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What is the function of setting, with particular reference to verisimilitude and...

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kkp886 | (Level 2) Honors

Posted May 23, 2012 at 10:37 PM via web

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What is the function of setting, with particular reference to verisimilitude and referential function, in the following passage from The Great Gatsby 

   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. Toward dawn I heard a taxi go up Gatsby’s drive, and immediately I jumped out of bed and began to dress — I felt that I had something to tell him, something to warn him about, and morning would be too late.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted May 26, 2012 at 1:45 PM (Answer #1)

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Let's begin with definition of these two literary terms, "verisimilitude" and "referential function." Versimilitude means to make something lifelike or to imitate life in a very realistic way. "Referential function" describes the mental state and/or situation of a character.  

In this passage, we, as readers, are able to hear and feel what Nick feels as it is happening to him. We hear the incessant blare of the too-close fog horn from the Sound. We feel Nick's discomfort as he tosses and turns in his bed.  He is annoyed by the intrusion of the horn but we also know that this sound is just heightening his angst, not the cause of it. Thus, we have a deft combination here of both the verisimilitude of the fog horn AND the referential function of it influencing the character's mental state and situation. 

The combination of these techinques continues as the passage progresses. We feel Nick's sleepless anxiety as he makes note of the taxi horn at the break of dawn. We feel time slipping away from him and from Gatsby...by full morning, it will be too late. 

The setting here, Nick's bedroom, is integral to Nick's dilemma. Most of the time, Nick is surrounded by people: Gatsby, Daisy, Jordan, Tom, and others. Here, he is finally alone with his thoughts and has to make a decision without being distracted. 

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