Jay Gatsby is presented by Fitzgerald first in Chapter One during a fleeting encounter between the Narrator (Nick Carraway) and Gatsby. Whilst Nick is resting in his garden after a fatiguing evening with Tom and Daisy Buchanan, ‘fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow’ and this is later revealed to be Jay Gatsby’s very first presence in the novel.
Although he does not have any dialogue with any other characters and nor has he interacted with any other characters at this point, the reader can gain some insight into what his personality may entail. For instance, the fact that he ‘emerged from the shadow’ may allude to the possibility that he may have had a dark history and that there is something enigmatic about him.
It is not a clandestine that Jay Gatsby lives a life of luxury as he possesses ‘more than forty acres of lawn and garden’ and his home is initially referred to as ‘Gatsby’s mansion’, implying that it is of a more than generous size. Furthermore, he holds a party once a week at his home and invites everyone- including Nick. This gives us a further insight into what Jay Gatsby is like. The fact that he holds a party once a week could be due to him wanting to keep his social status amongst his peers at a high level whilst it also acts as a constant reminder of his power and raises the question of whether he enjoys people being reminded of his power or whether he feels the need to remind himself.
Moreover, in preparation for his parties, he has been known to waste ‘five crates of oranges and lemons’ during the weekend and every Monday they leave through ‘his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves’. This is representative of the over-indulgence of the rich at the time and the fact that the wastage is taken out through the ‘back door’ resembles the era of prohibition in the 1920’s whereby many things were done in secret.
This could show how Gatsby is attempting to keep his façade of being ‘The Great Gatsby’ by trying to negate any bad qualities he may possess or any immoral actions that he may commit. In addition to this, during the party, ‘a tray of cocktails floated’ around and this reveals to the reader that Gatsby was evidently breaking the law by serving alcohol at his party in 1922 prohibition America.
Also indicating that he has a very high level of influence to be able to hold a party with such a large number of guests and not one of them doubts his motives for serving alcohol – which could be a ploy to attract more people to his parties. Likewise, the guests that attend his parties are little more than carbon copies of each other, where many woman appear to be wearing ‘yellow dresses’.
This is symbolic of their attempt to be something that they are not and try to fit in and conform to society’s need to be in the elite or rather, living the American Dream. When the reader finally meets Jay Gatsby, they are already under the influence of many rumours regarding Gatsby that many minor characters mentioned, such as the fact that he is a ‘nephew of cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’ or that he ‘killed a man’. However, when we meet him through the eyes of Nick Carraway, he gives him a ‘rare smile with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life’.
This almost makes the reader forget about everything that Fitzgerald had informed us of because it appears as if we have just met the real Gatsby. From this we can infer that he is a person who has gone through a lot but is at least genuine and despite what he may have done, he is still ‘The Great Gatsby’. From my point of view, it seems that F. Scott Fitzgerald had spent the most part of the beginning of the novel building up an image of Gatsby that was someone who inherited their wealth, had possibly killed someone and was ambiguous.
But I believe that this was so that the reader could be shown how the other characters in the novel viewed Gatsby before giving him a chance, and when we finally meet him, we are able to get to know him and slowly build up our own image that I believe will completely contradict the beliefs that the other people in the novel share of Jay Gatsby and by doing this we are able to view the many perspectives that people have of him, allowing us to create a better informed judgment on the controversial character.
Courtney from Study Moose
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