What is the rhythm and the style of writing in The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald's writing style in The Great Gatsby is lyrical. The rhythm is poetic or cadenced, with stresses falling on certain words.

Lyrical writing uses the heightened language of poetry to achieve emotional intensity. In Gatsby, Fitzgerald, through narrator Nick, uses metaphor, symbolism and imagery. For example, people like Daisy and Tom are likened to "foul dust." Gatsby's dream of reclaiming Daisy is compared to no less than the American Dream of reclaiming a mythical paradise. The colors yellow and gold repeatedly symbolize money, while green, such as the green light at the end of Daisy's pier, symbolizes desire. The clock that falls from Nick's mantle when Daisy and Gatsby meet for the first time in five years represents time's fragility. Imagery, which is describing using the five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell, abounds, such as in the long passage describing the preparations for Gatsby's immense parties or the scene in which Nick sees Tom and Daisy for the first time in Long Island, and the women's dresses and the curtains billow and twist in the breezes.

The rhythm of the writing is poetic, such as in the phrase "abortive sorrows of men." There, the stress fall on "aBORtive" and "SORrow," stressing the internal repetition of sound. This technique also adds to the emotional intensity of the story.

Fitzgerald's use of language builds sympathy for Gatsby, elevating him to far more than a criminal who came to a bad end.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald tells the story of Jay Gatsby through a first person narrator, Nick Carraway. The story is told in flashbacks, and there are flashbacks within flashbacks (i.e. about Gatsby’s past life), but the chronological order of the timeline is not as important as Nick’s moral observations and assessments of the people and events of the Jazz Age whom Fitzgerald is criticizing for their values. The novel’s style is realistic, therefore, because of the first person narrative. Nick is an eyewitness of the events and the reader believes that what has happened is the truth. Also, through Nick, readers get a glimpse of Fitzgerald’s own views – “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy.......”

The novel’s writing style is strong. The sentences are tightly written, yet contain elements of poetic style. There is a great deal of imagery and symbolism (East and West Egg, lights vs dark imagery, cool vs hot imagery, strength vs weakness imagery, etc.). There is also satire (especially when describing Tom Buchanan and Jordan Baker – i.e. Jordan is always “balancing something on her nose” – her precarious position, perhaps?) They rhythm is fast-paced. There are only 9 chapters and the action moves along quickly. There are not a ton of pages devoted to lengthy descriptions. It is almost journalistic in style.

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The Great Gatsby

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