The Great Gatsby- this title is merely an adjective or epithet for the main character of the story, which brings about the importance of characterization in the book. Fitzgerald has a rather unique style of characterization in his writing- especially in this book. His use of irony, strong diction and symbolism plays a significant role in conveying his certain ideologies about the people of this certain era, and the embodiment of the “great American dream”. The eye of the story- Fitzgerald’s weapon of observation is Nick Carraway.
This character is established as a neutral narrator of the whole story and its characters, who are obsessed with class and privilege. However, he is not an inactive narrator. This literary device helps us get closer to Gatsby’s myth/man character. Carraway comes from a background of wealth and sophistication. He begins the novel by commenting on himself and believes that “Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. ” Thus, he has a tendency to reserve judgement and understand people without holding them up to his personal standards.Order now
It is introduced to the readers that Carraway is humble, open and receptive because of the philosophy that has been passed down to him from his father. He seems quite tolerant and reveals a very pleasant personality. However, he sometimes has to make excuses for not listening to others. This shows honesty in him and how he speaks the truth about himself. Fitzgerald gets across his character by using a chain of words which represent his personality. Words like “levity” establish his lightness of tone and humour.
We acknowledge Nick’s character to be that of a somewhat modest one. Carraway soon begins to describe Gatsby and his mysterious character. He can be quite rational about Gatsby and makes him quite attractive. He peculiarly gives the impression that he dislikes Gatsby, “who represented everything for which he has an unaffected scorn. ” He then modulates it in his next lines, where he gives a somewhat two-sided opinion of Gatsby. This illustrates a dichotomy or duality- a split. In terms of Gatsby, the important dichotomy is between the public and private persona.
Accordingly, the duality of J Gatsby is revealed through the centrality of Carraway. “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him. ” Carraway negatively continues, but towards the end of this quote, there is a sort of irony in the word “gorgeous”. This word as a very strong effect as it has a powerful and emotive vibe or meaning to it, which brings about the idea of contradiction to what Carraway is describing. Hence his opinion is slightly two-sided. We get the impression that Gatsby is somewhat pretentious and superficial.
Carraway oscillates in his descriptions of Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses this technique for the implication that he is not much more than attractive physical presence at this stage. Carraway starts of by having an “unaffected scorn” for him, and then begins to say that he is, or was unique. The ideal of a “creative temperament ” was used to convey signs of weakness in Gatsby’s character; the myth of Gatsby’s story was recognized at the end of this paragraph, and it is illustrated that what happened to Gatsby closed off Carraway’s interest in the human condition.
Fitzgerald does this by creating a sense of sympathy with emotive language and imagery in his writing- it was “what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out his interest… ” This conveys Carraway’s nihilistic statement, giving into the concept of ‘nothingness’. It is anticipated from the first few paragraphs of the book, that the main theme of the book is Gatsby’s presence and his power of challenging Nick’s outlook on the world. We soon find that Gatsby isn’t what he initially appears to be. Behind his money and vulgarity, Nick sees his personality as “gorgeous”.
It is also exposed that money is a major theme in the novel and it represents America and materialism in the twentieth century. This leads to the relationship of the Buchanans to their social position, which is very different compared to Nicks; regardless of the fact that they both come from the same elite background. Fitzgerald creates an invisible line of diversity between them with the symbolism of the areas in which they live in. Carraway lives at West Egg- whereas the Buchanans live at East Egg. These opposites represent the diversity of their ways of life.
Carraway’s character seems to be more down-to-earth, whereas the Buchanans are a restless, rich couple with a keen interest in money. The next few paragraphs are Nick’s comments on Tom Buchanan’s character. The writer uses Carraway’s keen eye for observation to capture a vast amount of Tom’s physical features, along with some obvious personal ones. Tom was described as a feared football player at college and this brings out his grotesque character, in complete scarcity of appeal. He vulgarly exploits his status and is an absolute prig. “Tom would drift on”- this idea of a drifter brings out his carefree attitude.
Fitzgerald also uses opinions of characters other than Nick to show his physical, “cruel body”. His wife Daisy describes him as a “big, hulking physical specimen. ” The writer’s choice of diction for Tom’s descriptions is rather aggressive, with words and phrases like “straw-haired”, “hard mouth”, “supercilious” and “arrogant eyes”; are all features which apprehend a crude, rash, unattractive and vain personality. Basically, we are made to see Tom as a ‘hypocritical bully’ who has a rather racist doctrine and takes calls from his mistress at dinner in front of his family and guests.
Then, just as Fitzgerald begins to describe the two women in the scene, his tone and style transforms into a light-hearted, linguistic one. Imagery is created as the “breeze blew through the room, blew curtains… making a shadow on it as wind does the sea. ” Here, the writer uses techniques such as similes to create imagery, in order to convey this pure atmosphere- rather like a prelude to introduce Daisy and her friend. The fact that they were both wearing white dresses somewhat symbolises the idea of purity. This however, becomes slightly ironic as Daisy’s actions begin to show a somewhat desperate and pretentious.
Her “charming little laugh” demonstrates her need for attention as she laughs at every opportunity. It is further illustrated that she has a strong sense of sensuality. The way Fitzgerald describes her makes her unique and vibrant, filled with feelings. “Her low thrilling voice was the kind of voice that the ear would follow up and down”. This shows how what she says doesn’t really matter, as it gives off this sexy vibe to her listeners. She has the power to manipulate and seduce men and uses it. She is very flirtatious and has a certain control over men. Fitzgerald uses and oxymoron when describing her “sad and lovely face”.
This contrast shows the lonely or slightly desperate side to her character. Repetition of the word “bright” is used to add emphasis on the effect on the extravagant vibe she gives off into the atmosphere. This makes her striking in the sense that her descriptions are a complete contrast to her husband’s. Her friend Jordan’s character is kept rather discrete and we don’t find out much about her. This is the writer’s way of keeping the focus on Daisy’s sensuality. However, she does seem similar to Daisy in the sense that their white dresses cover up certain aspects of corruption which are shown later in the story.
Finally, Carraway returns to describing Gatsby when he first sees him. We now recognise Gatsby to be a lonely and solitary figure, with various impressions of royalty, mysticism and a vibe of wanting to be alone. To Nick, Gatsby is almost worshiped- mysteriously. His loneliness makes Nick wonder about him “coming out to determine what share of their local heavens”. In this scene, we first see Gatsby reaching out towards a green light that he “cannot grasp”, which is an example of Fitzgerald’s powerful use of symbolism in the novel. The green-light represents something that Gatsby is striving to gain possession of.
Over all, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a unique style of characterization in the way that it varies with each character. To stress on the contrast between the personalities, he uses a difference in tone, diction and creativity to convey the main features in the characters, and does this very successfully. With the use of Carraway as an active narrator, he creates a bond of trust with his keen eye to observe and analyse. With this device, we obtain a vivid and dichotomous impression for each character, which anticipates many ironies and further impressions yet to come.