Write about Fitzgerald’s story-telling methods in this chapter
In terms of form in the first chapter Fitzgerald uses the first person retrospective in the main character Nick Carraway. Nick appears to be talking about events that happened two years previously and therefore we receive the information retrospectively and almost in a second hand manner, meaning that it could have been adapted and not in its original form. When using this form of narrative Fitzgerald needs the reader to completely trust the judgement of Nick and his ability to remember what happened in precise enough detail.
This trust is created during the first page where Nick himself talks about how people seem to trust him, how de doesn’t judge people too quickly and his tolerance of others, “I’m inclined to reserve all judgements… I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men… boasting this way of my tolerance. ” The effect of using this first person narrative and having Nick as the central character could mean that the reader considers him as a person who, when re-encountering details of past times, will tell the truth and not have his memory blurred by judgement.
The use of layers and shifts in narrative help the structure to stay maintained while bringing other facts and peoples interpretations into the story. For example, when Nick is talking to Myrtle about her first meeting with Tom in Chapter two the narrative suddenly changes from Nicks encounters of the drunken evening to the story of their meeting on a train, conveyed by Myrtle herself. This use of including other characters in the story-telling process further instils the trust we have in what Nick tells us as a reader.
This is because he appears not to be editing what Myrtle says and instead is repeating it as it seemingly happened, “I was going up to see my sister… I couldn’t keep my eyes off him… I was so excited… I got into a taxi with him… ” By entrusting the other characters to tell the story for him, the reader automatically begins to believe other details which Nick tells us. If he was to tell the story of how Myrtle and Tom met himself the reader could begin to question how he knows the details of the story.
Fitzgerald knows that the attention of a reader is not always directed unblinkingly at the story. For this reason by using Myrtle to re-encounter the meeting of Tom and herself means that the readers interest is once again hooked. Myrtle does not talk a lot in the chapter mainly concerned with her affair with Tom and so when she does have a longer section of speech, and an important one at that, the readers attention is automatically engaged once again, eager to hear what she has to say on the situation between Tom, Daisy, her husband and herself.
The effect of using time shifts and changes in this chapter allow for a degree of reality. If Fitzgerald had used Nick to convey every detail of the party in the flat, then the reader may have thought that he had fabricated certain details. As it is, when time seems to just ‘disappear’ between Nick’s recounts of the evening, we can guess that this is due to the amount of alcohol he is consuming.
By using the effect of alcohol to blur Nick’s judgement and ability to thoroughly retell the story, Fitzgerald allows us to remember that the events which we are reading about happened two years ago and therefore that Nick, being only human, may not remember every detail about the evening. However, by employing the copious amount of alcohol that is drunk in such a short time, the reader could begin to mistrust Nick. The sudden shifts between times, “It was nine o’clock-almost immediately afterwards I looked at my watch and found it was ten… , mean that there are big blanks in the evening where anything could have happened.
The use of these gaps between the story blinds the reader and, while we begin to wonder whether Nick is fully aware of what is happening and if he is telling the details of the evening correctly, we are even more dependant on what Nick has to tell us, as we do not know what happens between these long empty patches. At the beginning of chapter two Nick describes to the reader the ‘Valley of Ashes’. Fitzgerald uses long detailed sentences to tell of it’s eerie presence over the join between West Egg and New York.
By using these two paragraphs of uninterrupted descriptive language the reader begins to wonder why this place has such a major significance. It is only at the very end of paragraph three that we see why this build up has been used, “it was because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan’s mistress. ” By leaving the story to resume so late in the chapter Fitzgerald is able to create a scenery in which his story sits. During these paragraphs the tense changes, meaning that the reader is even more aware of the story continuing. The chapter begins in a simple descriptive manner, told in a first person present tense.
This means that the time which the chapter is set in is unclear, it could be the day after Nick has met the Buchanan’s or it could be years after, in the time from which Nick is reminiscing about the story. However the reintroduction of the story further down the page brings the readers attention back to what the story is about and therefore increasing an amount of tension as the reader is eager to continue the story and find out about Tom’s mistress. In terms of structure Fitzgerald uses the juxtaposition of chapter one against chapter two.
