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With reference to the contemporary literary context, discuss Fitzgerald's approach to narrative in The Great Gatsby commenting on how far you find that approach successful.

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Introduction

With reference to the contemporary literary context, discuss Fitzgerald's approach to narrative in The Great Gatsby commenting on how far you find that approach successful. In writing The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald aimed to "write something new - something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned". (1) This desire is mirrored in the narrative approach in The Great Gatsby where the simplicity of the first person narrative contrasts with the complexity of aspects of its structure, the subtlety of its subtext and originality. The first person narrative form has certain qualities and constraints which an author must successfully balance in order to achieve a convincing narration that fulfils all the writer's aims. Firstly the need for the novel to be convincing means that the narrator must be both credible and trustworthy; without both of these qualities every aspect of the text could be doubted. The character of Nick Carraway as narrator is therefore vital to Fitzgerald's narrative approach. To this end Fitzgerald furnishes Carraway with particular characteristics, for example his strong moral sense as he wants the world to be "at a sort of moral attention forever", a desire that he states, retrospectively, early in the book. The reader consequently expects some honesty from a character who claims to have a strong moral sense and this means that a level of trust is established. Carraway's subsequent actions appear to reinforce this as his character reacts negatively in the end to the selfishness of Tom and Daisy Buchanan in favour of the idealistic naivety of Gatsby. ...read more.

Middle

Certainly the reader must stretch his acceptance to allow the non-literal recounting of Gatsby's experiences on this occasion and must suspend their scepticism on this occasion. It allows Fitzgerald to continue using Nick's written style and therefore continue developing the images, motifs and themes developed throughout the novel. Often Nick makes judgements or presents thoughts and motives behind the actions of other characters although it would be impossible for him to know these. One of the clearest examples of this is when Nick tells, in Chapter 8, what happened between Wilson and Gatsby at their deaths. Nick was not there, indeed no one outside of the two protagonists, now dead, could know accurately the details of what happened. Therefore the entire episode is imagined by Nick. He does admit to this in part by saying "he must have" but then proceeds into an elaborate and detailed description of actions and feelings moving away from his earlier statement with the result of an apparently factual recounting of events and motives. George Gosworth sees this as Nick "quite candidly blending overt speculation with an implausible certainty to form a single poetic vision". (4) This technique allows Nick to follow the scenic method in dramatising the major scenes in the book (for example the crash that killed Myrtle) and to explain to the readers his views on the action whilst maintaining the written style including symbolism. However, the reader must question the reliability of sections of The Great Gatsby as a result and decide either to take them as reliable or merely the narrator's musings on events he has been involved with first, second or third hand. ...read more.

Conclusion

The flower motif is introduced by Daisy's name. Fitzgerald uses images of "crushed flowers" and "dying orchids" to reinforce the transitory nature of Gatsby's dream: "she blossomed for him like a flower", which he himself is unaware of. In this way Fitzgerald succeeds in creating an air of futility surrounding Gatsby's relationship with Daisy. Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's eyes - an oculist's advertisement - overlook the social wasteland of the Valley of Ashes. Consequently the recurring reference to eyes and glasses impinges on the reader's consciousness, coming to symbolise moral blindness and lack of social responsibility. This reinforces Fitzgerald's satire on 'Jazz Age' America. Fitzgerald uses colour motifs. For example, Fitzgerald uses the "single green light, minute and far away" on Daisy's dock to symbolise Gatsby's dream and its unattainable distance. Thus when Carraway likens the green light to the "fresh, green breast of the new world" Gatsby's dream is clearly linked with the American dream. Fitzgerald uses many other motifs; some refer to Gatsby's dream, for example moonlight, and others to the destruction of the American dream, for example motorcars. Motifs are a narrative technique that provides silent insight and satire, enabling the pace to continue unchecked by wordy descriptions or explanations. Therefore the use of motifs in The Great Gatsby enables Fitzgerald to develop intricacies of meaning within a "simple" and concise framework. The novel is written in retrospect, involving non-chronological flashbacks within a chronological account. Fitzgerald flows effortlessly between time periods, for example he introduces Gatsby's real name via a throwaway line, allowing him to slip neatly into Gatsby's past. ...read more.

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