"The Great Gatsby," Vocabulary from Chapter 2-3

April 10, 2013
F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic "The Great Gatsby" is a glittering parade of parties and excess, but at its heart it is about identity and whether being wealthy in America can help you change who you really are. Learn this word list that focuses on parties.

Here are links to all our word lists for the novel: Chapter 1, Chapters 2-3, Chapters 4-5, Chapters 6-7, Chapters 8-9
"Decomposing apathetically" is not a phrase that would normally be associated with a party. But this image of the dog biscuit melting in milk could represent 1) what happens to Myrtle when she is surrounded by money; 2) the draining of George Wilson's life while Myrtle indulges with Tom's money; 3) the indifference of the rich to the hard lives and deaths of the poor.
A reluctant elevator boy went for a box full of straw and some milk to which he added on his own initiative a tin of large hard dog biscuits--one of which decomposed apathetically in the saucer of milk all afternoon.
Two other definitions of "discreet" are "marked by prudence or modesty and wise self-restraint" and "heedful of potential consequences"--these are also fitting descriptions of Nick's character, which contrasts with Tom's. But by sitting discreetly in the living room, Nick is enabling Tom's indiscretion; by staying, Nick is passively giving his approval of the affair.
When I came back they had disappeared so I sat down discreetly in the living room and read a chapter of "Simon Called Peter"--either it was terrible stuff or the whiskey distorted things because it didn't make any sense to me.
Although "immoderately" is used here to describe how Catherine laughed in response to Nick's question of whether she lived in the apartment with her sister Myrtle, it can describe how all the guests conducted themselves at this party. Even the discreet Nick got drunk for the second time in his life and somehow ended up standing beside the bed of Mr. McKee, who was clad only in his underwear.
But when I asked her she laughed immoderately, repeated my question aloud and told me she lived with a girl friend at a hotel.
His wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible.
The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur.
Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.
"My dear," she told her sister in a high mincing shout, "most of these fellas will cheat you every time.
I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair.
Some time toward midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face discussing in impassioned voices whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy's name.
Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand.
When he had gone half way he turned around and stared at the scene--his wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the despairing figure on the couch bleeding fluently and trying to spread a copy of "Town Tattle" over the tapestry scenes of Versailles.
And on Mondays eight servants including an extra gardener toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.
On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.
The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing upstairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors and hair shorn in strange new ways and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.
The bar is in full swing and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside until the air is alive with chatter and laughter and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names.
Although "prodigality" is used here to describe how the guests are spilling out their laughter with each drink they pour down their throats, the guests did not actually spend any money at the party. Gatsby is using their prodigal natures (that come from being born into money) and his current ability to be prodigal in order to get closer to Daisy. Unlike his guests, he is not enjoying himself at his own expense.
Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.
Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after seven and wandered around rather ill-at-ease among swirls and eddies of people I didn't know--though here and there was a face I had noticed on the commuting train.
As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host but the two or three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an amazed way and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table--the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone.
Another meaning of "cordial" can be seen in the same chapter in this description: "a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another." This would be why Nick's remarks, cordial as they might be, but influenced by cordials, might not be so welcomed by him or others.
Welcome or not, I found it necessary to attach myself to someone before I should begin to address cordial remarks to the passers-by.
Instead of rambling this party had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside--East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.
Instead of rambling this party had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside--East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.
There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden, old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles, superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably and keeping in the corners--and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps.
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.
He smiled with jovial condescension and added "Some sensation!" whereupon everybody laughed.
When the "Jazz History of the World" was over girls were putting their heads on men's shoulders in a puppyish, convivial way, girls were swooning backward playfully into men's arms, even into groups knowing that some one would arrest their falls--but no one swooned backward on Gatsby and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link.
Even Jordan's party, the quartet from East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension.
Even Jordan's party, the quartet from East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension.
The hall was at present occupied by two deplorably sober men and their highly indignant wives.
Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene.
Compare the discordant din and violent confusion at the end of this party to 1) the earlier orchestral music and hilarity; 2) the violence of Tom and wailing of Myrtle in the much smaller and unplanned party.
However, as they had left their cars blocking the road a harsh discordant din from those in the rear had been audible for some time and added to the already violent confusion of the scene.

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Wednesday February 5th 2014, 1:42 PM
Comment by: Phil of the future (SD)
this was completely awesome cant wait to do it again
Tuesday March 11th 2014, 12:18 AM
Comment by: Kiannah K.
I agree with phil. this list was great. it made the story even more vivid!
Wednesday October 7th 2015, 11:42 AM
Comment by: Sydney Highter
I love learning new words and this is such an awesome way to do it!
Monday March 7th 2016, 10:26 AM
Comment by: Julian (VA)
Pretty swag
Monday April 18th 2016, 5:00 PM
Comment by: King Bittman (Canada)
Just Wonder full. I feel as though my vocabulary has increased ten fold. I am so grateful to the wonderful people at vocabulary.com. you've changed me. ;) <3
Wednesday April 20th 2016, 8:50 PM
Comment by: teddy cruz (Canada)
It is lit fam

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