The first chapter focuses mainly on the place in which Nick has chosen to live and the contrasts of houses and people living in West Egg and East Egg. In comparison to this chapter two is more focused on the differences between West Egg and New York. Also in chapter one we see the home life of the Buchanan’s, set in their glittering expansive mansion. The relationship between Tom and Daisy is established and with Nick narrating we can see the tension between the couple even if from the outside they seem to have the perfect life. In chapter two the focus is predominantly on the relationship between Tom and his mistress, Myrtle.
The use of this clear comparison means that the reader is able to see the distinct difference between Tom’s life in and out of East Egg. Separately, both chapters are structured in similar ways. The beginnings of them are both quite descriptive and mainly based around setting a scene for the chapter to be in. They both move into the story quite abruptly and both end in a form of climax. In the first chapter Fitzgerald uses two climaxes, the one where the reader finds out that Tom has a mistress in New York, and then later the more subdued climax in which the reader first sees Gatsby.
The effect of leaving this meeting so late in the chapter means that when it happens it is a small shock and the reader wonders who he is and when we shall meet him again. Equally in chapter two the tension is built up throughout, with the quickening of pace and the hustle and bustle within the small flat, and ends with the small but devastating moment where Tom hits Myrtle, “Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand. ” This effect leaves the reader in shock and leaves us wanting to hear what is to happen next.
Equally the use of the fall into calmness after this violent act where Nick and Mr McKee slip away from the party leaves the evenings events in a sort of muddle and the reader wanting to know what happens next. This deliberate use of contrast adds to the tension and leaves us wanting to know where all the characters go from where they have been left at the end of the chapter and the choices that they can make. In terms of language, Fitzgerald uses the repetition of certain words and motifs to convey a symbolic meaning.
For example when Nick first meets the Buchanan’s the description of their house is vast and exceeds what he expected for his cousin and her husband, “their house was more elaborate than I had expected” The use of this form of language adds to the sense of grandeur which the house embodies and in which Nick stands shadowed with his contrasting “less fashionable” house in West Egg. When describing the setting and scenery around the house Fitzgerald uses plurals and other language techniques to convey the magnitude of the wealth which the Buchanan’s are not afraid to ‘show off’ along with their neighbours in the rest of East Egg.
Jumping over sun-dials and brick walls and burning gardens. ” the effect of using the plurals simply to describe the garden means that the reader is aware of the amount of money and wealth that the Buchanan’s clearly have and their ability to use it on simple indulgences such as the garden. Similarly the colours used when describing the Buchanan’s mansion mirrors the lavish richness in which they live, “reflected gold… gleaming white… wine-coloured rug” The effect of using such rich colours imply the old money with which East Egg is affiliated.
The deep reds contrasting against the bright whites and embellished with golds make the house seem to shine with richness and wealth and creates a space which seems destined for great things. Also within the Buchanan’s house there are more references to colours such as the “rose-coloured space” in which Jordan and Daisy are found. This could be a reference to the blindness of the rich and their ability to “see things through rose tinted glasses” meaning that they only see the better things in life. However the women are “both in white” which could be a reference to the virginal purity with which they live.
Perhaps Fitzgerald puts them in such colours to create a feeling of innocence in which Daisy lives, she is aware of her husbands mistress and yet does nothing about it, perhaps she is too innocent to want to throw away her marriage. On the other hand the colour white is an ambiguous colour and is often referred to as simply a shade. There is no depth to white and perhaps this is why Fitzgerald uses this colour, to infer that the women have no depth to them and that they are simply surface values with a bland emptiness underneath their pretty and entrancing exterior.
In comparison to this Fitzgerald describes the flat which Tom rents for his mistress in a most unflattering manner, “a small living-room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath… crowded… with tapestried furniture entirely too large for it. ” This contrast of living situations between Myrtle and Daisy furthers the difference between Tom’s home and private life. The effect of Myrtle attempting to better herself through her apartment, and what she crams it with, shows her struggle to try and climb the social ladder to be on a par with Daisy, “The apartment was on the top floor”.
The desperation continues inside the apartment with the paintings of “scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles” which could also be seen as her desperate attempts to try and become more sophisticated. She considers the pictures to be a goal for which she can aim, they sit in their European richness, and that is all that Myrtle wants. She sees herself as much better than what her husband can offer her and Tom, with his golden East Egg riches, can provide the transport to such a life.
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