1. In rereading the book I was surprised by the brazen nature of Tom and Myrtle's relationship. I had forgotten how he flaunts it, taking her to restaurants and introducing her to Nick. I think you're right about it being a representation of the moral decay. I hadn't ever thought of Nick as gay, but I guess that scene at Myrtle's just made me think of his getting caught up in their world. He drinks a lot when he isn't accustom to it and everything is a blur.

    1. Yes, I think Nick had had enough with the scene at Myrtle's, after that he seemed to be closer to Gatsby than the Buchanans.

  2. me too, never thought that there're any indication that Nick was a gay/bi.
    and the color methapors, i'm enlightened.
    again, thanks for the posts mba fanda :-)

  3. In your confusing passages: the first passage sounds like the old adage "The ends justify the means." (Typical for people who just don't care as long as they get what they want.)

    And as for the second, I was dumbfounded, too, but I think you could be correct that he drank too much that night, and the whole night was a blur for him.

    1. The first passage was from Nick, right? Do you think he's referring to Gatsby? That Gatsby might not be an honest gentleman, but in the end he was the least moral corrupted from the others?


What do you think?