F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940). Biography Aesthetics Reception Text Beginning of novel Plot Characterization and Narration Gatsby Nick Daisy Tom Jordan Intertexts Horatio Alger Benjamin Franklin Realism Style. Biography. Scott and Zelda. Aesthetics.
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Beginning of novel
Characterization and Narration
The book comes out today and I am overcome with fears and forebodings. Supposing women didn’t like the book because it has no important woman in it, and critics didn’t like if because it dealt with the rich and contained no peasants out of Tess in it and set to work in Idaho?
“The worst fault in it, I think it is a BIG FAULT: I gave no account (and had no feeling about or knowledge of) the emotional relations between Gatsby and Daisy from the time of their reunion to the Catastrophe. However the lack is so astutely concealed by the retrospect of Gatsby’s past and by blankets of excellent prose that no one has noticed it—tho everyone has felt the lack and called it by another name.”
Soundings, A. Hamilton Gibbs
The Constant Nymph, Margaret Kennedy
The Keeper of the Bees, Gene Stratton Porter
Glorious Apollo, E. Barrington
The Green Hat Michael Arlen
The Little French Girl, Anne Douglas Sedgewick
Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis
The Perennial Bachelor, Anne Parish
The Carolinian, Rafael Sabatini
Our Increasing Purpose, A.S.M. Hutchinson
—New York World headline
A little slack, a little soft, more than a little artificial. The Great Gatsby falls into the class of negligible novels.
The Great Gatsby “is decidedly contemporary: today it is here, tomorrow—well, there will be no tomorrow. It is only as permanent as a newspaper story, and as on the surface.”
Fitzgerald has more than matured; he has mastered his talents and gone soaring in a beautiful flight, leaving even further behind all the men of his own generation and most of his elders.
With sensitive insight and keen psychological observation, Fitzgerald discloses in these people a meanness of spirit, carelessness and absence of loyalties. He cannot hate them, for they are dumb in their insensate selfishness, and only to be pitied. The philosopher of the flapper has escaped the mordant, but he has turned grave. A curious book, a mystical, glamourous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been enjoyed by Mr. Fitzgerald. He writes well—he always has—for he writes naturally, and his sense of form is becoming perfected.
The novel is one that refuses to be ignored. I finished it in an evening, and had to. . . . It is not a book which might . . . fall into the category of those doomed to investigation by a vice commission, and yet it is a shocking book—one that reveals incredible grossness, thoughtlessness, polite corruption.
There are pages so artfully contrived that one can no more imagine improvising them than one can imagine improvising a fugue.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought— frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.
1 (intro of narrator; N meets D, Tom, & Jordan; G is mentioned;
N sees G looking across the bay)
2 (N meets Myrtle; drunk party in NYC)
3 (party at G; G tells Jordan something amazing; N meets G)
4 (list of people; G’s story, meeting Wolfsheim at lunch with G;
Jordan’s G story—allows info to come late in the novel)
5 (G & D meet)
6 (real story of G; Tom suspicious at party; G talks to N)
7 (confrontation in NYC; death of Myrtle; G’s vigil)
8 (G’s version of the romance; N says G the best; break w/
Jordan; George kills G)
9 (N arranges funeral; Mr. Gatz arrives; remeets Jordan & Tom)
2) description of physical appearance, including dress;
3) association with objects, surroundings, possessions, or with
images directly introduced by the narrator;
4) direct discussion and analysis of the character by the narrator;
5) actions and behaviour, whether described or represented;
6) talk by the character, including
a) talk as action or performance (lying, boasting, betraying,
b) talk as self-defining via vocabulary, dialect, rhetoric
c) self-analysis by the character, whether accurate or not.
7) talk about the character by others, accurate or not. Such talk
both characterizes the talker and the character talked about.
8) representation or description of the character’s thoughts.*
*Adapted from Nina Baym, University of Illinois
This was untrue. I am not even faintly like a rose. She was only extemporizing, but a stirring warmth flowed from her, as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words. (19)
The telephone rang inside, startlingly, and as Daisy shook her head decisively at Tom the subject of the stables, in fact all subjects, vanished into air. . . . . I couldn’t guess what Daisy and Tom were thinking, but I doubt if even Miss Baker, who seemed to have mastered a certain hardy scepticism, was able utterly to put this fifth guest’s shrill metallic urgency out of mind. To a certain temperament the situation might have seemed intriguing—my own instinct was to telephone immediately for the police. (20)
First person pov: Only one "character" in the story is described as "I." All action is filtered through the thoughts and values of this character, who may be trustworthy—or may not.
Second person pov: Rare, but used in contemporary writing. "You" is the primary form of address here, resulting in work which tends to sound very colloquial.
Third person pov: Can be omniscient (see inside and report on thoughts of all the characters), limited omniscient (see inside only one mind), or not omniscient at all. "He," "she," are the primary forms of address.
There are many continua along which a point of view may be described but the chief are:
*Adapted from Nina Baym, University of Illinois
“But it wasn’t a coincidence at all.”
“Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”
Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor. (83)
He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third. After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence. He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock. (97)
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one. (98)
“It was an opportunity they gave to some of the officers after the Armistice,” he continued. “We could go to any of the universities in England or France.”
I wanted to get up and slap him on the back. I had one of those renewals of complete faith in him that I’d experienced before. (136)
“And she doesn’t understand,” he said. “She used to be able to understand. We’d sit for hours—”
He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.
“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”
“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”
He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.
“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.” (116-17)
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it. . . . high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl. . . . (127)
1. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9. MODERATION. Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
11. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”
—THOMAS PARKE D’INVILLIERS.
Trimalchio in West Egg
Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires
On the Road to West Egg
The High-bouncing Lover
The Great Gatsby
Under the Red White and Blue
"I feel fine. Do you want a dessert?"
Brett was smoking.
"You like to eat, don't you?" she said.
"Yes," I said. "I like to do a lot of things."
"What do you like to do?"
"Oh," I said, "I like to do a lot of things. Don't you want a dessert?"
"You asked me that once," Brett said.
"Yes," I said. "So I did. Let's have another bottle of rioja alta."
"It's very good."
"You haven't drunk much of it," I said.
"I have. You haven't seen.”
"Let's get two bottles," I said. The bottles came. I poured a little in my glass, then a glass for Brett, then filled my glass. We touched glasses.
"Bung-o!" Brett said. I drank my glass and poured out another. Brett put her hand on my arm.
"Don't get drunk, Jake," she said. "You don't have to."
"How do you know?"
"Don't," she said. "You'll be all right."
"I'm not getting drunk," I said. "I'm just drinking a little wine. I like to drink wine."
"Don't get drunk," she said. "Jake, don't get drunk.
"Right," Brett said. "I haven't seen Madrid. I should see Madrid."
"I'll finish this," I said.
Down-stairs we came out through the first-floor dining-room to the street. A waiter went for a taxi. It was hot and bright. Up the street was a little square with trees and grass where there were taxis parked. A taxi came up the street, the waiter hanging out at the side. I tipped him and told the driver where to drive, and got in beside Brett. The driver started up the street. I settled back. Brett moved close to me. We sat close against each other. I put my arm around her and she rested against me comfortably. It was very hot and bright, and the houses looked sharply white. We turned out onto the Gran Via.
"Oh, Jake," Brett said, "we could have had such a damned good time together."
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly pressing Brett against me.
"Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?" (246-47)