Use of Fiction Elements in The Great Gatsby
The literary character of Gatsby embodies a typical hero, who struggles to reach American dream. However, American culture of the twenties understood the American dream in a different way. For the first time, people began to suspect that it could be a mere illusion. It is important to mention that Fitzgerald created a vague personality of his main character, which was severely criticized by publishers. But later it proved to be an irreplaceable peculiarity of the author’s literary style. Fitzgerald tried to create an impression of some mystery and incompleteness in the destiny of Gatsby. The incompleteness lies in the personality of Gatsby himself. For this reason, Gatsby suffers from a conflict between his ambitions and his personality (Turnball 34). His character is rather controversial. On the one hand, he is naĆÆve and keeps dreaming about future happiness. On the other hand, he has rational mind, which is useful in a dangerous, but profitable game of a bootlegger, who continues his routine work even in the happiest day of his life, when Daisy comes to him. Thus, we see an inveterate dreamer and a functionalist in one person. We may suggest that Fitzgerald respected strength and power and disapproved of unreasonable waste of energy.
However, the hero chooses inappropriate means on his way to success. As a result, his dream dies. It happens not only because Daisy is selfish and rotten-hearted. Gatsby himself provokes the situation. And the existence of Gatsby becomes useless without a dream: George Wilson’s shot is like a medieval dagger, used for dispatching a mortally wounded person, as an act of mercy.
What is American dream? If to use a metaphor, it is a dream about a paradise on earth for a lonely man. At that time America was a country of opportunities and equality, where an ordinary man, however, had no chance to move up the social ladder. Every person had a right for personal dignity and freedom. This ideal of social equality was passed on from generation to generation. In America of the twenties there was a place for everyone, even for homeless, humiliated and depersonalized. And everyone relentlessly sought the American dream, being unable to give up the idea. Once the dream captures you, we are irresistibly tempted to seek it. We become obsessed with it, and there is nothing to be done about it. The same situation happened to James Gatsby, who became unconsciously dependant upon the American dream (Taylor). He established certain rules in his youth and it became an accomplished model of behavior for anyone, who believed in American dream and had firmly decided to fight his way through the hardships of life. And his persistence eventually proved that everyone had equal chances, but the result depended on the character traits of each person in particular.
Gatsby, however, was also aware that in America people were free to choose their own destiny and nothing prevented them from living in harmony with themselves and surrounding people. In a country, where everyone had his own place in life, one felt measureless freedom and happiness (Trask 65). Personal independence, financial welfare and family harmony also established good social relations. They were based on self-esteem, honest labor and mutual responsibility.
Fitzgerald’s style of narration is hard to compare with that of other contemporary writers. He managed to create a new image of American dream. Gatsby is great in his role of a well-to-do person with a doubtful reputation. He arranges magnificent evening parties, hoping to attract Daisy’s attention. Gatsby is also characterized by his powerful feelings, dedication to his dream, inner generosity, and unique “talent”¯ to remain optimistic (Samuels 18).
Nevertheless, even though Gatsby has a great number of noble traits, Fitzgerald himself considers that ambitions cannot be realized if something stands in the way. In reality we try to struggle against troubles and obstacles in our way, but they constantly push us back to the past. This is the realism of this story.
It is important to notify that The Great Gatsby is rather straightforward in its ideas. It was probably the first literary work to place in doubt people’s belief that America would be able to reach great heights and become a paradise on earth. Fitzerald:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the organistic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter ”“ tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther”¦ (36).
“Green light”¯ is one of numerous symbols, used by Fitzgerald in his novel. While working on his novel, Fitzgerald wrote to one of his friends, that it was about the way illusions disappear. They make our world so colorful, that a person becomes indifferent to what is right and what is wrong. “Great Gatsby”¯ embodies both a tragedy of “the age of Jazz”¯ and a unique painful beauty (Donaldson 19). This contrast represents a stylistic peculiarity of the book.
Great Gatsby is an example of a “contradictory outlook”¯, an ability to keep in mind two completely opposite ideas, which cause conflicts between characters and affect their development. The narration bristles with metaphors, which emphasize the duality of events: the carnival in Gatsby’s mansion versus the neighboring scrap-heap; “green light”¯ of happiness versus dead eyes from the gigantic advertisement billboard, etc (Scribner 20).
One of the girls in yellow was playing the piano and beside her stood a tall, red haired young lady from a famous chorus, engaged in song. She had drunk a quantity of champagne and during the course of her song she had decided ineptly that everything was very very sad ”“ she was not only singing, she was weeping too <”¦> A humorous suggestion was made that she sing the notes on her face whereupon she threw up her hands, sank into a chair and went off into a deep vinous sleep (Fitzgerald 42)
This excerpt exemplifies the style of estrangement, used by the author. We clearly imagine people, but we are unable to feel them as living creatures. They seem to belong to another world. By depicting people’s estrangement from each other and from their entity, Fitzgerald also shows his own estrangement from the characters. In this way, due to his style of writing and use of different expressive means, Fitzgerald stands out from other contemporary writers. He is considered a writer with a rare flexibility, who managed to vividly depict the rhythms, colors, beliefs and illusions of America in the twenties. Fitzgerald became the chronicler of the feverish age of Jazz. He proved that this period in American history managed to shatter social morality and eventually ran its course (Turnball).
As has been mentioned, there are a lot of symbols in the novel, e.g. “the green light”¯, eyes on advertisement billboard, Gatsby’s house and others. Gatsby’s house reflects the prosperity of the main character as a self-dependant man, who strives for Daisy’s love (Walter 64). In order to create a good impression, he purchases a house in the vicinity of hers, and frequently arranges parties there. In the end of the story, when Gatsby dies miserable, friendless and loveless, his house is symbolically described as “that huge incoherent failure of a house”¯ (Fitzgerald 143).
It is also important to emphasize peculiarities of the composition of the novel, as it reveals deep sides of the plot.
Jazz plays a considerable role in The Great Gatsby. It is not only music, but also the author’s talent of improvisation, which gives abundant scope to his imagination. Scott Fitzgerald chooses a convenient form of improvisation ”“ wordplay. If we investigate the novel in detail, we may find common features of musical and literary compositions.
An ability to improvise and play with words is a result of profound knowledge of literary styles and expressive means.
Nick Carraway plays one of the most important roles in the composition of the novel. He represents its central character. Nick is directly connected with the rest of the characters: he studied with Tom in the University; Daisy is his second cousin; he is the closest neighbor of Gatsby and turns out to be his only friend. In such a way, Nick is a linking element between the present and the past. At some point, the author throws together present and past Nick.
It becomes clear from the following excerpt:
Only Gatsby, the man who gives the name to this book, was exempt from my reaction ”“ Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn (Fitzgerald 5)
Among other fiction elements, Fitzgerald uses retardation as a way to reduce the strain of events. Besides it is used to characterize the heroes, and show their memories about the past. Nick’s old memories are a flashback with important compositional meaning. They not only show nostalgia, but also characterize the West and the East.
In conclusion, it should be mentioned that with the help of unusual composition and plot, together with various expressive means, Fitzgerald managed to reflect the contradictions of his time. The novel has many characteristic features of Jazz: in some places it may be unstable, improvisational and light, in others it is unpredictable and unexpected. It is a book about love, times, ceremonious America of the twenties and loneliness of an ambitious person. The author vividly depicts American life, life of wealthy people and stiff New-York dwellers. In his book Fitzgerald managed to reflect the spirit of the epoch, which brought about his worldwide fame.