In Chapter Five, how is time used as a motif? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter Six, Nick tells Jay Gatsby not to expect too much from Daisy because "You can't repeat the past."

"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

This idealism of Gatsby leads him to believe that he can manipulate time; however, his is an inverted dream, a dream that begins as Jordan Baker suggests with a renewal of seasons in the fall--"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall" (Ch.7). Consequently, in Chapter Five when Gatsby is reunited with Daisy,  having been haunted by time in his angst of recovering his lost love, Gatsby experiences a "death of time" as he symbolically knocks a clock from the mantelpiece and catches it with trembling fingers. When he tells Daisy that it only took him three years to acquire his fortune, it becomes apparent that Gatsby builds upon the future, creating illusions rather than retaining the past as does Tom Buchanan.

Just as Gatsby attempts to manipulate time to his desires, Fitzgerald himself manipulates time, developing Gatsby's character in a non-chronological manner, thus creating the "great Gatsby," a almost archetypal figure. And, the reader, who learns of Gatsby through the evolving narrative feels more empathy for Gatsby and his idealism as a result.


kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this chapter of The Great Gatsby, time is used as a motif in a number of ways. First of all, it is used to create a tense and anxious mood as Gatsby prepares for his long-awaited reunion with Daisy Buchanan. The fact that Daisy is late helps the reader to understand Gatsby's sense of agitation. Moreover, Gatsby's knocking over of the clock symbolizes the fragility of time since Gatsby knows that this is his only chance to convince Daisy to come back to him.

Secondly, as the chapter progresses, the time is used to reflect Gatsby's excitement. When he is showing Daisy around his home, Gatsby is described as being like "an overwound clock." For Gatsby, this moment is surreal: he has waited for years to have this opportunity and now he wants to make the most of it. This creates an almost frantic mood as Gatsby seeks to impress Daisy by showing her his valuable and opulent possessions.

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The Great Gatsby

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