"The Great Gatsby," Vocabulary from Chapters 6-7

F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic "The Great Gatsby" is a glittering parade of parties and excess, but at its heart it is about identity and whether being wealthy in America can help you change who you really are. Learn this word list that focuses on physical and emotional temperatures.

Here are links to all our word lists for the novel: Chapter 1, Chapters 2-3, Chapters 4-5, Chapters 6-7, Chapters 8-9

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. notoriety
    the state of being known for some unfavorable act or quality
    Gatsby's notoriety, spread about by the hundreds who had accepted his hospitality and so become authorities on his past, had increased all summer until he fell just short of being news.
  2. persistent
    continually recurring to the mind
    Contemporary legends such as the "underground pipe-line to Canada" attached themselves to him, and there was one persistent story that he didn't live in a house at all, but in a boat that looked like a house and was moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore.
  3. meretricious
    tastelessly showy
    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.
  4. turgid
    ostentatiously lofty in style
    The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid journalism of 1902.
    Another definition of "turgid" is "abnormally distended especially by fluids or gas"--this could also fit the description of journalism that indulges in reports of sexual scandals.
  5. ingratiate
    gain favor with somebody by deliberate efforts
    For several weeks I didn't see him or hear his voice on the phone--mostly I was in New York, trotting around with Jordan and trying to ingratiate myself with her senile aunt--but finally I went over to his house one Sunday afternoon.
  6. perturbed
    thrown into a state of agitated confusion
    Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy's running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby's party.
  7. pervade
    spread or diffuse through
    There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many-keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn't been there before.
  8. septic
    containing or resulting from disease-causing organisms
    But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.
  9. proximity
    the region close around a person or thing
    It occurred to me that he had been very slowly bending toward her all evening to attain this proximity, and even while I watched I saw him stoop one ultimate degree and kiss at her cheek.
  10. chafe
    become or make sore by or as if by rubbing
    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.
  11. obliterate
    remove completely from recognition or memory
    After she had obliterated three years with that sentence they could decide upon the more practical measures to be taken.
  12. harrowing
    causing extreme distress
    And yet I couldn't believe that they would choose this occasion for a scene--especially for the rather harrowing scene that Gatsby had outlined in the garden.
  13. desolate
    crushed by grief
    The straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion; the woman next to me perspired delicately for a while into her white shirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened under her fingers, lapsed despairingly into deep heat with a desolate cry.
  14. affront
    a deliberately offensive act
    In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life.
  15. genial
    diffusing warmth and friendliness
    "I read somewhere that the sun's getting hotter every year," said Tom genially.
  16. stagnant
    not circulating or flowing
    On the green Sound, stagnant in the heat, one small sail crawled slowly toward the fresher sea.
  17. boisterous
    full of rough and exuberant animal spirits
    "Plenty of gas," said Tom boisterously.
    Another definition of "boisterous" is "violently agitated and turbulent"--Nick noticed that was Tom's reaction to discovering that his wife is having an affair. But in the example sentence, Tom is trying to give the impression that he's willing to go along with Daisy's suggestion to have fun in town. Insisting that he drive Daisy in Gatsby's car was his attempt at belittling his rival and regaining control.
  18. oppressive
    weighing heavily on the senses or spirit
    Jordan and Tom and I got into the front seat of Gatsby's car, Tom pushed the unfamiliar gears tentatively and we shot off into the oppressive heat leaving them out of sight behind.
    Earlier in the chapter, Nick noticed the air at one of Gatsby's party had a "peculiar quality of oppressiveness" that was not due to the weather but to the presence of Tom and Daisy. This connects to the definition of "oppressive" as "marked by unjust severity or arbitrary behavior."
  19. relentless
    The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me and I had a bad moment there before I realized that so far his suspicions hadn't alighted on Tom.
  20. inexplicable
    incapable of being explained or accounted for
    Her expression was curiously familiar--it was an expression I had often seen on women's faces but on Myrtle Wilson's face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his wife.
  21. precipitately
    at breakneck speed
    His wife and his mistress, until an hour ago secure and inviolate, were slipping precipitately from his control.
  22. intermittent
    stopping and starting at irregular intervals
    The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back.
  23. stifling
    characterized by oppressive heat and humidity
    The room was large and stifling, and, though it was already four o'clock, opening the windows admitted only a gust of hot shrubbery from the Park.
  24. portentous
    of momentous or ominous significance
    As Tom took up the receiver the compressed heat exploded into sound and we were listening to the portentous chords of Mendelssohn's Wedding March from the ballroom below.
    The wedding march is portentous to the couple getting married at the moment, who contrast with Tom and Daisy breaking apart upstairs (it could also foreshadow their reunion). Nick uses the adjective again to accompany his realization that he had turned thirty, which is significant because he was getting closer to death and to the responsibilities of being a man (which could include marriage).
  25. vicariously
    indirectly, as, by, or through a substitute
    At this point Jordan and I tried to go but Tom and Gatsby insisted with competitive firmness that we remain--as though neither of them had anything to conceal and it would be a privilege to partake vicariously of their emotions.
  26. rancor
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    "Please don't." Her voice was cold, but the rancour was gone from it.
  27. magnanimous
    generous and understanding and tolerant
    She looked at Tom, alarmed now, but he insisted with magnanimous scorn.
    "Magnanimous" is not usually used to describe "scorn" but here, Tom can magnanimously give Gatsby the chance to be alone with Daisy because he knows that he had already succeeded in driving them apart with his scornful accusations. Nick could also be mocking the generous extent of Tom's scornful nature.
  28. clamorous
    conspicuously and offensively loud
    At first I couldn't find the source of the high, groaning words that echoed clamorously through the bare garage--then I saw Wilson standing on the raised threshold of his office, swaying back and forth and holding to the doorposts with both hands.
  29. truculent
    defiantly aggressive
    Only the Negro and I were near enough to hear what he said but the policeman caught something in the tone and looked over with truculent eyes.
  30. earnestness
    a sincere feeling
    He was talking intently across the table at her and in his earnestness his hand had fallen upon and covered her own.
    This earnestly tender gesture of reassurance from Tom contrasts with his earlier actions towards the women in his life (his hurting of Daisy's finger and breaking of Myrtle's nose). But it could be seen as a sad attempt to hold onto what he had almost lost, especially since he had already lost Myrtle.

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