What is the syntax to The Great Gatsby? im trying to understand the text and make a book card to study for the AP exam...What are some examples, using the novel, of syntax?

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gbeatty eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This is a complicated question, and to be frank, I'm not sure I fully understand it. Therefore, let me take a swing at it and then you can tell me if it's what you're looking for or not.

Linguistically, "syntax" usually to the structure of sentences and specifically to how the different parts are arranged to make sense. If you mean this sort of syntax, then I would say there are several different syntaxes. There is the reflective and at times poetic voice of the narrator; the last line of the book is a good example here. There are the various "phonographic snapshots" of the period; these show up in dialogue, especially of social events. There are Gatsby's attempts to speak as a member of the upper class.

"Syntax" can also mean the order or connections in a system. If you're talking about this, then I'd look at the way that the characters relate to one another in terms of different qualities. For example, each has a specific relationship to money. Each also has a specific relationship to desire, and to personal identity. These cause or guide the changing relationships in the novel.

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dmcgregor97 | Student

This is a challenging question and could have many answers if you defend your answer correctly. In order to understand the question, you must understand the definition of syntax. Syntax is defined as the “arrangement of words and phrases to create well formed sentences”. While that may sound like a generic explanation, in literature, syntax is usually one of those subtle things about writing that people don’t always notice but have a reaction to. For example, you may not like a book because you simply do not like the way the author writes: too many short choppy sentences, sentences too long and drawn out, structure is all over the place, etc. That is syntax. Just to clarify, syntax is not the same as diction. Diction is the actual choice of words. Syntax is how you choose to put those choices together in one sentence.

In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald tends to use the same type of syntax throughout the novel. Most of it is in longer flowy sentences filled with a large amount of imagery. For example, in chapter one, the narrator, Nick Carraway, describes when he first sees Daisy and Jordan at the Buchanan house. He states:

They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering a if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.

Fitzgerald seems to want to capture the upbeat and very leisurely time period (1920s) for this group in the novel. Life is depicted as carefree and light, with a slow pace of a day that usually comes with people not having to rush to work or commitments. These lyrical type sentences do highlight the contrast between how short and abrupt some of the stressful conversations between Tom Buchanan and the other characters. Especially at the start of the novel, Tom seems very harsh compared to the New York landscape of parties and events. Towards the end, the reader can sense the tension in the conversations of the characters a little bit better due to the contrast of the flowy narration. The reader is supposed to see that while everyone is acting happy and carefree (narration), the dialogue shows the stress of the situation.

Resources :

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1925.

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