Homework Help

In the following paragraph, what device does Fitzgerald use to create a musical effect...

user profile pic

ashtian | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 13, 2010 at 1:11 AM via web

dislike 3 like

In the following paragraph, what device does Fitzgerald use to create a musical effect in The Great Gatsby? Cite at least three examples.

 

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight. But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

3 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:13 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

In the paragraph posted above, Fitzgerald uses literary devices to develop a musical effect in his writing.  First, alliteration is used to create rhythm.  Phrases such as "fantastic farm" and "grotesque gardens" use the repetition of initial sounds to capitalize on the tone that these phonetic sounds produce.  Next, sibilance is used throughout the paragraph to create movement in the lines.  Phrases such as "paintless days" use the repetition of the "s" sound to create this movement.  Finally, Fitzgerald uses punctuation (namely commas) to create rhythm in the passage though the development of successive phrases and clauses.  So Fitzgerald uses not one but several literary devices to create music in his writing.

user profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:44 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 1 like

What a fascinating question.  I must be honest, there is no one literary device that jumps out at me and screams "music."  There is, however, a certain rythm and cadence in this selection which inspire an image of musicality.  If I had to put a name to it, I'd say it was personification because of the movement of objects in the piece.

First we have a road,  veering toward the train tracks and shrinking away from the gray and ashy terrain. Then we see the only growing things, ashes "grow[ing] like wheat into ridges and hills," and ashes rising like chimneys, and "men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air," suggesting a movement much like the sweeping ups and downs and fading away of a musical composition.

Occasionally. it says we see a slow line of cars which "crawl" and "creak," adding to the song of the ash heaps. There is a flurry of ashes caused by the digging of spades, a great cloud of dust, this amazing  (and amusing) billboard rising transcendent from the dust.  Then there is a sinking and a dimming and a brooding, all very evocative of an orchestral piece winding down to its coda.

Not sure if this is what you (or your teacher) is looking for, but the elements and the dust do create a veritable symphony of the ash heaps.

Lori Steinbach

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 13, 2010 at 10:51 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 1 like

There are lyrical qualities to the passage that could reflect a type of music being developed and emerging.  The last line strikes a note of dissonance, a type of bell or knell being rung with "paintless days, under sun and rain" and the idea of "brood" and "solemn" helps to bring out a minor key in tone.  The manner in which the "eyes" are described could also be of musical quality, especially in its repetition in phrases such as "eyes of..." and then, "The eyes of..."  It seems like the lyrics of a song in the repeating of the same words, to bring emphasis and meaning out.  Finally, I would say that the entire feel of the passage is reminiscent of a the opening to Elton John's song, "Funeral for a Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding." The swelling of organ chords to open as well as the complexity of synthesizing sounds creating an entire feel of instrumental despair is brought out in my mind within this passage.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes