fantastic

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benjaminbosquier

Senior Member
français - France
How do you understand "fantastic" in the two following passages from Gatsy? Are the senses different?

1) About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

2) I glanced at Daisy who was staring terrified between Gatsby and her husband and at Jordan who had begun to balance an invisible but absorbing object on the tip of her chin. Then I turned back to Gatsby—and was startled at his expression. He looked—and this is said in all contempt for the babbled slander of his garden—as if he had “killed a man.” For a moment the set of his face could be described in just that fantastic way.

Thank you!
 
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    "Fantastic" can mean "as if out of fantasy, imagination, fiction, or fancy." I think it has this sense in both these excerpts.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    No. In contemporary English "fantastic" does mean "amazing, super-great." But that's a recent development - the OED dates the first such print use to 1938.

    In #1, the idea is that the valley of ashes looks like something out of a dream. In #2, the idea of "looking like you've just killed a man" is something out of fiction - something unreal. Gatsby actually looks like he might have lived through this experience that is only fictional or imaginary for most people.

    This OED definition might be helpful for you:
    a. Having the appearance of being devised by extravagant fancy; eccentric, quaint, or grotesque in design, conception, construction, or adornment.
     
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