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Use of Language in The Great Gatsby


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I very much like they language F. Scott Fitzgerald uses in the book, particularly in the first few chapters. He uses his words very economically, yet is able to convey a very detailed picture of a situation. For example in this snippet:

'It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
"How do you get to West Egg village?" he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighbourhood.'

In only a few sentences, you get quite a clear picture of how lonely Nick was at first, and the elation when he finally sees the neighbourhood as his own. I particularly like the last sentence, it contains so much. Through this style, at no point in the book did I think that it was overlong.

Unfortunately, in the description of the main characters and their dealings, quite a lot seems to have been lost. Although the story is tragic, I did not have sympathy for any of the characters (apart from a very fleeting sympathy for Gatsby himself), and I can be a very emotional reader. I can't quite put my finger on what is wrong, but I guess I feel I didn't know them well enough, and I assume that comes from too fleeting descriptions.

Am I making any sense?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a very similar reaction - I loved the language - very simple and brief, but very vivid and apt at the same time. The first party at Gatsby's house really came alive for me.

 

I do agree with you about the characters. I, too, felt very little for them. They all seemed very distant. The book was essentially about Gatsby, Daisy and Tom - and yet it felt like the three of them didn't actually appear that much. It was probably about a third of the way into the book before Gatsby entered in person, if you don't count a single "shot" of him stood in his garden, gazing across the bay.

 

The edition of the book I read had quite a long, scholarly introduction, which I've dipped into a bit since finishing it - The chap writing the intro talks a fair bit about an earlier version of the novel, before the final editing - which had much, much more dialogue for Gatsby in. He reckons Fitzgerald kept editing more and more of Gatsby's speech out, to make him more and more enigmatic - we see him mainly through Nick's eyes, rather than in his own words.

 

He's certainly succeeded in making Gatsby mysterious, but he lost out in making readers warm to him, I reckon - though maybe that was also part of his intention. - who knows. :confused:

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  • 3 years later...

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