In chapter 4 of "The Great Gatsby," how does Fitzgerald develop his narrative?e.g what techniques does he use?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this chapter of Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," there is interwoven with the narrative ironic descriptions of Gatsby's guests whose moral irresponsibility and callousness Fitzgerald found reprehensible, In mentioning Gatsby's guests, Nick lists the important names such as a senator who attends despite the existence of Prohibition, and then ironically ends the paragraph with one was there three days before he went to the penintenary, another killed himself later by jumping in front of the subway, or they were the "sterner ones of the great American capitalists."  With the mention of these people is, also, foreshadowing of some criminality to come as well as the suggestion of the sordidness of a society in which everyone can be "bought."

Imagery is very prevalent in this chapter; most noticeable is that of flower imagery.  Of course, Daisy's and Myrtle's names are floral:  a daisy is a white flower with yellow (the color of evil) in the center, while crepe myrtle is a shrub with white flowers and dark berries.  One guest, Benny McClenahan, brings four girls, some of whom have the "melodious names of flowers."  A dead man who passes in a hearse is "heaped with blossoms" while Daisy is described as having the "largest of lawns."  Gardens are often mentioned and the allusion to the biblical garden cannot be missed. With the frequent mention of Nature by Fitzgerald, the reader cannot miss the suggestion of the life and death cycle, either.

Mentioned in this chapter, also, are cars, the symbol of luxury, wealth, materialism.  Gatsby's car is described as though it were the chariot of a god, and the mythological suggestions cannot go unobserved, either:  "with fenders spread like wings.", with "the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker" is suggestive of the flight of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and died. Later, in Chapter Seven, Gatsby is referred to as a mythological character himself: Trimalchio.

Many other descriptions continue the portrayal of the greed and materialism of the twenties.  Mr. Wolfsheim's nose and nostrils are described at length, suggesting the avarice of the sterotypical jew.  The mention of Daisy's having decided to marry Tom Buchanan after receiving a pearl necklace worth $350,000.00 connotes her terrible materialsm.  Set against these people, Gatsby emerges god-like as he has survived war, rejection, unrequited love and lives now a charmed life. Nick states,

Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night.  He came alove to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.

In Chapter Four, Gatsby emerges from the sordidness of his guests and materialism of the age as an almost Christ-like figure, albeit one painted an ironic touch.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question