How Does Fitzgerald Tell the Story in Chapter 2 of the Great Gatsby?

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How does Fitzgerald tell the story in chapter 2?

In chapter 2 Tom takes Nick to meet Myrtle, his lover, in the Valley of Ashes, where her home is. They all then go to New York, to the apartment bought by Tom for Myrtle, and Myrtle organises a ‘party’, during which she argues with Tom, which ends with him punching her.

The purpose of this chapter is to show what Tom Buchanan is like, and how he acts towards other people and his money. Also, the reader is prepared to meet Gatsby as the party scene continues to build an aura of mystery and excitement around Gatsby, who has yet to make a full appearance in the novel. Here, Gatsby emerges as a mysterious subject of gossip. He is extremely well known, but no one seems to have any verifiable information about him.

There is only one narrative voice in this chapter, which is Nick. The fact that Fitzgerald has made him a participant first person narrator, shown by the use of personal pronouns such as, ‘I think, created the effect of an unreliable narrator. The reader only finds out things in the story as and when Nick does, and we also get his point of view on everything, ‘stretched tight over her rather wide hips’. The reader makes conclusions on the other characters based on what Fitzgerald writes that Nick thinks. We are made to think that Tom is quite short tempered and aggressive, ‘his determination to have my company bordered on violence’. Because this is what we read, we characterise Tom Buchanan as an aggressive person.

Fitzgerald’s descriptions of the settings in chapter 2 also help to tell the story. Two main settings feature in this chapter; the valley of ashes and Myrtle’s apartment. Fitzgerald describes the valley of ashes as ‘a certain desolate area of land’ and ‘a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens’. The valley of ashes is significant in this chapter, and in the whole novel, as it symbolises the huge contrast between the rich and the poor in...
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