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The role of minor characters in the novel, The Great Gatsby

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A work of literature would not be complete without the pair; major characters and minor characters. While major characters lead the story, minor characters supports it and also add to the key elements of the story. This is particularly evident in the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F.Scott Fitzgerald. This novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, and throughout the novel, he is introduced to many other minor characters namely Myrtle, Jordan Baker, and George Wilson. The author has strategically placed these minor characters as instruments in the plot to add variety to the story, support the development of the main character, and also to accentuate the overall theme of the novel -. In The Great Gatsby, minor characters are essential to the progression of the plot because it is through minor characters where foils to the main characters are aroused. This can be seen through Myrtle's character and George Wilson's awareness of her relationship with another man. After the incident of Myrtle's death, George believed that her lover was also her murderer. "It was the man in that car. She ran out to speak to him and he wouldn't stop." ...read more.


This shows how Tom treats Myrtle only as an object or a mere possession in his life, and thus suggests his egotistical and hypocritical nature. Other than Myrtle, Jordan also contributed to the portrayal of a main character, Daisy Buchannan, who Jordan was once a close friend to back in Louisville. Fitzgerald used Jordan and Nick's conversation as a medium to convey to readers the past shared by the forbidden lovers of the novel, Daisy and Gatsby. In one of their conversations, Jordan described her first encounter with Gatsby; "...she(Daisy) was sitting in it with a lieutenant(Gatsby) I(Jordan) had never seen before. They were so engrossed in each other that she didn't see me until I was five feet away." This illustration revealed to readers the intimate relationship that Daisy and Gatsby once had, which also shined light on the distant hope that may still await Gatsby. Overall, minor characters such as Jordan and Myrtle can be seen as instruments used by Fitzgerald to slowly reveal to readers the traits that lie within the main characters of the novel. There may be several traits in a main character that require a minor character to exaggerate upon, however, there is a self-evident trait shared by all the main characters in this novel - corruption. ...read more.


"At her (Jordan) first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers-a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round". This quote illustrates Jordan's capability of manipulating those around her to feed her greed for success. This eventually led to Nick's referral of her as "incurably dishonest". Evidently, both of these minor characters play a major role in conveying to readers the Fitzgerald's message of the corruption and lack of societal morals during that time in America. Overall, Fitzgerald cleverly uses minor characters as instruments that enhance the novel as a whole. In this novel, three important minor characters include George Wilson, Myrtle Wilson and Jordan Baker. They are the ones that contribute to the progression of the plot by presenting foils to the main character. These characters also help reveal attributes of several main characters to the readers and this is essential as it gives readers with a more complete idea of the main characters. Lastly but not least, the minor characters are essential in this novel for they enhance the theme of corruption and immorality. Through the use of minor characters, Fitzgerald successfully illustrates the corrupted society and the loss of societal morality during the people's pursuit of the American dream. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

There are some thoughtful assertions in this essay demonstrating good understanding of the novel and the role of minor characters. It is well structured, generally using clear topic sentences and evidence from the text to support points. There are a few points which would improve the essay:
1) It needs to be recognised that the characters are all presented to us through Nick's (biased) narration and therefore we must consider what he might want the reader to think.
2) Some key aspects of the minor characters were not addressed: the deaths of both Myrtle and George for example and how they might compare with the presentation of Gatsby's death.
3) Quotations need to be brief and embedded into the essay.
4) Much more attention needs to be paid to detailed analysis of language.
5) When referencing the American Dream, some relevant contextual information would be useful.

Overall, three stars ***

Marked by teacher Lucy Foss 26/06/2013

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