The Use of Diction and Imagery in the Novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby, Nick decides to move back to the Midwest. Before he leaves, he sees Tom and asks him what he had told Wilson after Myrtle’s death. Tom admits he told Wilson that Gatsby owned the yellow car which causes Wilson to shoot Gatsby and then himself. Nick comes to terms with Tom and Daisy when he realizes that they represent all that he feels disdain for. Fitzgerald uses diction and imagery in this scene to suggest that location shapes the behavior and the morals of his main characters that all have moved from the Mid-west to the East in order to express his own opinion of wealth and opportunity.

Fitzgeralds imagery contrasts the nature of the East to the Midwest. The Midwest is a symbol of morality, conservatism, and pragmatism. Nick describes the west as a winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air… We drew in deep breaths of it. . . unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour before we melted indistinguishably into it again. Thats my middle- west (184). Snow represents purity and integrity. Fitzgerald clarifies that in the Midwest one knows their uniqueness and purpose in relation to America. The word brace represents a supportive and compassionate environment that is the Mid-west. In contrast, the East is a symbol of shallowness, carelessness and corruption. Fitzgerald describes the East as night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque, crouching under a sullen, overhanging sky and lusterless moon (185). Fitzgeralds harsh description of the East portrays his opinion of it. He shows the hypocrisy of the East because it tries to appear conventional but it really is an unusual place. He uses morose images such as lusterless moon, sullen sky and grotesque houses to show that the East has lost its appeal for Nick. Fitzgerald compares the East and the Mid-west to night and day. He favors the Mid-west by presenting images that represent serenity and honesty. He shows his disapproval of the East through his description of its repugnant and gloomy features.

Through diction, Fitzgerald shows the significance of location to each character. All of the main characters: Tom, Nick, and Daisy were Westerners (184). The West embodies stability and respectability while the East symbolizes negligence, volatility and indecency. Tom and Daisy move to the west because they see its superiority to the bored, sprawling swollen towns beyond the Ohio (184-5). They are able to create a false impression of the East. Fitzgerald uses the word superiority to show the arrogance as well as the wealth of the East. Nick couldnt change the East because it was distorted beyond my eyes power of correction (185). Nick maintains the ethics of the Mid-west while he lives in the East. Fitzgerald uses the word distorted to portray the idea that Nick cant help but see the East as unethical. As Nick begins to see the corruption of the East, Tom and Daisy mold to its expectations. I couldnt forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified (187). Fitzgerald describes Toms deficiency of ethics by showing his disregard for anyone but himself. Nick is able to see the morality that East lacks when he realizes that they were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made (187-188). Tom and Daisy are the epitome of their frivolous generation with no regard for reality. They have cleared themselves of all the morals and values of the West by ridding themselves of my provincial squeamishness forever (188) and becoming a part of the East. Fitzgerald uses the word provincial to suggest Nicks Mid-west values.

Fitzgeralds comparison of the East and West describes the real world implication of the changing generation of the 1920s. The twenties was considered a lost generation in both its values and its instability. This new generation signified all that was different from the previous generation. The old time stability and respectability is represented by the Mid-West: a symbol of morality, conservatism and practicality. Whereas the new generations frivolousness and disregard for reality is represented by the East: a symbol of selfishness and vacuous character. Nick is part of the same generation as Tom, Daisy and Gatsby but he has maintained the morals of the previous generation because he symbolizes the Mid-west. Fitzgeralds opinion of the society he lives in is directed at the opportunists. The American Dream with all its promise and opportunity is portrayed as false. Fitzgerald explains through the character of Gatsby that you can not reinvent yourself. His opinion of the immoral East which represents opportunity stems from his distrust in the American dream.

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