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THE GREAT GATSBY

Chapter 1

Genre  

How trustworthy / impartial is the narrator? Keen to stress objectivity:

                ‘I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me.’

Events take place some time before narration. Filter of memory:

                ‘I came back from the East last autumn.’ 

Addresses reader directly at times:

                ‘After boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit.’

Father’s advice – what does it imply?

                ‘Whenever you feel like criticising anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

Of sound moral background, well-educated (Yale), middle-class:

                ‘My family [are] prominent, well-to-do people.’ 

Nick’s position (both physically and as a narrator) is on the periphery of events:

                ‘My house was [...] squeezed between two huge places [...] it was a small eyesore [in] proximity of millionaires.’ 

Symbols: dust, windows, gold, shadow, sun, dusk / twilight, wind, stars, Gatsby’s house (new and bold – a statement):

                ‘[It] was a colossal affair [...] with a tower [...] a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn.’ 

The green light – Gatsby’s sanctified ritual. A gesture of love. Light could symbolise hope and dreams. His reaching out is bringing himself closer to it. 

Gatsby introduced gradually leading to a sense of mystery and expectation:

                ‘When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was once again alone in the unquiet darkness.’

 
Vision & Viewpoint

West Egg v East Egg (new money v old money, Western USA v Eastern USA):

                ‘I lived at West Egg, the – well, less fashionable of the two.’

Nick seeks to be a ‘well-rounded man’ – a bond salesman.

Women depicted in a dreamlike setting (rich and bored, white, expansive room, dresses “fluttering”).

Daisy: socialite, fickle, affected, superficial voice (‘a voice with money in it’):

                ‘She was extended full length [...] completely motionless, and with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was likely to fall.’

Tom: brutish, hulking, powerful, arrogant, bully, prejudice (classist, racist), selfish, keen to maintain his position and keeps others out:

                ‘Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face.’

         Characters live up to societal expectations?

Lifestyle depicted as shallow (people judged by appearances) – materialistic, decadent, luxuriant.

Insincerity and marital infidelity:

                ‘As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book.’ 

 
Theme

Nick: jaded and embittered by his past:

                ‘I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.’

Insiders and outsiders (the “haves” and “have nots”):

                ‘His [Tom’s] family were enormously wealthy – even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach.’

Contrasts between Nick and Tom?

Tom is sporty, owns horses, etc. First words: ‘I’ve got a nice place here.’

Sense of superiority => a foil to Gatsby

Gatsby is alone at end of chapter – isolated and fixated on his goal, single-minded and determined:

                ‘I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone.’

Loss of self-identity; the adopted persona of ‘Jay Gatsby’ (aka Jimmy Gatz) is a show to woo Daisy, his life’s love

How does Nick’s sense of identity compare to Changez’s / Michael and Rory’s?

Chapter 2

Genre

Contrast between the end of Chapter 1 to opening of Chapter 2: romantic dream (‘green light’) → ugly reality (‘valley of ashes’)

Valley of ashes (greyness) –...
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