What is an analysis of the style of F. Scott Fitzgerald with reference to and examples from The Great Gatsby?  

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Analysis of author style takes into account many aspects of writing, too many for detailed analysis in this limited and tutorial format. Some of the elements of authorial style are:

  • Imagery
  • Symbolism
  • Diction, including level and vocabulary
  • Syntax and grammar
  • Literary techniques, including rhetorical techniques
  • Chronological structure
  • Tone
  • Didacticism
  • Clarity
  • Unity

Since style is established from the outset of a work, let's analyze some opening paragraphs and identify from these what some notable elements of Fitzgerald's style are.

The first thing that one notices is his didactic style: he grandly announces his theme in the second paragraph:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” [says the narrator's father]

To be didactic is to be intentionally focused on teaching and moralizing. Often, the word "didactic" is paired with the word "boring": didactic: inclined to teach or lecture others too much: a boring, didactic speaker (Random House Dictionary).

Fitzgerald's tendency toward the didactic inclines him to include irrelevant digressions, though the argument can be made that each bears upon the theme and upon the set-up of upcoming story elements such as Gatsby's characterization. An example of what might be seen as an irrelevancy is incorporated in the narrator's description of the confidences imposed upon him in college [that the narrator gains confidences is a point relevant to his characterization and to the mechanism of the premise of the novel]:

for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.

Another point of style immediately discernible is that the chronology of the tale is broken very often by flashbacks. The first broken chronology is in paragraph two when the narrator (Nick, as we later are told) flashesback to his father's advice. The next is in paragraph three when he flashesback to his college confidences. The next is in paragraph four when he flashesback to the recent past and his return to the Middle West, which leads into a deeper flashback to his first description of Gatsby.

Some readers might be put off by this combination of didacticism and repeated flashbacks since these make the style of writing moralistically overly tight yet temporally overly loose. The tone that accompanies this unusual combination of tight and loose is reflective, perhaps to the point of depressive, and garrulous, which means given to rambling talkativeness (Random House Dictionary).

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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