Jay Gatsby

A series of quotes from The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort ‘It’ll show you how I’ve gotten to feel about—things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. “All right,” I said, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”’

. . . .

Why they came East I don’t know. . . . I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.

. . . .

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.

. . . .

He had 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 as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.

. . . .

That’s my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

. . . .

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and . . . then retreated back into their money . . . and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

. . . .

You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow, she went on . . . “Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything . . . Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!

. . . .

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.

. . . .

In my younger . . . years my father gave me some advice . . . “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

. . . .

‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge,’ I thought; ‘anything at all. . . .’ Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.

. . . .

We drew in deep breaths . . . as we walked back . . . through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

. . . .

‘I married him because I thought he was a gentleman,’ she said finally. ‘I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.’

. . . .

He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy.

. . . .

Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to…. What I say is, why go on living with them if they can’t stand them? If I was them I’d get a divorce and get married to each other right away.

. . . .

For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I found her again . . . . I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.

. . . .

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—

. . . .

[H]e stretched out his arms toward the dark water. . . . I . . . distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far way. . . . When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished. . . .

3 thoughts on “Jay Gatsby”

  1. It has been a long time… Until I read those snippets, I had forgotten just how much use Fitzgerald made of ellipses.

    Every “creating writing” professor that I have encountered would have given the man a solid “F.” (An admittedly small sample, I tend to treat such people as lepers once were…)

    In any case, thanks, PG, for reminding me of it. The single copy I had from high school disappeared in one move or another over the years, so I snagged it from Gutenberg while I was thinking about it. Although they apparently transcribed most of them as em dashes, which isn’t quite right to my thinking.

  2. The Gutenberg copy has this statement:

    “Produced by: Alex Cabal for the Standard Ebooks project, based on a transcription produced for Project Gutenberg Australia.”

    The Standard Ebooks project apparently has a “standard” typography they force all books into.

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