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Look at the language Fitzgerald chooses and the environment he describes as chapter eight opens. The morning of the day after the accident and Myrtle's death - it's foggy and still dark. Nick and Gatsby move about in dank, distasteful, gloomy darkness, searching for light switches, stumbling over obstacles, stirring up the dust as they grope for cigarettes. When Nick finally locates two, they are rather unappealing but better than nothing.
There was an inexplicable amount of dust everywhere, and the rooms were musty, as though they hadn't been aired for many days. I found the humidor on an unfamiliar table, with two stale, dry cigarettes inside.
There is nothing appealing or cheerful or positive in the opening of the chapter. Everything feeds into the depression and melancholy of the event that overshadows Gatsby's thoughts and words at that point in the story.
F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the traditional artistic device of contrast to help evoke the mood of melancholy in Chapter 8. In contrast to all the dramatic interaction in Chapter 7, with most of the novel's principal characters involved, Chapter 8 opens with the narrator all alone. The first sentence employs imagery to suggest the mood.
I couldn't sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incessantly on the sound, and I tossed half-sick between grotesque reality and savage, frightening dreams.
Nick couldn't sleep because of all the things he has seen and heard, and all the emotions he has experienced in the previous climactic chapter. The fog-horn seems to be expressing his own feelings of weariness and despondency. When he goes over to Gatsby's house he finds his friend in a similar mood. The big house seems haunted. They search for cigarettes and only manage to find two stale ones in an establishment that once overflowed with an abundance of everything.
Once I tumbled with a sort of splash upon the keys of a ghostly piano.
This sentence seems intended to remind the reader of the happy time when Gatsby invited Nick and Daisy to his home and got the perpetual guest Mr. Klipspringer to play the sprightly popular tune "Ain't We Got Fun?" Now the piano sounds ghostly because Nick's "splash upon the keys" makes it seem as if all the notes of "Ain't We Got Fun?" have dissolved into one cacophonous crescendo. Not everything is over--but the good times are over and now the bad times are about to begin.
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