From chapter 1 of The Great Gatsby:

No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

The narrator says he lost interest in 'abortive sorrows' and 'shortwinded elations of men'. What do these phrases mean and does he mean it in a general sense or in relation to Gatsby only?

2 Answers 2


"Abortive" means "failing to produce results," so it denotes a sorrow, probably short-lived, that doesn't cause the person to change. Likewise a "shortwinded" person quickly loses his breath on exercise, and therefore an elation is "shortwinded" if it ends quickly because it's exhausted.


Gatsby is dead

by the end of the novel -- and the reference is to "men" in the plural -- Nick must have lost interest in men in general, because their emotional storms, however dramatic, quickly fade out with no impact.


I found Mary's answer very helpful; building on that, I ended up with this understanding:

Nick must have lost interest in men in general in their abortive sorrows (in their sorrows that fail to produce results, fail to produce change) and their short-winded elations (short-winded happiness, happiness of no real strength). In contrast, Gatsby's sorrow of losing Daisy because he was too poor produced a vast change, and his elation, the happiness that Daisy engendered in him was vast. Quite the opposite of short-winded, it was a typhoon – a hurricane of tremendous strength.

  • Segorian, nice editing.
    – Derick
    Dec 1 at 14:40

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