The Smile

Hello yet again, good friends!

He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to carry.

This quote comes from what the book that F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for. I’m talking, of course, about The Great Gatsby. This book is set in the famous Jazz Age, during the 1920’s, an era where moral and social values are almost nonexistant on the East Coast, and most of the upper class citizens are hollow, empty people who live for nothing more than to seek pleasure. They are vulgar and cynical, empty and pretentious, and Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, finds himself interested in the gaudy and flashy lifestyle of the rich. However, he quickly is repulsed, as he notices the lack of social grace and taste.

During the scene the quote comes from, Nick meets Jay Gatsby for the first time. Gatsby, who is Nick’s enigmatic neighbor, hosts lavish weekly parties at his large mansion. When Nick gets a personal invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, he goes, but does not see the host. When he finally meets Jay Gatsby, he is surprised, for Gatsby is a young, charismatic millionaire. Gatsby strikes up a conversation with Nick, who has no idea that he’s talking to the party’s host. Once Gatsby reveals his identity, not realizing that Nick did not know, Jay offers Nick a smile, which Nick describes in the above quote.

That brief snapshot gives the reader a first glimpse into the life of Jay Gatsby. The reader sees him as an irresistibly charming character that one cannot help but be drawn to. Fitzgerald introduces us to Gatsby and gives us a good impression of the character; however, throughout the course of the book, he tears down the Gatsby we are first introduced to. Though the great Gatsby is not all that the reader–or Nick–first sees him for, that smile wonderfully sums up who Gatsby is; at least, it describes who Gatsby *portrays* himself to be. And despite all that is revealed about Gatsby throughout the novel, at the very end, one can understand why Jay did all that he did and truly admit that he was, indeed, the Great Gatsby.

Less than three,

Josh

“To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
for in that sleep of death what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.”
–To Be, Or Not To Be, William Shakespeare

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