I am reading The Great Gatsby, and would very much like to know what "an affront to the common store of life" means in the following sentences:

He set down the receiver and came toward us, glistening slightly, to take our stiff straw hats. "Madame expects you in the salon!" he cried, needlessly indicating the direction. In this heat every extra gesture was an affront to the common store of life.

In this part, Nick and Gatsby visited Daisy and Tom Buchanan's house to lunch together. But because it was a very hot day, the butler's gesture indicating the direction seemed unnecessary.

Here, I could not grasp what was the common store of life.
Does "life" indicate all human beings? Or all creatures? Does the author have an idea that all creatures share the same store of life...? I could not understand exactly.

I would very much appreciate your help. :)

In ‘common store of life’ the words are being used in the following senses (in the Oxford English Dictionary):

common, adj. 1. a. ‘Belonging equally to more than one’ (Johnson); possessed or shared alike

store, n. 5. a. collective possessions; accumulated goods or money

life, n. 6. a. vitality or energy conveyed in action, thought, or expression; liveliness in feeling, manner, or aspect; animation, vivacity, spirit

The narrator is thus briefly entertaining a fancy whereby the energy needed to sustain activity in the intense heat comes from a limited stock that is shared between people, and so if one person makes an unnecessary gesture then they are depleting the stock of energy available to everyone else, which is thus an ‘affront’ (an attack or insult). This is an instance of hypallage: the affront is really to the other people who share in the common store, not to the store itself.

Your Answer


By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.