Compare and contrast the two social occasions in Chapters I and II of The Great Gatsby, including details of character, setting and tone.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The contrast between the party in Chapter I and that of Chapter II is striking and not accidental. These two social occasions show very clearly both sides of Tom Buchanan's life and two very distinct levels of the class structure that plays such a significant role in the novel. Tom's presence at each party is the one unifying element.

The party in Chapter I is a small dinner party at Tom and Daisy's estate, attended only by the Buchanans, Nick Carraway, and Jordan Baker. Dinner is served by a butler, outside by candlelight as evening gathers and shadows lengthen. The sweeping Buchanan estate with its deep green lawn running all the way down to the water of Long Island Sound provides a serene and beautiful setting for the party. Daisy notices a single nightingale on the lawn. Dinner conversation is quite civilized. However, an argument does ensue between the Buchanans during the dinner, but it takes place in hushed tones away from the guests.

The party in Chapter II takes place in New York City in the small apartment Tom rents so that he will have a place to meet Myrtle Wilson, his mistress. The apartment is crowded with drunken guests, none of whom, except Nick, would be welcome in East Egg; it is hot and filled with thick cigarette smoke. A puppy sits alone and miserable in the kitchen, purchased on the way to the apartment by Tom and Myrtle, and then promptly forgotten. The guests grow louder as the evening wears on and the drinking increases. When an argument breaks out between Tom and Myrtle, she screams at him--his wife's name--and he strikes her suddenly and violently, breaking her nose. The contrast between the party in Tom's New York apartment and the dinner party at his home in East Egg is clearly defined and developed by Fitzgerald.

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The Great Gatsby

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