Chapter 1-1: The Narrator
Aim: In this 30-minute lesson, you will go over the part 1-1 of the book. Go over comprehension questions after each paragraph, and practice using new expressions.
After saying hello, read the following part of the book out loud with the tutor.
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
He didn’t say any more but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought–frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon–for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. 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.
What kind of advice did the narrator’s father give to his son? What impact did the advice have on the narrator? Describe the narrator’s personality in your own words.
And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on.
When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction–Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament“–it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No–Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
What does the narrator think of Gatsby? What makes Gatsby represent the American Dream and why was the narrator ‘closed out [his] interest’?
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
I never saw this great-uncle but I’m supposed to look like him‚Äîwith special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in Father’s office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe–so I decided to go east and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said, “Why–ye-es” with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two.
Describe the narrator’s family background. What did the narrator do after school? How did he change, and what did he decide to do after?
The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
Describe the house that the narrator lived in.
It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood. And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees–just as things grow in fast movies–I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college–one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the “Yale News”–and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the “well-rounded man.” This isn’t just an epigram–life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
What is the narrator’s attitude toward his ‘dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities’ and ‘well-rounded man’?
- Describe Nick Carraway’s personality. What kind of person is he? Is there a person you know that Nick reminds you of?
- Why do you think Nick describes himself as’a guide’ and ‘pathfinder’?
- This isn’t just an epigram–life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.” What do you think this passage means?
Do you understand the following words and expressions? Practice using the new words or expressions with the Cambly tutor.
The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This came to be called the golden touch, or the Midas touch. The Phrygian city Midaeum was presumably named after this Midas, and this is probably also the Midas that according to Pausanias founded Ancyra. According toAristotle, legend held that Midas died of starvation as a result of his “vain prayer” for the gold touch. The legends told about this Midas and his father Gordias, credited with founding the Phrygian capital city Gordium and tying the Gordian Knot, indicate that they were believed to have lived sometime in the 2nd millennium BC, well before the Trojan War. However, Homer does not mention Midas or Gordias, while instead mentioning two other Phrygian kings, Mygdon and Otreus.
John Pierpont “J.P.” Morgan (April 17, 1837 – March 31, 1913) was an American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation during his time. In 1892, Morgan arranged the merger of Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric. He was instrumental in the creation of the United States Steel Corporation.
Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (/maɪˈsiːnəs/; 15 April 68 BC – 8 BC) was an ally, friend and political advisor to Octavian (who was to become the first Emperor of Rome as Caesar Augustus) as well as an important patron for the new generation of Augustan poets, including both Horace and Virgil. During the reign of Augustus, Maecenas served as a quasi-culture minister to the Emperor. His name has become a byword for a wealthy, generous and enlightened patron of the arts.