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Discuss the effectiveness of the opening chapter of Fitzgerald’s ‘the Great Gatsby’.

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Introduction

DISCUSS THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE OPENING CHAPTEROF FITZGERALD'S 'THE GREAT GATSBY' In order to discuss the effectiveness of an opening chapter it is first necessary to outline what defines an effective first chapter. Undoubtedly it is essential that we be given a 'feel' for the book, a clear sense of the writers' style. Moreover it is within this section we would expect to be introduced to the main characters of the novel and hints as to what may happen next. Finally it is equally important the author describes the setting; both of the physical surroundings and references that allow us to place the text in terms of time and place. In the first chapter Fitzgerald sets up a first person narrator, Nick Carraway, who is omniscient due to his seemingly non-judgmental nature. Within the opening paragraph Carraway informs us he is "inclined to reserve all judgments" and as a result is "privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men". Consequently we are able to witness interesting revelations as Nick "opens up many curious natures" which enhances the effectiveness of the opening chapter. Some admissions add to our enjoyment of the book for example Daisy tells a humorous, anecdotal "family secret...about the butler's nose". ...read more.

Middle

This mystery is later developed as we discover she is a famous golfer who Nick once heard a "critical, unpleasant story". We are lured into reading on to discover her secret. Gatsby is introduced only at the very end of the chapter as Nick catches his first glimpse of the mysterious Gatsby. At this point he is the only character we have not met and this coupled with the fact he is only a "figure...from the shadow" creates a sense of mystery. His behaviour is perhaps troubling to us: "alone...stretched out arms toward the dark...trembling" before he vanishes. To what he is stretching to we are not informed, simply a "single green light" in the distance. Perhaps it symbolic, a green light indicating going forward or future with its connotations of advancing. This makes for an effective ending of the first chapter, as we are certainly intrigued as to what and why he was behaving so strangely. This is particularly so as he is the "man who gives his name to the book" and his importance within the plot is also suggested is frequently mentioned throughout the first chapter. Despite never meeting Gatsby, we are given a sense of his character for example he had "an extra ordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness". ...read more.

Conclusion

This indicates that they have no purpose in their lives; their days are filled with nothing. Moreover Daisy retorts she had been "trying" to get to New York, it is an effort for the women to exert themselves. This is again indicated when she reveals, "I always watch for the longest day of the year" as it suggests she looks trivial milestones in her life as she has nothing to look forward to. We also see Daisy's childish, immature side through her speech; "Look!...I hurt it" and "you did do it". In conclusion the first chapter of 'The Great Gatsby' is effective as it does succeed the criteria outlined. In particular Fitzgerald is successful in introducing the main characters especially through vivid descriptions and direct speech. Additionally the narrator, as a character with an understanding of the rich due to his background and non-judgmental nature, is used to comment on the events and characters gives greater insight into these characters and the life of the rich. Throughout the first chapter we are given enough hints as to what may happen within the novel to keep an appropriate pace and enough mystery through characters such as Gatsby and Miss Baker to keep us intrigued. Furthermore we are encouraged to read on to the end of the novel due to the peculiar ending that concludes an effective first chapter. ...read more.

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Response to the question

This question engages superbly with the question. There are numerous paragraphs analysing the techniques used in the first chapter, always referring back to why they make it effective. I liked how they defined what an effective first chapter is, however ...

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Response to the question

This question engages superbly with the question. There are numerous paragraphs analysing the techniques used in the first chapter, always referring back to why they make it effective. I liked how they defined what an effective first chapter is, however this could be slightly more sophisticated. For example, when talking about the "feel", I would've spoken about a genre. Instead of simply mentioning characters, I would've explored Nick's introduction as a narrator. To make the introduction slightly stronger, it would've been wise to summarise the main techniques Fitzgerald uses to ensure the introduction doesn't feel detached too much from the context of the book.

Level of analysis

The analysis in this essay is strong, as it always gives evidence for a technique, and then analyses its effect and the consequence on the narrative. It was nice to see this, compared to some essays which think analysis is as easy as retelling the plot! The breadth of analysis is great, but I would note that to get top marks it would be wise to cut some of this down. Yes, you want to include as much analysis as possible, but with the length of this essay it is clear that it loses focus at points. This is evident when the analysis of the technique focuses on what the reader learns, yet loses that sharpness to link it back to the question and evaluate why it makes it effective. There are times when the analysis could be a bit more technical. When exploring the description of Tom, the essay quotes a few adverbs. If I was doing this essay, I would mention how the use of adverbs allows the reader to associate traits with Tom easily, allowing Fitzgerald to characterise him quickly in the first chapter. Language, setting, characters, structure and style are all explored with strength.

Quality of writing

This essay has a clear structure, with a strong introduction and conclusion. As mentioned earlier, I would personally cut down some of the points to ensure a concise argument. The style and sophistication of writing make this essay very convincing, and the way quotes are embedded allows the argument to flow nicely. Spelling, punctuation and grammar are flawless. Although there are a few improvements which still can be made, this essay should be admired at GCSE level!


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Reviewed by groat 02/03/2012

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