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how does fitzgerald tell the story in chapter 1 of ‘the great gatsby?

The opening chapter of any novel is fundamental in setting the tone for that which follows it: Fitzgerald therefore ensures that the first chapter of the ‘The Great Gatsby’ firmly imprints certain key themes into the mind of the reader, using a variety of devices to do so.

The very first thing that Fitzgerald makes clear to the reader is the perspective from which the novel will be presented. From the first sentence, it is plain that there is a first person narrator, meaning that the narration will opinionated and cannot be taken as fact. The narrator is a man called Nick Carraway, and the first thing the reader learns about him is something which his father told him when he was younger, which he has been “turning over in (his) mind ever since” (i.e. something essential to our understanding of his views and actions: a core part of his psyche). This turns out be his father telling him that “all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that (he has) had”. As a consequence of this advice, Nick tells is, he has always been “inclined to reserve all judgements”, showing the reader that he will not tend to present his views on a person before he has had a chance to learn more about them. This appears to make him an ideal narrator for a story, because all of his views will be given after consideration, meaning they will have reasons behind them and, although his viewpoint means the narrative will be focalised, Nick’s inclination to reserve judgement decreases the likelihood of him giving us a prejudiced outlook.

The opening section of the novel is devoted to introducing the reader to Nick: his background, his current position and his opinions. A line of particular note concerning his views on inequality is “ my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.” This shows Nick revealing the fact that he thinks that certain people are born with better morals than other people, but also shows that he acknowledges that this viewpoint is not necessarily morally right in itself (“snobbishly”), showing that he has the capacity to question himself, again promoting his aptitude for a role as a reliable narrator. He also reveals that he has come from a “prominent, well-to-do” family that run a “wholesale hardware store” (i.e. a family who have worked to gain their wealth or the ‘nouveau riche’). This tells us that his family have climbed up the social ladder, meaning that Nick has experience of being relatively rich, but not the experience of having the prestige which grants access to the upper reaches of society, which is a core concept of the novel. Nick’s placement into the “less fashionable” of the two Eggs (West Egg) is also symbolic of this. This allows him to narrate from a perspective which is free from the bitterness of relatively impoverished people like George and Myrtle, and also of the arrogance of excessively wealthy people like Tom and Daisy, and thus be comparatively neutral in making an observation about inequality. However, there are small contradictions in what Nick says which Fitzgerald may have incorporated to inform the readers that Nick’s opinion are liable to be off-balance (e.g. Nick treats Tom’s flagrant racism with disdain, and yet shows a level of supremacy and inconsideration in belittling his Finnish cleaner). So, Fitzgerald makes an attempt to introduce the reader to a highly credible (although not omniscient) narrator to tell the story in Chapter 1, one who does not have an extreme position in society, and proclaims himself to be honest and fair. Nick’s key attribute is his objectivity, which allows him to comprehend the harrowing irony that Gatsby’s dream was futile from the beginning, underlining the primary destination of the novel.

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In any instances of direct and attributed speech during Chapter 1, Fitzgerald describes (through Nick) how the person is speaking very deliberately and consciously, to emphasise the characteristics of the people introduced at this early stage of the novel. There are a multitude of instances of this type of description (for example, when he describes Daisy’s speech: “’Do they miss me?’ she cried ecstatically”, “She added irrelevantly: ‘You ought to see the baby’”, “’Tom’s getting very profound’, said Daisy, with an expression of unthoughtful sadness”. These descriptions of her speech show her lack of consideration for others, her lack ...

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Fantastic! This is a pleasure to read. The writer engages with the text with enthusiasm and academic rigour, demonstrating a mind at work and excited by the text and authorial devices employed. The range of techniques explored and the supportive evidence is hugely impressive, as is the admirable close scrutiny paid to the text, leading to original interpretations and insights. Contextual knowledge is fluently embedded into discussion. There is a sophisticated ability here to recognise why and how Fitzgerald did what he did; much can be learned from reading this essay. There are some minor points for improvement offered in the comments on the essay. Five stars *****