I am reading The Great Gatsby, and came to be curious as to the meaning of "ramifications" and "by which" in these sentences:

Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since seventy-five. The transactions in Montana copper that made him many times a millionaire found him physically robust but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and, suspecting this, an infinite number of women tried to separate him from his money. The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht, were common knowledge to the turgid sub-journalism of 1902. He had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for five years when he turned up as James Gatz's destiny in Little Girl Bay.

The narrator Nick is telling how Gatsby first came into being. Before he became Gatsby, he was named James Gatz; but when he met Dan Cody, who would start him in business and leave him inheritance, he decided to change his name to Jay Gatsby. When he met Gatsby, Dan Cody was soft-minded and was liable to be swayed by women.

In this part, I could not understand what "ramifications" and "by which" meant. Are the ramifications some flaws in his character derived from his soft-mindedness? Or the negative results, or rumors, caused by the fact that Ella Kaye pushed him out to the sea?

And I would also like to know what "by which" means. Does that mean Ella Kaye played Madame de Maintenon by the none too savory ramifications? If it is the case, what does "by" mean here? Did she use, or took the advantage of, the ramifications?

1 Answer 1


Well, first, the whole beginning of your quote is basically saying: Cody was rich, but as he was getting older and presumably had a soft spot for women or wasn't super clever, many women tried to marry him for his money.

Ramifications means consequences.

Madame de Maintenon is actually a historical figure. She was the second wife of King Louis XIV of France, but her marriage wasn't actually official; she was of a different social rank than the King, so she was never officially queen. However, she had a lot of influence at court. She is often depicted in works as ambitious, greedy, and evil.

Now, let's try to tackle the question.

The none too savory ramifications by which Ella Kaye, the newspaper woman, played Madame de Maintenon to his weakness and sent him to sea in a yacht

What's happening here is that Ella Kaye is acting like Madame: she's clever, so she takes advantage of Cody, she's greedy for Cody's money, and she's "evil" - she doesn't actually love Cody; that's why she effectively kicks him out to see on a yacht and steals all his money.

The phrase "none too savory ramifications" immediately follows the section on Cody being "on the verge of soft-mindedness", indicating that Ella is using the consequences of Cody's soft-mindedness, thus the "by which": the consequences of Cody's soft-mindedness are how Ella accomplishes her unsavory deed.

Hope this helps!

If, as Will Crawford says, instead of ramifications, it actually says machinations, the phrase makes even more sense. Machinations are schemes/plots. In other words, it's saying that Ella's not-so-savory (evil/non-legal) plans to gain power and money by marrying Cody were common knowledge to journalists.

  • 1
    It's a malapropism for "machinations", I think. Apr 12, 2018 at 7:53
  • @WillCrawford well, that would make a lot more sense =)
    – auden
    Apr 12, 2018 at 19:06

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