How does Fitzgerald use light to foreshadow Myrtle's death in Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby?

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merricat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this section of the book, after the scene at the Plaza Hotel, we follow Tom, Jordan, and Nick as they leave New York. In one short paragraph, Fitzgerald sets a somber mood by stressing the fading light. Fading and extinguished light are often symbols of dying and death.

Nick mentions "...we were content to let all their tragic arguments fade with the city lights behind." Tom's city life with Myrtle is about to fade and end completely.

A few sentences later, Nick, still thinking depressing thoughts about turning thirty, says, "As we passed over the dark bridge...the formidable stroke of thirty died away..." Here both darkness and the mention of death are juxtaposed.

Fitzgerald again links the fading light to death immediately before we find out about Myrtle. "So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight."

The fading light has both a figurative and literal purpose in this section of the novel. Besides focusing attention on death, since Myrtle's occurs immediately after this, it also contributes to the accident.

Myrtle "rushed out into the dusk," and the 'death car' "came out of the gathering darkness."  

Dusk, twilight, and darkness lead to and surround death throughout this section of The Great Gatsby.

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The Great Gatsby

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