The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald uses this chapter to set the scene of the novel. Makes clear that the events in the novel have already taken place – the characters’ fates are already decided. Most of the main characters are introduced. Nick refers to “Midas and Morgan and Maecenas” – all three renowned for their incredible wealth. Midas is a Greek myth. Fitzgerald hints that MYTH and REALITY will be mixed throughout the novel.
Characterisation - Nick
Nick is initially portrayed as the perfect narrator – “inclined to reserve all judgements”. He appears as tolerant, open minded, quiet and a good listener. Others tell him their secrets – “I was privy to the secret grief”, “Most of the confidences”, “intimate revelation” Nick is clearly from a privileged background “Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” and “My father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat” Does this hint at a COMPLEX CONTRADICTION WITHIN NICK’S CHARACTER?
There are clear contradictions apparent in Nick’s character even from the very beginning of the novel - “ And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I came to the conclusion that it has a limit” Clear hints that he can be intolerant and judgemental – he admits that he “feigned sleep” when people confided in him, he views Gatsby’s life with “unaffected scorn” and he’s “disgusted” by Tom and Daisy’s marriage. These comments make the reader less trusting of his narration because they suggest he is dishonest. Nick sometimes misreads situations which also makes his narration untrustworthy. He thinks Daisy has ‘everything’ she wants so he sees in her eyes the “absence of all desire” – but we later find out that she has had “a very bad time”. At the beginning Nick is very traditional, highly moral, naïve and open-minded.
Characterisation - Daisy
Think of the connotations of the name Daisy – a delicate white flower. This image is continued later in the chapter with the description of Jordan and Daisy – “ they were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering” White has conventional connotations of purity and innocence. However, it is ironic given her name that Daisy’s life is conducted in an entirely manufactured environment remote from the natural world. Daisy’s portrayal in the opening chapter is not particularly positive:
‘Do they miss me?’ she cried ecstatically
“Then she added irrelevantly: ‘You ought to see the baby.’
‘All right,’ said Daisy. ‘What’ll we plan?’ She turned to me helplessly: ‘What do people plan?’
There is also a clear suggestion that all is not well with her marriage - “That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great big hulking physical specimen of a -’ This is confirmed later in the chapter – “Tom’s got some woman in New York….She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?’ Daisy is clearly not a happy woman - “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything” Based on your reading of Chapter One list the problems Daisy faces in her life. Given these problems and difficulties, Daisy’s subsequent reluctance or inability to leave Tom is striking. This once again emphasises her passivity. Her defeatism is also strikingly apparent in the following quote - “ All right,” I said, “I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Daisy therefore clearly believes that society doesn’t value intelligence in women. Comment hints that although she ignores Tom’s affair she is upset by it – she believes she would be happier if she were a fool and didn’t realise he was cheating.
Characterisation - Tom
Our initial impression of Tom is not positive:
“Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty, with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established...
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