Sylvia Fitz in Time for Gatsby

Anyone who has ever marked up a page of The Great Gatsby, you’re in good company. Dangerous Minds this week posted a page from Sylvia Plath’s own copy, complete with annotations. But of course, as they’re Sylvia Plath’s, we inevitably find ourselves reading into them…

The excerpt comes from the first chapter of the novel. In it, Daisy tells Nick and company her reaction to the birth of her daughter. Here’s exactly what Plath found so interesting on the page:

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 the world, a beautiful little fool.’

“You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow,” she went on in a convinced way. “Everybody thinks so -nthe 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!”

In the margin beside the highlighted second paragraph, Plath wrote the comment “l’ennui.” So whereas Nick “felt the basic insincerity of what she had said,” Plath herself felt Daisy to be suffering from listlessness. Was she sympathetic to Daisy’s cynical views of the world?

Seemingly, the passage resonated enough with Plath for her to mark it up like that. But should we take meaning from it, or simply chalk it up to active reading?

Any thoughts eNoters?


  1. S.C.

    It’s a look into Plath’s mind, I guess. Pretty interesting. As a narrator, Nick has his own views and motivations, so maybe he’s wrong about Daisy’s feelings in this passage. I’d never thought of it that way.

    • jhgardner

      I had the same thoughts when I came across this too. Since many of Gatsby’s readers are taught the book in school, I think our views of Daisy are largely formed via our teachers’ input and Nick’s narration. This reminds us that a first-person narrator is also an unreliable narrator. Personally, I feel very sorry for Daisy in this passage.

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