Reading The Great Gatsby, I encountered these sentences and came to be curious as to what "our identity with this country" means in this context:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a family’s name.

In this part, Nick recalls his memories he had in West. He used to return to West at Christmas time, and travel in the train.

But I could not understand why and how they were aware of their "identity with this country" for that one hour, because for me "identity" seems quite the same with melting "indistinguishably into it again" which follows after the comma. So for me the sentence read like 'we knew that we were the same with this country for one hour, and then mixed into the air indistinguishably again," so the two phrases felt repetitive and redundant. Does "identity" have some special meaning that I couldn't guess?

I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


When you have identity with a country, or particular part of a country, it means you and it are indivisible. The key word here that sorts out the melting issue is aware. They had identity all the time. Then they became "aware of their identity"and about an hour later they stopped being aware of it. They stopped being aware of it, but they still had the identity because that was a simple immutable fact of their lives.

  • 1
    You down voters should say your piece. Fitzgerald had a handle on the meaning of identity long before there was talk of identity politics. What's your problem?
    – Aethelbald
    Apr 18, 2018 at 18:22

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