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The Great Gatsby. Chapter Six. Learning Intentions. Think about Gatsby’s transformation in this chapter and how it alters your perception of his character Understand the importance of the ‘Sloane’ incident and how it conveys some of the major themes
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The Great Gatsby Chapter Six
Learning Intentions • Think about Gatsby’s transformation in this chapter and how it alters your perception of his character • Understand the importance of the ‘Sloane’ incident and how it conveys some of the major themes • Identify how Daisy feels about Gatsby’s party and what this tells us about their relationship
Summary • Nick reveals more about Gatsby’s past , his humble origins and his time with Dan Cody. • The Buchanans attend one of Gatsby's parties and the tensions between Tom and the host grow more obvious.
Gatsby's Transformation • As Nick broke from his narrative in chapter 5 to fill in Daisy’s past, he repeats this process in this chapter to reveal more about Gatsby’s history. • As readers, we are given the chance to look at how Gatsby transformed himself from a farm boy to the sophisticated host.
Stage I • He describes his family as “shiftless and unsuccessful”. “His imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all.” • These quotations are crucial to understanding Gatsby’s psyche. On one level, his separation from them mimics the aspirations of the New World as it sought independence from Britain. However, although they can be viewed somewhat negatively, they are also testament to his commitment to the dream. He is prepared to make any sacrifice necessary to remain true to his ideal. • His rejection to of his own name (James Gatz) which hints at poor immigration stock – ironic of course since America is a nation of immigrants - again reinforces his dedication to reinvent himself into something more palatable and acceptable to the East Egg set to which he was so desperate to belong. It is a remarkable testament to his own determination and doggedness that he achieves so much from such humble beginnings, and of course, epitomises the power and nobility of the Dream.
Stage II • Gatsby increasingly becomes immersed in a fantasy world, which spurs him on: “his heart was in a constant turbulent riot” and “each night he added to the pattern of his fancies.” • Gatsby truly believes in the power of the imagination – another allusion to the romantics. It is this devotion to an ideal – even if it is wrong and distorted – which makes him great. In a society of morally bankrupt, vacuous, shallow, careless and selfish individuals, he stands out like a beacon of light. It is this quality which inspires Nick’s affection for him.
Stage III • Gatsby learns to identify and seize opportunities to advance himself. This is evident when he meets Dan Cody: “he had probably discovered that people liked him when he smiled.” He has learned to use his best features to attract and please others and becomes a skilful and perceptive manipulator. Despite this loyalty and dedication to Cody, Gatsby is cheated out of his rightful inheritance. In doing so he learns an important lesson – that you don’t always get what you deserve and integrity is not always rewarded. This is a theme evident to in other characters like Jordan and Tom who cheat and are unfaithful yet remain unpunished. This betrayal of Gatsby also foreshadows Daisy’s treachery at the end.
Stage III • Therefore, in this chapter we see how he transforms from James Gatz to the Gatsby we now recognise, from humble mid western boy to glamorous east coast celebrity. In the process, he reinvents not only himself but also (and inaccurately) Daisy, who he fixates on as the epitome of his distorted interpretation of the dream. • But - the reader needs to question whether this transformation is truly successful. What qualities does Gatsby abandon in his quest to reinvent himself? • For example – while on one level he is committed to the pioneering ideals of the mid west, he rejects them on the shores of Lake Superior. This is an early indication that when Gatsby is not content with what he sees, he merely changes it to suit. He reinterprets his version of the Dream.
Stage Three • Also his “hard brown body” and ability to survive on his wits and instinct (also crucial pioneering qualities) contrasts with the expensive suits and extravagant lifestyle he has now cultivated and is further evidence that in some way Gatsby rejects the true spirit of the dream.
The Sloane Incident • This short episode serves as a further reminder of the hierarchical snobbery of the East Egg set. This little incident helps to reinforce the negative aspects of the East Eggers. They maintain a complex network of social etiquette that is used to exclude and ostracise Gatsby and others belonging to the nouveau riche.
The Sloane Incident • Inexplicably, Tom has arrived at Gatsby’s with a dreadful East Egg couple, the Sloanes. Gatsby is understandably unnerved by Tom’s presence, but tries hard to be cordial, inviting the guests to join them for dinner. • Mrs Sloane declines, but offers an enthusiastic invitation to Gatsby and Nick to join them at a prearranged party instead. Nick detects the insincerity of the offer, but Gatsby innocently goes upstairs to get changed. When he leaves, Tom makes disparaging comments about him.
The Sloanes • This episode reflects the basic nastiness and hypocrisy of the East Eggers – they believe that Gatsby's vast wealth is no remedy for the inferiority of his family tree. But is also reminds us of a time when Tom's opportunism once sprung Daisy from Gatsby's arms. • When he isn’t looking, Gatsby loses things. While Daisy waited for him she got bored and ran off with Tom. Moreover, just as Gatsby cannot read the mixed messages from Mrs Sloane, he cannot read the writing on the wall in his current situation he was never and never will be, wanted in the land of East Egg.
The Sloanes • This also highlights another paradox in Gatsby himself: despite the earlier interlude where Gatsby used his skills of perception to reinvent himself for Dan Cody, he is entirely unable to perceive the insincerity in Mrs Sloan’s invitation. Everyone else, Nick included, is aware that the offer is completely disingenuous because they belong to this elitist society and are well versed in understanding its codes of conduct. This therefore also helps to illustrate why Gatsby can never relinquish his dream - he is simply unable to accept the reality that he will never fit in.
Daisy at Gatsby’s Party • Gatsby finally achieves his goal of getting Daisy to one of his party only to see that she is not impressed, but disgusted at the lavishness and vulgarity of it. • In pairs, find as many quotes as you can which build up a picture of Daisy’s feelings towards the party and how Gatsby reacts to this.
Daisy Daisy does not enjoy the spectacle of the party. The orchestra, the mounds of food, the champagne, the dancing, the drunkenness all disgust her: She was appalled by West Egg, the unprecedented ‘place’… appalled by its raw vigour that chafed under the old euphemisms… and by the fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand. Gatsby detects her disapproval and has difficulty concealing his own disappointment. The theatre of spectacle and indulgence has been for nothing. The show will soon be over.
Time • His theatrical shows have been in vain - and the curtain will come down on the performance very soon. Daisy’s analogy of West Egg to Broadway is a fitting one and Gatsby realises that he is losing her: “I feel far away from her, It’s hard to make her understand”. His intricate plan is disintegrating in front of him and his plan to turn back time is almost childish in its naivety: “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can.” He is becoming increasingly deluded, so intoxicated with the desire to win back Daisy that he is blind to the truth. Daisy has been absorbed into his weird theatre of fantasy. He cannot grasp the reality of his situation, and delusion is taking over. Again what is important to note that Gatsby is never happier than when he is aspiring to something.
Homework Read Chapter 7 for Friday