What is an example of antithesis in The Great Gatsby?

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Lynn Ramsson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Antithesis can be defined as the positioning of two opposite people or events or things. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses antithesis to enhance the differences between characters, events, and even settings for literary value.

Several examples of antithesis are observable at Gatsby's party. At one point at two in the morning, Nick finds himself alone, just outside "[t]he large room...full of people." This example of antithesis emphasizes Nick's literal isolation at the party, which symbolizes the difference between his plain Midwestern values and Gatsby's extravagant New York attitude.

Also at this point at the party, which is meant to be a fun and hedonistic experience, Nick notes that "most of the remaining women were having fights with men said to be their husbands." This set of opposites represents the facade the party-goers don as they participate in the pleasure earlier in the evening. Once the pleasure wears off, the true conflict between characters surfaces, and the antithesis here emphasizes the real nature of these relationships.

And finally, the car accident contrasts at the party in Chapter 3 contrasts violently with the atmosphere in the garden, and the "pale dangling individual" who "stepped out of the wreck" is antithetical to the bright beauty of the attendees in all of their finery. The imagery of this scene is powerful, and the reader feels a shock, much like the party-goers must have felt when confronted with the violence of the car crash.

podunc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald uses both antithetical characters and settings in The Great Gatsby. One clear example is the contrast between Daisy Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. While Daisy is married to Tom Buchanan and lives a life of careless wealth, Myrtle lives above a gas station and hopes that being Tom's mistress will improve her lot in life. Fitzgerald also contrasts the grey suburban "wasteland" between West Egg and New York with the colorful opulence of Gatsby's mansion.

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The Great Gatsby

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