Quotes

Quotes about money from The Great Gatsby

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness.

I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.

That’s why when he smiled down at me, his smile seemed preposterous in its assumption that I would be impressed.

Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.

He looked at me sideways—and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase ‘educated at Oxford,’ or swallowed it or choked on it, as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him, after all.

Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motorboats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On weekends his Rolls-Royce (his champagne-colored Rolls-Royce) became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.

She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented ‘place’ that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village—appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing.

I feel out of touch. It’s embarrassing. You’re my cousin.

One October day in nineteen-seventeen . . .”

She had caught a cold and it made her voice huskier and more charming than ever, and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.

It’s stopped raining.

And she laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.)

I like her, said Daisy, I think she’s lovely.

It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!

Except for the half hour he’d been alone with Daisy when I first saw him, he was always talking to me—in a way that seemed intimate combined with an absolute deference.

One of my most vivid memories is of coming back West from prep school and later from college at Christmas time. Those who went farther than Chicago would gather in the old dim Union Station at six o’clock of a December evening, with their scarves and their suitcases, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. . . . My grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry C. Gatz, live in my house in Minnesota, until six weeks before he died, that is. He’d been away at college for three years, and afterward he went to the hardware business just before I was born, while I was “

When I was a young man it was different—if a friend of mine died, no matter how, I stuck with them to the end. You may think that’s sentimentality, but what’s sentimental about a thing like that?

He waited, looking at me with suppressed eagerness.

His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people—his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.

He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face, and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body—he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage—a cruel body.

With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter. The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned “character” leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.

In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.

His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked—and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.

There’s something in that voice of his . . .

I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby’s bedroom, a gray, florid man with a hard, empty face—the pioneer debauchee who during one phase of American life brought back to the Eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due to Cody that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay parties women used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed the habit of letting liquor alone.

Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! shouted Mrs. Wilson. I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai—

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.

And now she’s going whether she wants to or not. I’m going to get her away.

The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house.

Angry as I was, as we all were, I was tempted to laugh whenever he opened his mouth. The transition from libertine to prig was so complete. 3

You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow, she went on in a convinced way. Everybody thinks so—the most advanced people. And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything. Her eyes flashed around her in a defiant way, rather like Tom’s, and she laughed with thrilling scorn. Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated! 3

It’s just a crazy old thing, she said. I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like. 3

I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. 3

You make me feel uncivilized, Daisy, I confessed on my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. Can’t you talk about crops or something? 3

When he saw us a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes. 3

But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. 3

His eyes, meanwhile, stared down at Daisy, who lay in the center of an enormous couch, as if she had just been washed ashore from a swimming out to sea. And so I sat down discreetly in the living-room and read a chapter of Simon Called Peter—it’s a religious book about an impossibly good man. 40. I had a woman up here last week to look at my feet, and when she gave me the bill you’d of thought she had my appendicitis out. 4

What have I done for you that you didn’t do for me? Industrialize our side of the island with a million cats or waittables in a restaurant! 4

He was an old friend of Tom’s. His present arrangement suited him admirably, and his lisping, broad-shouldered oaf of a man-servant came leaping with a trayful of cocktails as we entered. 4

There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender, but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered. 4

This is a bit of a surprise, I said to him. I thought you inherited your money. 4

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened—then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk. 4

She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.) 4

And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy. 4

I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody. 4

They’re a rotten crowd, I shouted across the lawn. “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together. 50. They’re such beautiful shirts, she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.


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