In The Great Gatsby, how does Fitzgerald tell the story in Chapter VI, specifically in reference to language and structure?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Fitzgerald develops Chapter VI with sections of narration and exposition, moving from one to the other and back again. The chapter begins with Nick's recounting Gatsby's encounter with a young reporter from New York who shows up at his door one morning, thus introducing the subject of the many rumors that had developed about the person of Jay Gatsby.

The chapter then moves into a lengthy section of exposition establishing the truth of Gatsby's identity and personal history: his real name, James Gatz; his birth in North Dakota; and his several experiences after running away from home, focusing in detail on his association with Dan Cody.

The chapter then resumes the narrative line in which Fitzgerald moves the reader through three specific episodes of plot development: Gatsby's encounter with Sloan and the riding party; Tom and Daisy's attending one of Gatsby's parties; and Nick's encounter with Gatsby after the party.

At this point, Fitzgerald turns again to exposition, writing a second section in the chapter to reveal more of Gatsby's past, this time providing details of his early relationship with Daisy in Louisville.

Fitzgerald's prose in the two passages of exposition, especially the prose that addresses Gatsby's emotions, is lyrical in tone and rich in imagery. This passage describes the heart of young Jimmy Gatz:

. . . his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor . . . they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.

Another example of Fitzgerald's beautiful imagery in expressing the feelings of his hero is his description of the moment Jay Gatsby first kissed Daisy in Louisville:

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own . . . he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower . . . .

In its entirety, Chapter VI continues the plot development of the novel, while establishing for the reader the basic facts of Gatsby's history and an understanding of his intense need to relive his past with Daisy.

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