Critical analysis of page 41-42 of the Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald describes the ‘music’ coming from Gatsby’s house which is effectively used to foreshadow the images of music in the party later in the passage. He also uses the term ‘summer nights’ which presents the reader with the impression of a continuous party and demonstrates more clearly the hedonistic world that the rich inhabited in 1920s America which is further confirmed when Fitzgerald refers to the ‘champagne’ in the next sentence suggesting this expensive delicacy was the normality at these lavish parties.
The ‘blue gardens’ in the following sentence gives the reader a vivid picture of the evening light whilst also using the metaphor to evoke a feeling of beauty regarding Gatsby’s party within the readers mind. The image of the comings and goings being ‘like moths’ gives the idea of the fleetingness of the upper class guests that have no real purpose or aims but to drift at these parties. Fitzgerald uses the term ‘men and girls’ as opposed to referring to the ‘girls’ as women, perhaps suggesting at the immaturity of these women, so much so that they appeared to be like little girls.
The use of the word ‘whisperings’ creates a sensual feeling in the reader as it appears romantic and furtive but also could refer to the gossiping ways of the wealthy party guests. The image of ‘the stars’ induces both a vision of peaceful night sky, which contrasts the lively atmosphere of the party and therefore highlighting this further to the reader, but also presents an image of the affluent party guests as stars, some in their own rights, and some whom only saw themselves this way.
Fitzgerald describes ‘his [Gatsby’s] raft’, ‘his beach’ and ‘his two-motor boats’ in the following sentence to portray the sense of wealth and affluence of Gatsby and this detailed visual imagery enables the reader to relate with the narrator as they share in his feeling of awe at Gatsby’s affluence. The warm light imagery of the ‘sun on the hot sand’ adds to the ongoing sense of romance in the passage, which reflects the numerous romances and affairs within the book, primarily that of Gatsby and Daisy.
Fitzgerald effectively uses a metaphor to describe the Rolls-Royce, a relatively small car, becoming an ‘omnibus’ to further emphasize to the reader the massiveness of these parties and the copious people that attended. The simile of the station wagon scampering ‘like a brisk yellow bug’ not only makes the inanimate object more realistic to the reader but reflects the urgency of the guests to attend these magnificent parties.
The immensity of Gatsby’s parties is further shown through the statement that ‘eight servants, including an extra gardener’ had to work all of Monday to restore the mansion to its former grandeur and to get rid of the after effects of the party. The image of ‘several hundred feet of canvas’ being used just for Gatsby’s party once again indicates his enormous wealth and success and makes it more realistic to the reader by using measurements.
Fitzgerald uses colour imagery to describe the party food such as ‘glistening hors-d’oeuvre’, ‘salads of harlequin designs’ and ‘turkeys bewitched to a dark gold’. This creates a more realistic and physical aspect to the food that makes it more vivid for the reader. The use of the ‘dark gold’ image also symbolises Gatsby’s wealth and the grandeur of the party. Fitzgerald combines the visual images of the ‘gin’, ‘liquors’ and other drinks with the sound imagery of the ‘oboes’, ‘trombones’ and other orchestra instruments in the following paragraph in order to appeal to more of the readers senses.
By using sound imagery alongside visual imagery, the party appears more realistic to the reader and they instantly become more involved. The listed instruments depict to the reader the vastness of the orchestra, suggesting it was in competition with the ‘chatter’ and the vast amounts of party guests. During this paragraph, Nick also changes tense from past to present, as he describes that ‘the bar is in full swing’.
This also makes the passage more realistic to the reader as it is more inclusive and engages the reader to feel like they are also attending this party. The use of the image of ‘Castile’ a wealthy Spanish town, indicates the affluence of the people at the party as their fashion was ‘beyond the dreams’ of even the most wealthy towns. Fitzgerald describes the cocktails as ‘floating rounds’ indicating how insignificant the party guests thought of the servants, so much so that they appeared to be invisible.
This shows the shallow, snobbish nature of the wealthy Americans of the time. Personification is used effective to describe the air as ‘alive with chatter’ highlighting to the reader the enormity of the noise of the party that must have been audible for miles around. The idea of the ‘enthusiastic meetings’ of women who ‘never knew each other’s names’ compels the reader to consider how genuine this enthusiasm was in someone they did not know or whether it was fake interest from possibly fake and shallow women of the time.
There is further light imagery as it grows ‘brighter’ mentions of the ‘sun’ which evoke images of wealth and beauty. Fitzgerald creates both visual and sound imagery when he describes the ‘yellow cocktail music’ in which the light imagery again indicated wealth to the reader and also creates a soft, sensual feel. The ‘opera of voices’ further highlights the noise of the party and connects both the orchestra noise and that of the guests conversations.
The groups changing ‘swiftly’ gives the impression of elegance and restlessness, as people are reluctant to stay in the same place as groups ‘dissolve and form in the same breath’. Fitzgerald stresses the self obsessed, egotistical nature of the party guests when he reveals their aim; to become centre of attention which, when fulfilled, makes them ‘excited with triumph’. The passage comes to a close with the ever recurring light imagery of the ‘constantly changing light’ perhaps symbolising not only the beauty of the scene but also the fleetingness of the people that inhabit it.
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