Fitzgerald writes with extreme care and depth, subconsciously whetting the reader’s literary appetite for what is to come. The first chapter of ‘The Great Gatsby’, and indeed any novel, is extremely important in setting a basis for the story ahead and exciting the reader’s interest and Fitzgerald does this in many ways. Dramatic devices, language, characterisation, unresolved questions and description are all used to engage the reader and help them to involve themselves and identify with the characters in the book.
The voice of the book, Nick Carraway, is also important as he gives the reader a complete, unbiased view of the unfolding scene and as explained later on, presents the picture in double vision. We do not meet Gatsby directly in the first chapter of the book, however we gain an insight into his character and personality through Jordan Baker, Nick and Daisy. This in itself is enticing to the reader, as we know that Gatsby must play a crucial part in the novel as it named after him and yet do not have the opportunity to judge him for ourselves at this stage.Order now
Jordan Baker and Daisy both seem to know of Gatsby, giving him an interestingly famous quality. Daisy becomes extremely alert when Gatsby is mentioned and ‘demanded,’ to know more. This forms a stark contrast to her previously ‘languid,’ composure, causing the reader to wonder at what connection or emotion Daisy might hold for Gatsby that might have caused this change. From the very beginning of the chapter we can see that Nick is a decent and upright individual, as he wants the world to be at ‘a sort of moral attention,’ and his ‘reserved,’ and observational nature allows the reader to respect him and trust his judgement.
Therefore, when Nick describes Gatsby as representing ‘everything for which I hold an unaffected scorn,’ the reader immediately categorises him as dangerous and consequently interesting. Nick also shows us his own curiosity in Gatsby when he terms him as ‘exempt,’ from the apathy he holds for most peoples emotional dramas. This leaves us to wonder at the qualities Gatsby must posses to render him so fascinating. Fitzgerald makes it clear that Nick admires Gatsby’s ‘gorgeous,’ and ‘extraordinary,’ nature and this admiration is conveyed to the reader through the way language is used to describe him.
Gatsby is compared to an ‘intricate machine,’ with ‘heightened sensitivity,’ making him sound as though he has complex hidden depths that will rivet and involve the reader later on. Nick portrays Gatsby in a very positive way, telling the reader that he has a ‘gift for hope,’ and a ‘romantic readiness. ‘ Both of these unusual qualities make Gatsby an attractive figure and the reader becomes inexplicably drawn to him, especially as we know that these qualities will be ‘never found in any other person. ‘
Although we do not directly meet Gatsby in the first chapter of ‘The Great Gatsby’, he is witnessed by Nick towards the end of the section. The setting for Nick’s observation of Gatsby is on a beautiful and romantic ‘bright night,’ and the poetic description of the ‘silver pepper of the stars,’ and the ‘wings beating in the trees,’ suggests many of the charming qualities of Gatsby’s character. An air of mystery surrounds Gatsby at this point as he vanishes quickly, making Nick and the reader wonder if he was ever really there.
His ‘trembling,’ gives him a vulnerable atmosphere and the ethereal green light that he ‘stretched his arms toward,’ is intriguing and could also be symbolic of the envy that he feels of Tom. This touching portrayal draws the reader further into the story, just as Daisy did earlier in the chapter. Superficially, Tom and Daisy seem to represent the archetypal “American dream”. They own a ‘cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion,’ and form the perfect family unit of two ‘enormously wealthy,’ beautiful parents and an angelic little daughter.
However, the reader soon comes to realise that beneath this fai?? ade lies unhappiness and discontent. They are clearly dissatisfied, as they drift ‘here and there unrestfully’ and Nick feels that ‘Tom would drift on forever seeking. ‘ The question of what Tom is seeking is extremely enthralling to the reader, as it seems ludicrous that he is unhappy. In the second half of the chapter we meet Daisy individually and immediately realise she has a lot more depth than first perceived. She admits to Nick that she is ‘pretty cynical about everything,’ and this shows us a certain unexpected shrewdness.
Both Nick and the reader find themselves wanting to hear about the cause of this bitterness and wait for her response to no avail. Daisy hopes her daughter will be a ‘beautiful little fool,’ and is almost describing herself at this point. It is obvious that she plays the role of the stunning socialite very well, however it is now clear that she sees through this charade and is jaded by the world. The question that plays on the readers mind is what she will do to release herself from the pretence?
Fitzgerald depicts Daisy and Tom’s relationship in a very clever way as he shows the turbulent unrest and unhappiness within them. At one point Daisy is described as having an expression of ‘unthoughtful sadness,’ which conveys to the reader the way in which Tom has changed since they married and how she almost feels cheated by this. Tom clearly shows that he has little regard for Daisy and her opinions and the sympathy that this creates for Daisy helps the reader to relate and identify with her position. Daisy and Tom are never harmonious and this crates a fractious and divided atmosphere.
Tom interrupts Daisy when she pays him the compliment ‘a great, big, hulking, physical specimen of a man,’ and whereas Daisy is depicted as a very stationary figure, ‘paralysed,’ and ‘buoyed up,’ Tom is constantly ‘searching,’ and ‘unrestful. ‘ The contrast that Fitzgerald creates a battle like scene that the reader becomes instantly involved in, and creates a curiosity for their relationship like the one displayed by Jordan Baker when she tries to hear the argument behind the closed door. Nick sees New York as the realisation of the “American dream” and believes he can fulfil his own dreams there.
Fitzgerald manages to create a kind of double vision within the narration of Nick as he can see the insincerity and superficial nature of those around him but is also inexplicably drawn and captivated by the colours, glamour and money. This leads the reader to create their own double visioned curiosity of him, wondering whether he will realise his dream or be disillusioned by it all. This is fuelled by the way that Fitzgerald writes as Nick says that he ‘had the intention of reading many more besides,’ immediately begging the question of what stopped him?
The first chapter of ‘The Great Gatsby,’ is as beautifully crafted and well written as any introduction I have ever found. Fitzgerald masters the art of creating intrigue and fascination in the reader subtly and without force. An excellent example of this is his description of Daisy in which she appears so lovely and bright that nobody could fail to be attracted to her. Many issues are raised that will be discussed later in the book and all the while the elusive figure of Gatsby looms over the first chapter like the moon reflected in the water that divides him and Daisy.