Why does Fitzgerald describe the party ( in the passage beginning "By seven o'clock the orchestra has arrived") in the present tense?
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The effect of describing one of Gatsby's parties in the present tense is to create the impression that the same thing is happening over and over. If you've seen one you've seen them all. Every one of these parties is the same, so it is sufficient to describe on of them to create a sort of montage effect representing all of them. There is a certain feeling of monotony created by this present-tense narration and description. The parties are supposed to be glamorous and exciting, but they are really meaningless rituals, like a lot of things in the Jazz Age. People are spending a lot of money, trying to have a good time, and pretending to have a good time, but just getting drunk and exhausted and acting like fools. Gatsby's parties have a feeling similar to Edgar Allan Poe's "Masque of the Red Death." F. Scott Fitzgerald's descriptions of these wild parties is brilliant. He seems wise beyond his years, not unlike Nick Carraway.
So we see exactly what Nick can see at the time and we experience the whole party with him, it is almost as if we are there with Nick moving around in the hazy confusion and fast pace movement together. We get a real sense of the situation he is in and fully understand what one of Gatsby's famous parties are like.
Hope this helped.
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