“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. ” (4) The name Midas is a classical allusion that refers to King Midas, the man who was given the ability to turn anything he touched to gold. Morgan is a historical allusion to J. Pierpont Morgan, a successful, wealthy banker and financer, who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation.
J. Pierpont Morgan was also an avid art and book collector. M? cenas is a historical reference to Gaius M? cenas, a roman diplomat and wealthy supporter of celebrated poets including Virgil and Horace. These three people were all wealthy, successful people, such as those that live on Long Island. In this quote, Nick says he “bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities,” with the intention of becoming as successful as Midas and Morgan and M? cenas, or at least his fellow Long Islanders.
This quote reveals to the reader Nick’s aspiration and determination to be like his wealthy and successful “friends” that are not worth anything near how rich they are. So I wonder why Nick would want to be like them. •“They [East and West Eggs of Long Island] are not perfect ovals – like the egg in the Columbus story, they are both crushed flat at the contact end – but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly over head. ” (5) The egg in the Columbus story is a historical allusion to Christopher Columbus’ journey around the world.
One time, at a dinner party in Columbus’ honor, some men began to mock him. Columbus gives the men a task; to make an egg stand up straight. After each man had tried and declared the impossibility of doing such a thing, Columbus takes the egg and makes it stand straight by crushing the shell. He then says, “gentlemen, what is easier than to do this which you said was impossible? It is the simplest thing in the world. Anybody can do it—after he has been shown how. ” East and West egg seem to be perfect ovular eggs, but in reality, are crushed.
Although they appear to be perfect to the innocent, or in this case “the gulls that fly over head,” they are full of error and imperfections, which is only apparent to those who have lived there and witnessed these flaws up close. Chapter Two •“We backed up to a gray old man who bore an absurd resemblance to John D. Rockefeller. ” (27) This is a historical allusion to John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller was a robber baron; he was a capitalist in the oil business who gained his riches through others’ work and benefited unfairly through the use of natural resources.
Nick is quick to notice the man on the street as being suspicious, comparing him to John D. Rockefeller, when in reality, he is overlooking the resemblance between Gatsby and Rockefeller. Rockefeller, a man driven by competition, represents the competitive nature of the citizens of Long Island. Chapter Three •“Suddenly one of these gypsies, in trembling opal, seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform. ” (41) A popular allusion, Frisco refers to Joe Frisco, a famous jazz dancer at the beginning of the twentieth century.
With his series of shuffles, camel walks and turns, derby hat and cigar, and backing dance line of beautiful women, Frisco was ostentatious with all his performances. In 1958, he died of cancer with not a penny to his name. After his death he was quickly forgotten. Gatsby, too, hid behind glamorous parties. When his death came, he was not poor in wealth, but in friendship, and he and his flashy parties were soon forgotten as well. Chapter Four •“‘Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler. ’ Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919. (73) The man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919 is a popular allusion to the fixing of the World’s Series in 1919. In 1919, eight of the underpaid Chicago White Sox hatched a plan to purposely lose the World’s Series to Cincinnati if a gambler was willing to pay them $100,000. These eight players approached Abe Attell, former boxing champion who was at the time a bodyguard for Arnold Rothstein, with this offer. Rothstein joined in on the plan paying them $80,000, and won himself large sums of money.
