February 11, 2013

"And as the time passed and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously, and he spoke of the rain in a worried, uncertain way."

I figured that "ducks will have something to eat" post has got you screaming please, please, give me a "Gatsby" sentence. I know many of you don't like or don't get the "Gatsby" project, in which we isolate and munch on a single, possibly turgid, sentence from "The Great Gatsby," more or less every day around here on the Althouse blog. But now, perhaps, you'd love one as an amuse bouche. The moods are orchestrated here on Althouse.

This sentence has us suspended in time. Time passed, servants waited, standing around, and the man is there, being awkward. Blink is a good word in relation to time. It expresses the shortest kind of time, and anxious eye blinking contrasts to the waiting around of the servants. They are patient and he is nervous, and then — cutting through the awkwardness — the man speaks — but his speech piles on more awkwardness, as he talks about the weather — rain — and we need to be told that this isn't relaxing talk-about-the-weather small talk. His weather-talk has a specific, unsettling attitude: He spoke of the rain in a worried, uncertain way.

How is the weather where you are? Is there much rain? Please watch out for the ducks... the hungry, hungry ducks. 

14 comments:

Paddy O said...

Writing critique:

What would blink besides his eyes? Isn't it repetitive to say his eyes blinked. Unless they were autonomous in the action.

He spoke, so Fitzgerald can use verbs directly. It wasn't his mouth spoke. But it was his eyes that blinked. Maybe they were disembodied, waiting with the servants.

edutcher said...

I guess he was concerned the rain would wash away anything important lying around outside.

Paddy O said...

When it rains, the ducks come out.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

munch on a single, possibly turgid, sentence from "The Great Gatsby," ..., you'd love one as an amuse bouche.

One reason I come here, along with keeping the Alzheimer's at bay, is that usually pick up something new every day.

An enjoyment for the mouth.

Lem said...

It good to see the sentence start with an And.

I'm going to have me some authority when I face my executioners... And... nothing.

edutcher said...

s/b I usually

As I say, I need this.

Astro said...

Blink and you're dead.

Chip Ahoy said...

Whenever I read the word 'servants' I substitute the word 'savants' and the mental picture changes instantly to be a lot more interesting.

Dante said...

Paddy O:

I think he used "his eyes began" to express that it wasn't voluntary. It was the eyes, not him, doing the blinking.

In other words, the guy's state of mind is outside of him, outside of his control, and involuntary, even though it is his own mind.

It's a kind of interesting way to think about human experience. It isn't the "you" that is anxious, it is the external environment of your own mind that is anxious, and it's completely out of the control "you." The poor guy even had his speech centers taken over, and was forced to speak about junk.

Meanwhile, the servants don't have this malady at all. Without having more context, it's hard to know what's going on there. Are they not nervous because they are like dogs, with no responsibility, and only requiring faithfulness (as in, despite their subservience, their life is easier with fewer rules). Or is it that they simply don't have the same awareness of the jittery person?

traditionalguy said...

It's raining on Jay's parade. He believed that he could control everything in his seduction of Daisy operation, but the weather timing is not under his control.

kentuckyliz said...

Servant is just a nice way of saying slave.

Lou Banyon said...

Ducks? Not so much. Gators and Iguanas, we got.

kentuckyliz said...

My nephew's joke when he farts is "I stepped on a duck."

Pre-emotive strike.

slumber_j said...

'...give me a "Gatsby" sentence.'

Sing me some harmonies!