THE GREAT GATSBY
Write about the ways that Fitzgerald tells the story in chapter 7
Chapter 7 sees a fundamental change in the progress of Gatsby in his quest for happiness with Daisy. To match this, Fitzgerald varies the narrative style: instead of just using Nick as the narrator, he uses Michaelis and Gatsby as intradiegetic narrators, to reveal the unfolding disintegration.
The chapter begins with Nick describing having lunch at Daisy’s with Jordan, Gatsby and Tom. Nick describes the afternoon as being ‘broiling’ and Fitzgerald’s use of pathetic fallacy suggests the imminence of violent and heated emotions that ensue. The beginnings of these are seen in the first few moments of Nick entering the house when Daisy moves over to Gatsby and kisses him on the mouth. This adds tension to the scene as Tom is only in the other room. The reader soon sees Tom’s realisation of his wife’s affair with Gatsby and ‘that he was astounded’. Knowing Tom has a violent temper – previously seen when he lashes out at Myrtle – the reader fears trouble. After Tom’s exposure of Gatsby as a bootlegger and a numbers racketeer, Gatsby’s sinister criminal activities prove to be the cause of Daisy’s ‘lost voice’ and, synecdochally, and Gatsby’s loss of Daisy herself. There are moralistic intentions in the narrative: love, which is gained by deception, ultimately fails. Fitzgerald presciently implies that a society with debased values has a ‘portentous, menacing’ future.
The second narrator, Michaelis, along with the police officer, tells of the events surrounding Myrtle’s death. This use of a stranger to narrate the story is a change in style, for Fitzgerald usually either uses Nick as the narrator or has other characters relate matters to him, which he subsequently retells. In this case, Nick does not speak with Michaelis, nor indeed know what Michaelis knows, until the inquest. The effect is that Fitzgerald instils a sense of distance so that although the reader knows Myrtle, her sensuous, physical nature and her grotesque physical injury very well, s/he feels strangely disconnected with the event of her death and bizarrely uninvolved, emotionally.
This can be contrasted with our feelings about, and involvement with, Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship which is related more directly by Gatsby to Nick. The news that Daisy was driving and that she refused to stop further orientates us away from Myrtle’s loss of life to whether her death will affect the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy. Also, when Michaelis and the police officer are recording the accounts of the events, they seem automated in their responses, so arousing no sympathy from the reader despite the still visible perspiration of a physical life. When Gatsby finally describes the last moments, the reader is less shocked by that than impressed by Gatsby’s devotion to Daisy’s welfare.
The understated account of Myrtle’s death could be seen as appropriate to the failure of Myrtle’s materialistic aspirations. It is also ironic how Myrtle, who craved luxury and social mobility, is killed by a monumental symbol of wealth – Gatsby’s motor car, which would ferry famous guests to and from West Egg. Fitzgerald uses Myrtle and George, who cannot escape the Valley of Ashes, to symbolise the America’s failure to provide wealth and prosperity for the masses: the social divide remains entrenched. Fitzgerald describes how Myrtle’s ‘thick dark blood’ mingled ‘with the dust’ of the valley, perhaps symbolically suggesting how the life essence of the poor is inextricable from the industrial processes which makes others rich: the image, joining dust with ashes, makes one think of the funeral service’s final truth that we are ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.
The denouement of the chapter is a further step in the account of the protagonist’s tragedy. He previously rejected ‘the pap of life’ to experience the perfection of a life with Daisy; this almost materialises but we now find him ‘standing there in the moonlight – watching over nothing.’ This evokes pathos as a further element in Gatsby’s personal dream disappears.
Chapter 2 Notes
Chapter 3 Notes
Chapter 4 Notes
Chapter 5 Notes
Chapter 6 Notes
Chapter 8 Guided reading
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