grass cut

p. 87:

‘I want to get the grass cut,’ he said.

After much fumbling and misdirection, Gatsby has finally asked of Nick the very small favor that Nick invite his cousin over for tea. All the years of dreaming and scheming have led Gatsby to this improbably coincidental tête-à-tête, where he will casually drop in as an unannounced visitor. He’s painted this scene in his mind thousands of times, and he stands on his neighbor’s lawn finally making a concrete plan, looking over the final details of the dream becoming reality … and he’s disappointed in the condition of the grass. ‘We both looked at the grass — there was a sharp line where my ragged lawn ended and the darker, well-kept expanse of his began.’

Is obsessive attention to detail insanity or genius? Would Daisy notice an unkempt lawn as she pulled up to Nick’s cottage for tea? If she did, would she have any distaste for low-caliber landscaping? And if she did even then, wouldn’t any stray thoughts in her head be blown away, like cobwebs in a hurricane, by the appearance of her lost love? Or would the minor mental distress over shabby grass make her marginally less likely to rekindle fiery love from forgotten embers?

Why leave anything to chance? How Gatsby got rich is said to be one of the mysteries of the story. But there’s no mystery here at all – the ‘why’ of his wealth has always been front and center: because he wants the love of his past. And the ‘how’ is right here, hiding in plain sight: Gatsby’s rich because he leaves no detail in disrepair, because he can’t abide a bit of weedy green on the lawn of his dreams.

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