Secrecy, love, reputation and loyalty. These four words are a constant reoccurrence in the lives of the characters in the book The Great Gatsby. The author of the American classic, F. Scott Fitzgerald, boldly presents the idea of Gatsby and Daisy’s love by using characterization, imagery, and symbolism to show the reader the dynamic differences of the past and the present.
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The setting of The Great Gatsby brings its readers to the Roaring Twenties, a time where women were expected to be loyal and quiet, while men were granted to power to do whatever they pleased. The stage of the story is set on two islands near New York called West Egg and East Egg. East Egg is portrayed as being inhabited by wealthy upperclassmen that come from “old money” and pride themselves on being the socialites of New York. West Egg on the other hand is populated by upperclassmen who are trying to become as wealthy and as popular as East Egg through hard work and connections. Nick Caraway, the narrator of the book, has just moved from the West to West Egg in hopes of becoming a successful bondsman. At first the only people he knows in the East are his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom Buchanan, but this quickly changes as he is introduced to Jordan Baker, a famous golf player and friend of Daisy. As time passes the secrets of Daisy and Tom’s broken marriage are brought to the surface as Gatsby, the main character of the book, is introduced. Gatsby lives on West Egg and is Nick’s neighbor. As the plot develops Gatsby is slowly revealed for who he really is and boldly professes undying love for Daisy, a married woman.
Characterization is a key in identifying and creating the personalities of each individual character. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses the different elements of dialogue to show how Gatsby is desperate for Daisy’s approval.
“She didn’t like it,” he said immediately.
“Of course she did.”
“She didn’t like it,” he insisted. “She didn’t have a good time.”
He was silent, and I guessed at his unutterable depression, (Fitzgerald 109).
This shows how Gatsby is genuinely depressed by the fact that Daisy didn’t enjoy her time at the party even though he has the approval of countless others. Gatsby’s love and need to give Daisy nothing but the best is the source of his own sadness. Another example of characterization, is when Nick notes “He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: ‘I never loved you,” (Fitzgerald 109). Gatsby justly wants Daisy to be his and not Tom’s. This one comment made by Nick truly shows how apparent Gatsby’s love for Daisy is to outsiders. His discern about how others perceive his affection for a married woman is bold and clumsy. This sparks Tom’s suspicions about his wife’s relations with the notorious Gatsby.
Another instance of characterization is when Gatsby proclaims that he can and will repeat the past.
“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,” (Fitzgerald 110).
This brilliant use of dialogue shows the extreme amount of desperation Gatsby is experiencing. He is so in love with Daisy that he will attempt to conquer a feat as miraculous as repeating the past. Fitzgerald clearly presents and exposes Gatsby’s true feelings and characteristics.
In the classic tale of The Great Gatsby, imagery plays an important role in setting the mood of the story and conveying the true feelings of Fitzgerald’s characters. A very important instance where Fitzgerald uses imagery is when Gatsby is speaking to Nick at Gatsby’s house after one of his notorious parties. “He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers,” (Fitzgerald 109). The image of the broken path Nick describes helps connect the theme of loss and heartbreak that is displayed throughout the novel. In addition to being a type of imagery, this one quote could be perceived as symbolization. The path that Gatsby is walking upon could easily symbolize the course of his life and relationship with Daisy. The crushed flowers symbolize his ruined and unreturned love for Daisy, the fruit rinds stand for the empty shells of Gatsby, the path is described as desolate because that is how Gatsby feels emotionally , and finally the discarded favors could possible represent the lack of true friends that Gatsby has in his famous life.
Fitzgerald is literary genius when it comes to making his words flow and intertwine beautifully. On several occasions the author combines two devices into one moving phrase. For example when Gatsby and Daisy are walking through the small town of Louisville one autumn night Fitzgerald captures to subtle change in Gatsby.
The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees – he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder, (Fitzgerald 110).
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The imagery portrayed in this particular paragraph is exquisite and meaningful. Gatsby realizes that if he left at this moment and never fell in love with Daisy he could have the world and all of its wonders. Fitzgerald is trying to convey how full and successful Gatsby’s life could be without Daisy even though Gatsby is blind to the thought of living without her. The symbolism in this paragraph also helps portray how Gatsby could have anything he wanted but only if he was alone.
Fitzgerald brilliantly allows his artistic qualities shine through his novel The Great Gatsby. He easily shows the emotions and desperation in his characters. He allows the readers to feel almost as if they were in the book and living the unfortunate life of Jay Gatz. Fitzgerald’s uses of characterization, imagery and symbolism are unmatched still today.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1925. Print.
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