January 18, 2013

"Her expression was curiously familiar — it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces...

"... but on Myrtle Wilson’s face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his wife."

Today's Gatsby sentence — we read one sentence from "The Great Gatsby" every day here on the Althouse blog — is very long, one clause after another, and yet, it doesn't tumble all out of control. We get it.

It's a sentence about an expression on a woman's face, a very common and utterly insipid expression, yet obviously very disturbing for the woman herself, even as we are deprived of any reason to feel for her. She's not even right about what she thinks she sees.

13 comments:

Chip Ahoy said...

I too have a similar sentence that is artiul, I say, and can stand on it own under scrutiny.

When the familiar women came face to face and expressed their expressions curiously under the myrtle, Wilson and her jelly fixed terrier kept a wide eye on Tom, wearing his Jordans who had taken his wife and baked her

m stone said...

Ah, a periodic sentence---climax or meaning at the end---to break Fitz's pattern.

Not sure I can make out what "jealous terror" is. Maybe a lady will give insight?

I think I like Chip's sentence better.

betamax3000 said...

"Her expression was curiously familiar — it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces..."

"...as I wore those women's faces and danced in the moonlight".

-- Ed Gein, better known as "The Great Geinsby"...

EMD said...

Listening to Great Gatsby on audiobook. Just on Chapter 3.

edutcher said...

I take it Jordan is a woman.

Mary Beth said...

Baking wives is wrong. Sous-vide provides a better result.

Lem said...

Ok, let me take a swing.

"Her expression was curiously familiar — it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces, but on Inga’s face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on bagoh20, but on Synova, whom she took to be his wife."

creeley23 said...

...yet, it doesn't tumble all out of control. We get it.

Who do you mean, "we," Kemosabe?

Maybe I'm too decaffeinated at the moment, but it's too many clauses to hold in my head at once then connect together. I've just read it five times and it still doesn't cohere. I assume it works better in context.

I do love much of Fitzgerald's writing but this is another bad Fitzgerald sentence, another example of why many people don't take to Gatsby on their first reading.

Chip Ahoy said...

Jordans are shoes.

Lem said...

Jordans are shoes.

amoung other things...

creeley23 said...

The problem is not so much the number of clauses as the number of questions that stack up as I'm reading and which are not satisfactorily resolved.

What is this "curiously familiar" expression?

The narrator tells us he has seen it often, but that doesn't explain anything.

Next we learn that on Myrtle's face the expession looks "purposeless and inexplicable."

Great more abstract adjectives that don't tell me jack, but heighten my confusion. I try to imagine a "curiously familiar" expression that is both "purposeless and inexplicable" and fail.

Then in a rush, Fitzgerald piles on explosive concrete detail, "eyes wide with jealous terror" (what might jealous terror" be?), and the Tom/Jordan/she/wife nexus that blow up any possibility for me to bridge the first and second halves of the sentence.

It's a train wreck. I remember being troubled by this sentence when I read Gatsby two years ago.

Sam L. said...

Misidentification. Will she be embarrassed when she finds out!

who-knew said...

Not that any one is likely to care, but as a very occasional commenter on this blog, I want to say I really like the Gatsby sentence a day series. It has inspired me to reread Gatsby, one of the few books I've read multiple times, as soon as I finish what's already on the reading stack.