Study Guide

The Great Gatsby: Isolation Quotes

By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Isolation

 
Chapter 1
Daisy Buchanan

"It'll show you how I've gotten to feel about – things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. 'All right,' I said, 'I'm glad it's a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool – that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'" (1.116-118)

Daisy gives birth to her child alone—the nurse is there, but her husband is nowhere to be found. Apparently, he's not even pacing the hall with a cigar, the way dads were supposed to back in the 1920s. And that poor little girl, born alone into a lonely world. It's enough to make us reach for the tissues.

Nick Carraway

Why they came East I don't know. They had spent a year in France for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. (1.16-17)

Daisy and Tom's crowd may be "rich together," but this sounds an awful lot like loneliness to us.

Chapter 2
Nick Carraway

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes -- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. (2.1)

West Egg is connected to New York by a road and a set of train tracks. It's not isolated: in fact, the things that happen in the city end up having effects back at West Egg. Trains and other technology like automobiles seemed to decrease isolation throughout the nineteenth century—but did they? Or, like Facebook, do they just give the appearance of togetherness while making us all more and more isolated?

Chapter 3
Nick Carraway

At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others – poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner – young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life. (3.156)

You know all those clichés about big cities being lonely places? Fitzgerald thought so, too. He sees New York as being like one of Gatsby's parties, only less glamorous: full of people, and full of loneliness.

As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host, but the two or three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an amazed way, and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements, that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table – the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone. (3.10)

Actually, this is good advice: if you head to a party without knowing anyone, head for the snacks.

The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names. (3.4)

Talk about isolation. These parties are full of people who instantly forget each other, or never even knew each other to begin with. Trying to meet someone at one of Gatsby's parties would be like trying to have a meaningful conversation at a rave: no one's there to make connections. Well, not the meaningful kind, anyway.

Chapter 5
Nick Carraway

"Your place looks like the World's Fair," I said.

"Does it?" He turned his eyes toward it absently. "I have been glancing into some of the rooms. Let's go to Coney Island, old sport. In my car."

"It's too late."

"Well, suppose we take a plunge in the swimming-pool? I haven't made use of it all summer."

"I've got to go to bed."

"All right." (5.3-8)

Gatsby has a house full of people, and all he wants is one friend to go swimming with him. Talk about lonely.

Chapter 7
Nick Carraway

Thirty – the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair. But there was Jordan beside me, who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age. As we passed over the dark bridge her wan face fell lazily against my coat's shoulder and the formidable stroke of thirty died away with the reassuring pressure of her hand. (7.308)

Having seen the wrong end of thirty, Shmoop can assure Nick that it really isn't that bad. But at least he has someone to keep him company, right? Well, yeah—until things start going south and she's out. (But Nick is totally right about all the thirty-something men being married. Just saying.)

Chapter 8
Nick Carraway

He stayed there a week, walking the streets where their footsteps had clicked together through the November night and revisiting the out-of-the-way places to which they had driven in her white car. (8.28)

Once Daisy leaves him, Gatsby walks the streets alone. Probably in the rain. And in rags. Sorry, dude: we know how this scene ends.

Chapter 9
Nick Carraway

After a little while Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears. He had reached an age where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise, and when he looked around him now for the first time and saw the height and splendor of the hall and the great rooms opening out from it into other rooms, his grief began to be mixed with an awed pride. (9.40)

How weird is this description of Gatsby's dad? He's "leaking isolated" tears, as if he can't quite process that his son is dead—or that this mansion belonged to his kid.

Next morning I sent the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfsheim, which asked for information and urged him to come out on the next train. That request seemed superfluous when I wrote it. I was sure he'd start when he saw the newspapers, just as I was sure a there'd be a wire from Daisy before noon—but neither a wire nor Mr. Wolfsheim arrived; no one arrived except more police and photographers and newspaper men. When the butler brought back Wolfsheim's answer I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all. (9.20)

After Gatsby's death, Nick realizes just how alone Gatsby is. What's weird is he begins to identify with Gatsby, as though they're suddenly BFFs. We bet Gatsby would have appreciated that; too bad it's too late now.

A little before three the Lutheran minister arrived from Flushing, and I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby's father. 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. The minister glanced several times at his watch, so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn't any use. Nobody came. (9.113)

Everyone dies alone—and some of us are buried alone, or almost alone. Besides the owl-eyed man, Nick, and Gatsby's dad, no one comes to the funeral. Is it the rain? Or is the heartless, selfish crowd who was happy to come to the feast but won't come to the funeral?