Before 1919, Arnold Rothstein made a living through bootlegging, gambling, and drug dealing, just like Gatsby. By presenting Meyer Wolfsheim, a colleague of Gatsby, as “the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919,” Gatsby makes known his affiliation with a criminal, making it very difficult for Nick to believe he’s not a criminal himself too. Chapter Five •“‘Are you in love with me,’ she said low in my ear, ‘or why did I have to come alone? ’ ‘That’s the secret of the Castle Rackrent. Tell your chauffeur to go far away and spend an hour. ’” (85)
This is a literary allusion to Castle Rackrent, a novel secretly written by Maria Edgeworth and published in 1800. It is a novel about the mismanagement of the estates owned by Anglo-Irish landlords. Characters in the novel Castle Rackrent are parallel to characters in The Great Gatsby. Sir Kit Stopgap, the cruel husband and absent gambler, is akin to Tom Buchanan who dominates not only his wife, but his lover too. Gatsby too can be compared to the other three main characters, prodigal, generous, yet improvident. Both novels reveal the reality of other people in indirect ways. “There was nothing to look at from under the tree except Gatsby’s enormous house, so I stared at it, like Kant at his church steeple, for half an hour. ” The historical allusion above is of Immanuel Kant, a philosopher who wrote and lectured on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 1700s. In the 1780s, Kant found himself spending a great deal of his time staring out his window at a church steeple nearby to fuel the development of his theories regarding reality and morality. In this excerpt, Nick finds himself under his tree staring at Gatsby’s enormous house just as “Kant [stared] at his church steeple. Nick, like Kant, is also developing his own theories about reality and morality of everyone that he has encountered throughout his time in Long Island Chapter Six •“The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid sub-journalism of 1902. ” (99) Madame de Maintenon is a historical allusion to Francoise d’Aubigne, Marquise de Maintenon was the second wife of King Louis XIV of France. Due to her coming from a poor background, she is said to have married him for his wealth.
In the story of the rich Dan Cody, Ella Faye can be thought of as Madame de Maintenon, marrying Dan only for his money. Ella’s and Dan’s superficial relationship parallels many of the other insincere, shallow relationships in the novel including Gatsby and Daisy, Daisy and Tom, Tom and Myrtle, Myrtle and George, Jordan and her fiance, and even Nick and some of his “friends. ” Chapter Seven •“It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night — and, as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over. ” (113)
A classical and literary allusion, Trimalchio refers to the character in the Roman novel The Satyricon. Trimalchio throws lavish parties, much like Gatsby, and therefore, The Satyricon can be thought of as an early version of The Great Gatsby. Before Gatsby’s “career as Trimalchio was over,” Gatsby and Trimalchio had more than just their lavish parties in common. Trimalchio too was a slave that gained his freedom. The guests that attend both Trimalchio’s and Gatsby’s parties are insensitive and petty. •“Our eyes lifted over the rose-beds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog-days along-shore.
Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles. ” (118) A classical allusion, the blessed isles refers to the pure beautiful islands where the souls of favored mortals were received by the gods and lived happily in paradise in Classical, Greek, and Celtic legends. As Gatsby shows Tom Buchanan his house across the bay, Nick describes the West Egg as the blessed isles. This hints that Daisy is a “favored mortal” and is chosen by Gatsby to live happily in “paradise”. Chapter Eight “He had intended, probably, to take what he could and go—but now he found that he committed himself to the following of a grail. ” (149) This is a classical and biblical allusion to the Holy Grail, the cup used by Jesus at the last supper. It plays a different role in each story it appears, yet in most tales the hero must prove himself to be worthy to be in its presence. Gatsby, who had grown up poor with “no comfortable family standing behind him” (149) felt the need to prove to Daisy that he is worthy of her, a task that Nick compares to “the following of a grail. Other examples of “the following of a grail” in the novel include Myrtle who tried to win Tom and even Nick who tried to fit in to Long Island. Chapter Nine •“Then he returned the wallet and pulled from his pocket a ragged old copy of a book called Hopalong Cassidy. ” (173) Hopalong Cassidy is a literary allusion to a series Charles E. Mulford’s Hopalong Cassidy, in which Hopalong Cassidy is a cowboy. The copy of one of these books is pulled out by Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, at his son’s funeral as he memorializes him.
In the back, as a child, Gatsby had written a schedule showing much about his personality and that he was “bound to get ahead”. Hopalong Cassidy revolves around daring deeds and the separating of “good bad-men” and bad bad-men, much like the underlining storyline of The Great Gatsby. •“Even when the East excited me most, even when I was most keenly aware of its superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me a quality of distortion. West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams.
I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and a lustreless moon. ” (176) This is a popular allusion to El Greco, an artist. Nick uses El Greco’s distorted depressed paintings as a comparison to West and East Egg and even Long Island and his hometown, Ohio. As he draws conclusions about Gatsby’s life, he considers the people that came to Gatsby’s parties, yet no one really cared for him. El Greco’s paintings depict life in Long Island; no one truly knows or cares for one another making life pointless and depressed. ?