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    Unseen Literacy commentary Essay

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    Although the author never provides a name or much information, the reader can gather that this text is an account of sorts from a neighbour of ‘Gatsby’. The description is reminiscent of a celebration; a party or ball perhaps. Moreover, it is voiced in a first person narrative form and its purpose seems to be simply to inform the reader of ‘Gatsby’ and his having a party. It also hints at the extravagant life style this ‘Gatsby’ construct leads. Although not evidently specified* the reader can assume from the extract that the setting for this party is located within the confines of ‘Gatsby’s’ living proximities, in America, somewhere on the coast.

    Interestingly, the author adopts the technique of tense shifting. From the offset, the text is in retrospective form; however as the narrative in the extract progresses, so do the tenses; and the expanse of information provided.

    “There was music from my neighbour’s house throughout the summer nights.” This inclines the reader to assume that the occasion being described is one of many at the “neighbour’s” household. The reader will note the use of “neighbour” here as the author sets up an enigma. The distinct lack of a noun suggests to the reader that perhaps the speaker and neighbour are not on good terms; this draws them in and makes the reader want to know why this could be.

    “At least once a fortnight corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden.” An attentive reader will note several very applicable, and one would assume, deliberate devices utilised by the author in this quotation. Firstly, the general attitude employed by the speaker depicts a spiteful and somewhat envious one to say the least. The reader puts emphasis on “At least” which would infer a disapproving tone in the voice. Also when the speaker describes “corps of caterers”; a hyperbolised metaphor is proposed, as the word “corps” is often associated with an army; and of course an army is often associated with a very substantial number of specimens.

    Within the same quote another metaphor is illustrated: “enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden.” This could also be described as an exaggerated statement. However, there are two single words that are note-worthy both in isolation and together. The fact that the speaker refers to his neighbour as “Gatsby”, which is his second name, could be indicative in regards to their social relationship. One would usually refer to a person using their surname via a spiteful endearment or when one assumes they are (or in this case desires to be) the others social superior; this is applied in various contexts. Also, with the speaker referring to him as “Gatsby” perhaps suggest he is a somewhat renowned character. The other word of relative importance is “enormous”. Again the implied tone of the voice is rather negative. The reader will identify it to be a sarcastic and deeply envious tone.

    Now in partnership: “Gatsby’s enormous garden.” Becomes more significant; not only are the envious, sarcastic and spiteful tones being employed but now also an undertone of mockery. The conclusive attitude in the early stanzas of the speaker towards, what is yet the only named construct can only be clarified as one in the exclusively negative persuasion.

    “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums.” The first thing the reader notices is “the orchestra has arrived”. This is significant in terms of tense as it should traditionally be: “By seven o’clock the orchestra had arrived” (Or so how it is initially perceived) however, it is ‘has’ for a reason. The author uses a tense referred to as the present perfect; this is a very effective way of drawing the reader in as it makes the reader feel like they are at the scene submerged within the story.

    The voice then familiarises itself with an impressed, yet sarcastic tone: “no thin five piece affair, but a whole pitful” Again, this emits envious sensations from the speaker which further forces the reader into a bewildered state of mind, thus generating the want to discover the foundation on which these negative outlooks lie. Also the fact that the speaker goes into such detail by naming the various instruments proposes more mockery; this further inclines the reader into detecting tones of envy.

    “The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun” The author here once again utilises the present perfect tense to involve the reader. Finally the tense evolves into present tense in the last stanza. “Suddenly one of the gypsies” This is the first real hint that suggests that the speaker has attended the party; before this the reader gets the impression that he is simply watching from afar, peaking over his garden wall, perhaps. This subconsciously begs the question from the reader who is speaking?

    Throughout the Author appears to demonstrate recurring metaphors. One of the more subtle metaphors is related to the sea, and water. In the first stanza the speaker illustrates images of Gatsby’s guest swimming in the sea and what not: “At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft” Also the way in which his “raft” or boat is described again suggests extensive wealth. At first the mentions of water and sea seem irrelevant but as the reader progresses through the extract they notice subtle uses of water related metaphors to describe the actions of guests: “floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside” this makes the reader conjure images of masses of people in the garden, which is significant as it again suggests Gatsby is a known figure. The author also describes a specimen of the crowd in a latter stanza as gliding through “the sea-change” of faces and voices. The aforementioned effect is apparent once more.

    Having said this, a more substantial recurring metaphor throughout this extract is the use of colour; more specifically yellow. In the first stanza the speaker explains how it is night time; he uses a simile to depict the movement of the guests: “like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars” This suggests that the guests are a nocturnal creature like moths that are attracted to light. The author also makes reference to a “yellow bug” the reader could perceive this as a reflection of the guests themselves. Various references to colours of foods and drinks also become apparent in later stanzas: “turkeys bewitched to dark gold”, “yellow cocktails.” The author also mentions primary colours, which is significant as yellow itself is a primary colour. Furthermore, I think the overall connotation of the use of yellow is representational of money and wealth; which appears to be a subconsciously recurring motif of the speaker.

    Within the last line of the final stanza, the reader is, rather frustratingly, introduced to another names character; ‘Gilda Grey’. The author uses this enigma, along with the phrase “The party has begun” to end the extract. The author only uses this phrase when ‘Gilda Grey’ is introduced, which signifies that she too, is a renowned figure. Also there are “bursts of chatter” described as news of her presence spreads. The use of the present perfect tense right at the end draws the reader in and makes them want to read on; it is especially effective in such a case as the reader understands that this is the end of a chapter; and one does not simply read part of a chapter.

    It is evident that the reader doesn’t finish this extract with a whole lot of information. All that is understood after the reading is that the extract is told from the point of view of a neighbour of Gatsby; and that Gatsby appears to be a wealthy, extravagant and indeed a very important figure in the story. In terms of technique and style, it must be noted that the author employs varied tense usage and prominent recurring metaphors to hook the reader and make an interesting, intriguing read to say the least.

    *Is it set in florida? (My thinking this is due to it being on the coast and “blue gardens” – I just wasn’t sure enough to include it?)

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    Unseen Literacy commentary Essay. (2017, Dec 06). Retrieved from

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