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Writing Style of F Scott Fitzgerald

The American Dream

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The American Dream, as it arose in the Colonial period and developed in the ninteenth century, was based on the assumption that each person, no matter what his orgins, could succeed in life on the sole basis of his or her own skill and effort.  The dream was embodied in the ideal of the self made man, just as it was embodied in Fitzgerald's own family by his grandfather, P.F. McQuillan.
The Great Gatsby is a novel about what happened to the American dream in the 1920s, a period when the old values that gave substance to the dream had been corrupted by the vulgar pursuit of wealth.  The characters are midwesterners who have come east in pursuit of this new dream, as well as money, fame, success, glamour, and excitement.  Tom and Daisy must have a huge house, a stable of polo ponies, and friends in Europe.  Gatsby must have his enormous mansion before he can feel confident enough to try to win Daisy.
What Fitzgerald seems to be criticizing in The Great Gatsby is not the American Dream itself, but the corruption of the American Dream.  What was was a belief in self reliance andhard work, has become what Nick Carraway calls"...the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty."  The energy that might have gone into the pursuit of noble goals has been channeled intot he pursuit of power and pleasure, and a very showy, but fundamentaly empty form of success.
Both the character groupings and images suggest a second major theme that we can call "sight and insight."  As you read the novel, you will come across many images of blindness; is this because hardly anyone seems to see what is really going on?  The characters have little self knowledge and even less knowledge of each other.  Even Gatsby lacks the insight to understand what is happening.  He never truly sees either Daisy or himself, so blinded is he by his dream.  the only characters who see, in teh sense of "understand", are Nick and Owl Eyes.  The ever present eyes of Dr. Eckleburg seem to reinforce the theme that there is no all seeing presence in the modern world.

Fitzgerald called The Great Gatsby a "novel of selected incident", modelled after Flaubert's Madame Bovary.  "What I cut out of it both physically and emotionally would make another novel," he said.  Fitzgerald's stylistic method is to let a part stand for the whole.  In Chapters I to III, for example, he lets three parties stand for the entire summer and for the contrasting values of three different worlds.  He also lets small snatches of dialogue represent what is happening at each party.  the technique is cinematic.  The camera zooms in, gives us a snatch of conversation, and then cuts to another group of people.  Nick Serves almost as a recording device, jotting down what he hears.  Fitzgerald's ear for dialogue, especially for the colloquial phrases of teh period is excellent.
Fitzgerald's style might also be called imagistic.  His language is full of images, concrete verbal pictures appealing to the senses.  There is water imagery in descriptions of the rain, Long Island sound, and the swimming pool.  There is a religious imagery in the Godlike eyes of Dr. Eckelburg and in words such as incarnation and grail.  There is color imagery: pink for Gatsby and yellow/white for Daisy.
Finally, we might call Fitzgerald's style reflective.  There are several important passages at which Nick stops and reflects on the meaning of the action, almost interpreting the events.  The style in such passages is dense, intellectual, almost difficult as Nick tries to wrestle with the meanings behind the events he has witnessed.

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