Write about some of Fitzgerald’s narrative methods in Chapter 2 of ‘The Great Gatsby’
“In The Great Gatsby, the lower social classes are presented as crude and vulgar” How do you respond to this view?
Narrative techniques are used throughout Chapter 2 by F Scott Fitzgerald, to establish the characters, and to expose the effects of the elaborate, greedy lives the wealthy lived on the less fortunate people. Narrative techniques are methods used to tell a story; authors may pick out certain techniques to help them to tell the story in a particular way.
These narrative techniques may also be used not only in Chapter 2, but in the whole story itself to represent the lower social classes as crude and vulgar.
The focal point of Chapter 2 is the introduction of Tom’s Mistress, Myrtle. The Chapter begins with Tom inviting Nick to New York in order for him to meet Myrtle, despite Nick’s lack of interest in being introduced to her. Never-the-less, Nick goes to New York with Tom whilst stopping to pick up Myrtle from her and her husband’s, George B. Wilson’s, garage in The Valley of Ashes. Myrtle’s husband George is unaware of the affair and believes his wife to be staying at her sister’s house up in New York for a few days. From this trip, Nick learns how Tom buys Myrtle almost any object of her desire including an apartment in New York, which is where they are accommodated, in order to escape Mr Wilson finding out about their commitments to each other. An argument later erupts between Mrs Wilson and Tom Buchanan which results in Tom breaking her nose.
Throughout the novel, the story is being narrated in first person. When he first starts telling the story we can see how he is narrating from memory and from his own perspective, and giving details of factors that he deems to be important, as they are the key factors that he remembers. Due to the story being narrated in first person we are immediately hearing the story from a biased perspective and blocking out any outside views. Chapter 2 however, the point of view almost changes into third-person; Nick is describing the area between West Egg and East Egg in a factual sense. As a reader we do not get the impression that we are only hearing of the area in the way that Nick perceives it, we are hearing it being described in a more free indirect style. An example of this would be when Nick starts to talk about T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes on the billboards. We are given a factual description of his eyes “blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high” yet Nick has never mentioned what he personally thought about the billboard, whether he thought it was an interesting or odd billboard. Repetition of “ash/es” on the first page of this chapter emphasises how desolate and bleak the Valley of Ashes is. Oxymoronic phrases such as “ashes grow” are used to show how the ashes expand upon the land almost like a fungus that is reproducing; the land is becoming more and more desolate by the minute. The description of the barren land may also be foreshadowing later events that occur in this Valley (Myrtle being run over). The land is characterized as being lifeless, dim and incapable of ever being revived. This description mimics the way in which Myrtle feels. She is unhappy with Mr Wilson and feels as if by her being stuck in the Valley of ashes is preventing her from being able to enjoy herself. For this reason she adores the company of Tom Buchanan. When in New York Tom spoils his Mistress and buys her items of clothing and pet dogs, restoring the enjoyment in her life that she so desires. However, the Valley of Ashes does not only resemble Myrtle alive, yet also when she is deceased; when hit by Daisy in the car she lay flaccid, limp and lifeless on the ground much like her surroundings.
One other method Fitzgerald uses in this chapter is omission. The majority of Chapter 2 is spent in Myrtles apartment in New York. “I have been drunk twice in my life, and the second