He lifted the words up and nodded at them – with his smile.
The Great Gatsby contains very little physical description of the man named Gatsby. Instead there is a careful magic enchanting the narrative, where Gatsby’s effect on others is described through the dark whispers of his reputation. Even when we do get a treatment of a physical feature – in this case, Gatsby’s smile – we do not see the whiteness of his teeth, whether his lips are thin or full, where the creases of past humor line his face. There’s no imagery here, only effect. We see the effect of his smile on the words that pass through his mouth, and we understand the effect of his personality on the listener. We get a sense of his controlling charisma, his ability to invest the most outlandish story with something pure from his heart.
He’s describing a romantic fantasy in which he travels the earth in riches, ‘trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago.‘ The story is ludicrous. Nick says, ‘The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned “character” leaking sawdust at every pore …‘ But by the end, with his smile, Gatsby makes it all true.