This isn’t just an epigram – life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.
There are many life lessons in the novel that are passed over in a sentence or two. Nick had set out in his new life in New York, to become “that most limited of all specialists, the ‘well-rounded’ man.” Talented young men always meet life believing they can excel in all meaningful aspects, only to find that not only is the goal inaccessible, but the chase is unrewarding and draining. Fitzgerald recites the epigram, says it’s more than just that, and then leaves it at that. There’s a whole ‘nother untold novel in that sentence.
Also on this page, I love the poetic reduction of Long Island geography into “that slender riotous island” and “the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound” with the “the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast” between West Egg and East Egg. The North Shore passed into literary legend on this page and has never been as glamorous since.
9 thoughts on “life is much more successfully looked at from a single window”
this observer would like to know the meaning behind the quote which you have made the title for this website
I think this sentence has much more to it than this.. I was wondering about this single window he talked about.. I wanted to know.. What do you make of it?
I think many young people engage in an earnest intellectual journey in which they try very hard to keep their minds open to all possibilities. They believe that an openness to alternative perspectives is the mark of an educated and sophisticated intellect. So they try on many different philosophies and lifestyles, be it socialism, libertarianism, environmentalism, neoconservatism, chastity, polyamory, or what have you.
But over time, the search and the trials become devoid of any meaning beyond a shallow dilettantism. Eventually, one has to pick a path in order to progress, even if that means forgoing equally interesting paths. The single window is the view out of your mind’s eye that looks only down the one path you choose.
This doesn’t mean that any one single window is better than the others. It means that if you don’t pick a single window, you’ll never get out of the house.
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Good analysis. I’d add an observation here which I think demonstrates Fitzgerald’s great subtly in the creation of his themes. Gatsby, in contrast to Nick, arguably sees the world through one window – even a lens – at the other end of which is Daisy, and around whom the facade and charade of his manufactured life is constructed. Although he fails in recreating the past, an impossible endeavour, his life is infinitely more worthwhile and less shallow than of those of the people around him; who have lost the innocence he so indelibly manages to retain.
That’s brilliant, Mike, thanks. I’d somehow missed that although Nick seemed to be speaking about himself, everything Nick says about himself can be considered relative to both an absolute notion of truth and to Gatsby’s life and version of the truth.
Dear readers of the great novel, if you had to answer a question by choosing one from four options in a reading comprehension based on the very sentence you discussed above which would you choose?
a/that knowledgeability is an insignificant quality
b/ that knowing one thing truly well is as good as knowing a lot of things
c/profound knowledge counts for nothing
d/that only comprehensive knowledgw can give one a singulare understanding of life
Thanks in advance- I need a piece of advice as soon as possible
Only comprehensive knowledge can give singular understanding of life: As one looks out the window at the plethora of possible paths that are part of the knowledge that allows one to choose and “get of the house”
Interesting question. If you know one thing well–making things out of metal for example–you may be able to derive an income. There is a piece of mind that comes with mastery in anything. You could master a skill and master yourself. Self-mastery keeps your ego in check while still understanding how you fit into life.
Comprehensive knowledge–which I pursue by natural person interest–has been a joy. I don’t discount it yet I would put it as the third priority after the first two. I would suggest that self-mastery comes over time, thus, I would concentrate on skill mastery so that you could support yourself and contribute to your clan and society. Awareness, and keeping a peaceful and open mind, will allow for self-mastery to blossom as you work on your daily tasks.
Sifu Slim, Author of Sedentary Nation