Chapter 1-4: The Family’s Secret
Aim: In this 30-minute lesson, you will go over the part 1-4 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.
“You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy,” I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?”
I meant nothing in particular by this remark but it was taken up in an unexpected way.
“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read by this man Goddard?”
“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.
“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be–will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy with an expression of unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them. What was that word we—-“
“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”
“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
“You ought to live in California–” began Miss Baker but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
“This idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are and you are and—-” After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod and she winked at me again. “–and we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization–oh, science and art and all that. Do you see?”
What is the title of the book that Tom is reading? How do we get the impression that Tom’s is racist?
There was something pathetic in his concentration as if his complacency, more acute than of old, was not enough to him any more. When, almost immediately, the telephone rang inside and the butler left the porch Daisy seized upon the momentary interruption and leaned toward me.
“I’ll tell you a family secret,” she whispered enthusiastically. “It’s about the butler’s nose. Do you want to hear about the butler’s nose?”
“That’s why I came over tonight.”
“Well, he wasn’t always a butler; he used to be the silver polisher for some people in New York that had a silver service for two hundred people. He had to polish it from morning till night until finally it began to affect his nose—-“
“Things went from bad to worse,” suggested Miss Baker.
“Yes. Things went from bad to worse until finally he had to give up his position.”
For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened–then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.
What is the family’s secret? Why do they care about the butler’s nose?
The butler came back and murmured something close to Tom’s ear whereupon Tom frowned, pushed back his chair and without a word went inside. As if his absence quickened something within her Daisy leaned forward again, her voice glowing and singing.
“I love to see you at my table, Nick. You remind me of a–of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn’t he?” She turned to Miss Baker for confirmation.
“An absolute rose?”
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing but a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. Then suddenly she threw her napkin on the table and excused herself and went into the house.
Do you think Daisy really meant when she complimented Nick? Why or why not?
Miss Baker and I exchanged a short glance consciously devoid of meaning. I was about to speak when she sat up alertly and said “Sh!” in a warning voice. A subdued impassioned murmur was audible in the room beyond and Miss Baker leaned forward, unashamed, trying to hear. The murmur trembled on the verge of coherence, sank down, mounted excitedly, and then ceased altogether.
“This Mr. Gatsby you spoke of is my neighbor—-” I said.
“Don’t talk. I want to hear what happens.”
“Is something happening?” I inquired innocently.
“You mean to say you don’t know?” said Miss Baker, honestly surprised.
“I thought everybody knew.”
“Why—-” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.”
“Got some woman?” I repeated blankly.
Miss Baker nodded.
“She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner-time. Don’t you think?”
According to Jordan Baker, who phoned Tom during dinner?
Almost before I had grasped her meaning there was the flutter of a dress and the crunch of leather boots and Tom and Daisy were back at the table.
“It couldn’t be helped!” cried Daisy with tense gayety.
She sat down, glanced searchingly at Miss Baker and then at me and continued: “I looked outdoors for a minute and it’s very romantic outdoors. There’s a bird on the lawn that I think must be a nightingale come over on the Cunard or White Star Line. He’s singing away—-” her voice sang “—-It’s romantic, isn’t it, Tom?”
“Very romantic,” he said, and then miserably to me: “If it’s light enough after dinner I want to take you down to the stables.”
What do you think Daisy wanted to imply through her nightingale story?
- What does the book that Tom is reading say about Tom’s personality?
- Love for gossip, hypocrisy and pretention seem to be recurring theme of the book. Do you think Daisy is hypocritical? What about Tom?
- Why do you think people love to gossip about others? What is the latest gossip that you heard of? What do you feel when you hear people gossiping about others? Share your thoughts with your Cambly tutor!
Do you understand the following words and expressions? Practice using the new words or expressions with the Cambly tutor.
- Seize upon
The Rise of the Coloured Empires
The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy by Lothrop Stoddard argues essentially what Tom purports it to: Stoddard saw the population explosion in colonized peoples, and their mass immigration into the United States, as a peril to the white race. This was a common belief of the “old money” clan, that other races and lower classes aren’t worthy.