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

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        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”.  Other disclosures expose more of the characters.  This is evident when Miss Baker “hesitantly” tells Carraway of Tom’s affair.  

However some may argue Carraway occasionally contradicts his claims of “fundamental decencies”.  This is possibly suggested when he opinionates himself on the topic of Tom’s “acute limited excellence”: “I felt Tom would drift on forever seeking…for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game”.  Furthermore it could be said he passes judgment on Tom’s racism.  Carraway responds to Tom’s “pathetic” attempt at escaping “complacency” with criticism.  He indicates he feels Tom did “nibble at the edge of stale ideas” as “his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart”.  Alternatively this could be seen as understanding of the rich.  Despite being from a “prominent” family of “well to do people”, he represents America’s traditional moral codes.  He is different from the American aristocracy of old money and hedonistic lifestyles, a fact illustrated by his home: “a small eyesore…all for eighty dollars” by contrast to the “huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season”.  Bearing this in mind Carraway may not be passing judgment upon Tom; he simply understands the essential emptiness of the world of the rich.  This point is further reinforced when he feels “the basic insincerity” of Daisy.  In this respect the narrative voice is also effective. We can use Carraway’s perceptions as a moral gauge we can use to form our own conclusions on characters and the cultural setting.

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When introducing Tom Buchanan, in the main Nick does reserve judgment, although in places his descriptions could be interpreted not as fact but his own opinion.  Much of what Carraway says of Tom suggests the way he treats people: “contempt”, “aggressively”, “fractiousness”.  Furthermore he describes him as “cruel” and “arrogant”.  Many would agree this is a good way of introducing the character as we are left to our own opinions of Tom – his behaviour is simply inferred. It is also suggested Tom is never satisfied or happy as he is always looking for something else: he “drifted…restlessly”.  Nick ...

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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!

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.

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.