What was the writing style F. Scott Fitzgerald used in writing "The Great Gatsby"?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald uses a lyrical writing style in The Great Gatsby. The story is told from the point-of-view of Nick Carraway, who develops a romantic perspective on his neighbor, the doomed lover Jay Gatsby, during his summer living on Long Island and working in New York City. 

Lyrical writing captures emotions using beautiful and imaginative images. Fitzgerald's lyrical writing raises our sympathy for Gatsby, who we otherwise might see as just another low-life criminal grifter. We read the novel for the beauty of Fitzgerald's language and the way he uses it to make Gatsby a tragic symbol of the American dream.

Some examples of Fitzgerald's lyric prose illustrate the style and mood of this novel. It is a language filled with the rhythms and rich imagery of poetry. Nick describes, for example, his return to the Midwest as follows:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow.

More famously, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby at the end of the book, extending Gatsby's dream to make it universal to all of us:

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 — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald not only uses imagery and reflection, but also point of view, symbolism, and satire in "The Great Gatsby." The plot is told as part of a frame story, meaning a story within a story, from the point of view of Nick Carraway, one of the main characters, who has come from the midwest to learn the bond market. Nick learns much more in his encounter with Jay Gatsby. Through this first-person (“I”) narrative technique, Fitgerald is able to inject much of his own insight into the narrative by having Nick explain much of Fitzgerald's own sentiments about life. The symbolism, especially in the setting of the novel, is an important stylistic element. West and East Egg are two places with opposing values that can be contrasted giving insight into the morality of each place. Finally, Fitzgerald uses satire, especially when describing the lavish, vulgar parties Gatsby throws and the use of "Great" in the title of the novel. In the end, there is nothing really "great" about Gatsby or the east and Nick returns home to the Midwest where he understands the values of the culture.

snsd2pm | Student

F Scott Fitzgerald uses heaps of personification in 'The Great Gatsby' as well as imagery and symbolism.

Examples of symbolism includes: the 'Valley of Ashes' (which is like a moral wasteland), Dr. T J Eckleberg, the green light that Gatsby is staring at and East Egg and West Egg.

The reader usually sees things through Nick Carraway's point of view but sometimes we are shown things through other character's point of view and through 3rd person also.

Fitzgerald also captures all of the senses through his detailed description of how things look, smell, sound and feel. He can make some of the most boring things seem interesting through his personification.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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