Study Guide for The
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Party#3: Summer Parties on
West Egg at Gatsby's Mansion
- Describe the amenities available at Gatsby's mansion as it
turns into the ultimate summer party machine:
Royce service from Manhattan... the station wagon makes regular trips
to the train station... swimming raft with diving tower, beach, two
motor boats, automatic orange squeezer for two hundred... tables with
covered lights and buffets loaded with ham, turkey, and pastry: enough
for both early and late suppers ....bars with real brass rails and
stocked with booze.... a full orchestra!
It's Club Med; its
the ultimate amusement park! Everything is free and everyone is
invited. Hey, tear your evening dress and a package arrives from
Courier's a week later! One drunk guy is amazed
that the books in the library are
all real, but the pages have not been cut. He refers to Gatsby as a 'regular Belasco'. Who
For a few weeks that summer, the party goes on almost every night!
The lights grow
brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the
orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices
pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with
prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more
swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath;
already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there
among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the
centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the
sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing
Suddenly one of the gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of
the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. A momentary
hush; the orchestra leader varies his rhythm obligingly for her, and
there is a burst of chatter as the erroneous news goes around that she is
Gilda Gray's understudy from the FOLLIES. The party has begun. (44-45)
More on Flappers of the 1920's: (from Jazz Age
Culture, U. of Pittsburgh):
Yet Gatsby is only rarely seen! What kind of rumors circulate about
"Gatsby. Somebody told me----"
The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially.
"Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once."
A thrill passed over all of us. The three Mr. Mumbles bent forward and
"I don't think it's so much THAT," argued Lucille skeptically;
"it's more that he was a German spy during the war."
One of the men nodded in confirmation.
"I heard that from a man who knew all about him,
grew up with him in Germany," he assured us positively.
"Oh, no," said the first girl, "it couldn't be that, because
he was in the American army during the war." As our credulity switched
back to her she leaned forward with enthusiasm. "You look at him
sometimes when he thinks nobody's looking at him. I'll bet he killed a man."
She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Lucille
shivered. We all turned and looked around for Gatsby. It was testimony to
the romantic speculation he inspired that there were whispers about him
from those who found little that it was necessary to whisper about in this
Luckily Nick runs into Jordan
Baker again. Describe the
quartet from East Egg with whom she has come? (Jump ahead a bit: what
does Nick like about her? see pp. 63-64)
When we were on a house-party together up in
Warwick, she left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and
then lied about it--and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had
eluded me that night at Daisy's. At her first big golf tournament there was
a row that nearly reached the newspapers--a suggestion that she had moved
her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approached the
proportions of a scandal--then died away. A caddy retracted his statement,
and the only other witness admitted that he might have been mistaken. The
incident and the name had remained together in my mind.
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that
this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code
would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn't able
to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose
she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to
keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the
demands of her hard, jaunty body.
It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never
blame deeply--I was casually sorry, and then I forgot. (62-63)
Past midnight the party gets out of
control. For Nick the scene turns into "something significant
elemental and profound"(51) What does he mean?
By midnight the hilarity had increased. A
celebrated tenor had sung in Italian, and a notorious contralto had sung in
jazz, and between the numbers people were doing "stunts." all
over the garden, while happy, vacuous bursts of laughter rose toward the
summer sky. A pair of stage twins, who turned out to be the girls in
yellow, did a baby act in costume, and champagne was served in glasses
bigger than finger-bowls. The moon had risen higher, and floating in the
Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff,
tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn. (51)
How does Nick finally meet Gatsby? What is his first impression of the man?
has been sitting at Nick's table and watching the scene for some time
before he speaks to Nick directly. He asks him about his war service and
then finally reveals his identity, apologizing for his rudeness with a
smile and the affectionate term, "Old Sport."
He smiled understandingly--much more
than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of
eternal reassurance in it, that you may come
across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole
external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an
irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you
wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in
yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that,
at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished--and
I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty,
whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I'd got a strong
impression that he was picking his words with care. (52-53)
Nick is amazed and wonders at Gatsby's history:
men didn't--at least in my provincial inexperience I believed they
didn't--drift coolly out of nowhere and buy a palace on Long Island
What does Nick find out has happened in the driveway when the party
finally breaks up? Just another debauched
the ditch beside the road, right side up, but violently shorn of one
wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby's drive not two minutes
before....Then, very gradually, part by part, a pale, dangling individual
stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at the ground with a large
uncertain dancing shoe. (58)
Blinded by the glare of the headlights and confused by the incessant
groaning of the horns, the apparition stood swaying for a moment before he
perceived the man in the duster.
matter?" he inquired calmly. "Did we run outa
Half a dozen fingers pointed at
the amputated wheel--he stared at it for a moment, and then looked upward
as though he suspected that it had dropped from the sky.
"It came off," some one explained.
"At first I din' notice we'd stopped." (59-60)
Nick and Jordan
the weeks following his introduction to Gatsby, Nick describes the ways
that he has been adapting to life in the big city of New York. In
particular, he talks about the growing relationship he is having with
Jordan Baker. He has not fallen in love with her, but he feels a
'tender curiosity' (63) towards her. He also notices flaws in her
character, like she is a pathological liar
He remembers that Jordan had been involved in a near scandal at a golf
tournament. Far from being put off by Jordan's character, Nick
says this about her:
Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw
that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence
from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest.
She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this
unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she
was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the
world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body. (64)
What is Fitzgerald up to? How will Nick's understanding of women compare with Gatsby's?