January 16, 2013

"A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags..."

"... twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea."

More wind, water, and light. We've gotten used to it here in this windy, watery, light-and-dark world of the Gatsby project. This sentence seems like a made up imitation of a sentence from "The Great Gatsby," but I assure you it's there.

All that's happening here is a breeze blowing through the room, but we have a traffic jam of metaphor: flags, wedding-cake, and wine. What are we supposed to see here? And good lord, it's a room. Must we really believe that something cataclysmic is going on when a breeze blows the curtains? Maybe we should. Maybe all sorts of crazy stuff happens in a room and it is like an epic storm at sea.

The wine-colored rug stands in for the sea, so I have to assume that we're supposed to think of the  "wine-dark sea" we hear about, repeatedly, in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. It is an epic, contained in that room. The dark shadows ripple, turning the wine-rug into sea, so I guess the ceiling is the sky. I guess that's a fancy white ceiling with all sorts of fancy woodwork, resembling the ornamentation on a wedding cake. The curtains swirling around the wedding-cake textures are cloud-like, I suppose. So fabric and wood make the erstwhile cake-like ceiling into stormy sky and curtain-driven shadows make the otherwise wine-like carpet into roiling sea.

It's a tempestuous room, containing a marriage. Raise a toast and let's feed each other cake.


edutcher said...

I've seen a lot of ceilings like that, when The Blonde moved out of her house and stayed in the building where her brother had his shoe shop, there was a ceiling like that.

It was a kind of tile, if memory serves, rather than carved wood.

But, yeah, anybody who grew up in a house with screened windows and curtains in the summer knows that imagery well.

Unknown said...

"Making a shadow on it the way the wind does on the sea."
That image makes me think of my childhood. I don't know why. I never saw the sea as a child.
I remember watching the wind make a shadow on the meadow. Maybe that's where it came from.
Experiments with light and shadow and watching how light changes are in many of my childhood memories for some reason.

Sydney said...

It does create a very pleasant feeling, that sentence. You can almost feel the cool cross breeze that makes a room with windows at both ends of it so comfortable in the summer. But goodness, that's some breeze if it's blowing the curtains all the way up to the ceiling.

Ann Althouse said...

" But goodness, that's some breeze if it's blowing the curtains all the way up to the ceiling."

Which makes "breeze" seem to be the wrong word. I was assuming very lightweight gauzy curtains.

m stone said...

This is yet another of Fitzgerald's cumulative-structured sentences that he loves so much: independent clause followed by dependent ones.

The main idea---breeze blowing---is strung out with descriptors. It's not classic and Fitz takes liberties a first-year composition student would not be given. Even the fact of the breeze blowing is not remarkable, but readers will plod on hoping for more. But there is imagery, which is key to fiction writing.

traditionalguy said...

The scene seems to be set in a large home with a hall for political and social events. The windows likely are near floor to ceiling with sheer curtains that moderate the sunlight.

But a great power resides here that has captured a political bride. Will she be rescued from that marriage as Helen of Troy was rescued?

Nick and Jordan are the greek Chorus figures. King and Queen Buchanan are facing the Hero laying seige to Troy as the Zeus Eye watches from a billboard.

Lem said...

Its a holodeck.

Robert Cook said...

A terrible sentence.

Astro said...

I am reminded of my favorite Wyeth painting:
Wind From The Sea

mikee said...

So, the breeze blew into the room and then blew out of the room and THEN the carpet in the room was hit by the wind?

Some breeze, able to be outside the room but inside the room at the same time.

jungatheart said...

First sentence I've disliked.