The Great Gatsby

by: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Love and Marriage

1

‘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.’

Myrtle Wilson is talking about her husband, George, during a party in Myrtle’s apartment in New York City. Myrtle claims that George tricked her into marrying him by pretending to be more wealthy than he was, but Myrtle’s friends insist that she loved George. The scene, which reveals Tom’s temper to us when he later hits Myrtle, indicates the entanglement of love and money. The particular quote is both satiric and sad, because the Wilsons are so much poorer than anyone else in the novel.

2

[H]e gave her a string of pearls . . . I was a bridesmaid. . . . She...pulled out the . . . pearls . . . “Take ’em down-stairs and give ’em back to whoever they belong to. Tell ’em all Daisy’s change’ her mine. Say: ‘Daisy’s change’ her mind!’

Jordan recounts to Nick the story of Daisy’s wedding day, when Daisy got drunk and told Jordan that she did not want to marry Tom. Her decision to return the pearls ends up being purely symbolic, however, because she finally does wed Tom for his wealth and high social standing. For the most part, Jordan Baker plays a rather unimportant role in the novel, but in this moment her character becomes important as a window into Daisy’s thoughts and motivations. Like Nick, Jordan’s role as a character is primarily to observe and narrate the actions of Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom.

3

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.

Here, Nick describes Gatsby’s behavior after he confesses his desire to marry Daisy in Louisville, where they originally met. The confession takes place in the middle of the novel, when Gatsby and Daisy have embarked on their affair. Nick suggests that Gatsby’s obsession with this plan does not come solely out of his love for Daisy in her current form but rather arises from Gatsby’s nostalgic investment in how he remembers Daisy and his younger self. The younger Gatsby may have imagined a version of love that transcends money, whereas the older Gatsby recognizes the impossibility of a marriage insulated from the reality of the surrounding world. This idea of a perfect but inaccessible past is a major theme throughout the novel.

4

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.

During the party at Myrtle’s apartment early in the novel, Myrtle’s sister Catherine speaks to Nick about Myrtle and Tom’s affair. Catherine’s romanticizing the affair likely reflects Myrtle’s own perspective on the relationship. Myrtle believes that the only reason Tom will not divorce Daisy is because Daisy is Catholic. But we learn that Tom’s feelings for Myrtle are far less intense than he has led her to believe and that social pressure prevents him from ever leaving Daisy, who comes from a similar upper-class background.

5

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.

As his first party at Gatsby’s mansion winds down, Nick describes his growing romantic interest in Jordan Baker. The courtship between Nick and Jordan never takes center stage, but Nick mentions his shifting feelings toward her throughout the novel. Here, his distinction between love and curiosity offers a counterpoint to Daisy and Gatsby’s intense relationship, which is more dramatic and romantic than Nick’s and Jordan’s but also has less connection to reality.


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