What is the effect of the author's craft in The Great Gatsby?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One aspect of the author's craft that it is worth pointing out is Fitzgerald's use of light imagery which is used by him to signal both idealism and unreality. The biggest single example is the green light that shines from Daisy's dock that Gatsby spends so long staring at. This green light becomes an important symbol for Gatsby as he sees it as representing hope for the future with the woman of his dreams. Likewise consider the way in which Daisy and Jordan are presented when Nick first meets them. They are imbued with an aura of whiteness that makes them appear almost as angelic beings. Interestingly, this example of light is used to signal the illusory nature of what they represent, and this connection is made by Nick when he says that Daisy's conversation with Jordan is as "cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes." Light is something that is normally used to illumine or shed light on something, but in this novel the author deliberately subvers the reader's expectations, using light to refer to an idealistic hope that is based on illusion. The green light that Gatsby becomes fixated with is again referred to at the end of the story:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And then one fine morning--
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Note how the theme of light relating to illusion and idealism is explicitly addressed through the green light that constantly "recedes before us," eluding the characters always and yet giving hope that one day it may be achieved. Fitzgerald therefore uses his craft to relate this imagery to the American Dream, which he saw as illusory and idealistic.

 

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