Casual moths

Discussion in 'English Only' started by benjaminbosquier, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. benjaminbosquier Senior Member

    français - France
    Could you please tell me the meaning of "casual" in the following excerpt of The Great Gatsby, chapter 4, by F. Scott Fitzgerald?

    The modesty of the demand shook me. He had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths—so that he could “come over” some afternoon to a stranger’s garden.

    Thank you.
  2. Edinburgher Senior Member

    German/English bilingual
    I read casual here as similar to occasional. Imagine a moth just casually flying around the countryside, minding its own business, and suddenly it sees a light, so it flies on over for a closer look. This is what happens when you have the lights on in your room after dark. Moths are attracted by it and they keep crashing into the window panes. If you were of a poetic disposition, you could describe what you're doing as "dispensing light to (casual) moths".

    I speculate that he, the subject of the sentence, is not living in the mansion, and that therefore the lights are always off, so that the only light being "dispensed" is starlight.
  3. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    Without actually getting out my copy of Gatsby (though maybe I should), I'm guessing that the "casual moths" are, metaphorically, Gatsby's (human) guests. If I remember correctly, he holds extravagant, glittering parties in his mansion--i.e., he "dispenses starlight"--which are attended by people who don't know him very well and are attracted only by the parties, as moths are attracted by light. They are "casual" because they come and go from his house in a casual kind of way, without any kind of commitment of friendship or anything else.

    Now I'm tempted to go check...
  4. benjaminbosquier Senior Member

    français - France
    Ok, I think I understand what you mean. Thank you.
  5. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    where he dispensed starlight to casual moths ​= where he provided opportunities that attracted the sort of wealthy persons who were in need of such social entertainment.
  6. benjaminbosquier Senior Member

    français - France
    The word seems polysemic and difficult!
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    "Moth" is used figuratively to people who are mindlessly attracted to various things. The famous one is probably "a meeting moth"; that person in business who seems to spend all their time going to meetings and not actually doing anything.

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