Could you reflect on the point of view, language, structure and setting of chapter 3 in The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter Three of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby contains language of such impressionistic musicality that it thrills the reader. With resplendent imagery and enchanting metaphors and parallelism, Fitzgerald's narrative delights the imagination:

The lights grow brighter as the earth luches away from the sun and now the orchestra is playing yello cocktail music and the opera of voices pitches a key higher.  Laughter is easier, minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.  The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath--already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group and then excited with triumph glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.

Yet, amidst the swells of light and impressions, there is the underlying tone of decadence.  Repeatedly, the color yellow is mentioned, the guests conduct themselves "according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks," and artificiality abounds.  For instance, one guest, Lucille, remarks, "I never care what I do, so I always have a good time."

Chapter Three is a panoplay of the falseness of Gatsby's world and its illusions.  A tenor sings in Italian and a "notorious contralto" also sings jazz while happy "vacuous bursts of laughter" rise toward the summer sky. Jordan Baker tells Nick that she likes the large parties that Gatsby gives because "They're so intimate.  At small parties there isn't any privacy."  Above all the guests, even the elements are illusionary and impressionistic:

The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn.

Rumors circulate about Gatsby--"Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once"--and "East Egg consescends to West Egg," as West signifies death and the end.  Even the narrator, Nick Carraway has this perception:

I had taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes into something, significant, elemental and profound.

He waves his hand "at the invisible hedge in the distance," and Gatsby appears with a rare smile that has a "quality of eternal reasssurance in it."

The illusionary tone of the chapter continues as "the fraternal hilarity increased" at the party.  Discord then interrupts as wives fight with their husbands and people are lifted away "kicking into the night."  Down Gatsby's drive there is "a violent confusion" as a car that Owl Eyes drives ends in a ditch.  After the party, Nick narrates that 
A sudden emptiness seemed to flow" and the windows and great doors of Gatsby's house are endowed with complete isolation.

Returning home, Nick feels a "sinking in my heart." His relationship with Jordan Baker ebbs and flows as Jordan has broken the rules. Nick says he is "full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires.  For, he views himself as "one of the few honest people that [he has] ever known" and  he sets about breaking off his relations with Jordan.

All is alluring, illusionary, and impressionistic in Chapter Three: the language, the structure, and the point of view. 

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chapter 3 remains told from Nick Carraway's first person point of view. The setting takes place at Gatsby's home, but begins from Nick's perspective as a neighbor. Nick takes us through the day with him as he watches from afar, and as night draws nearer, so does Nick to Gatsby and his house. Throughout the chapter, I feel Nick getting closer and closer to a possible truth at discovering the very nature and identity of Gatsby. In the beginning, he is sort of wondering what the big deal is. The food arrives, the orchestra arrives, decorations abound, people wander from the beach to the pool and change into evening clothes. As he gets closer to Gatsby he hears about him, and finally close, he doesn't even know he is talking to Gatsby until Gatsby reveals his identity. Language is used to describe sound vividly. References to "whispers" "discordant" and a "crescendo" grow through the text with the pace of the evening.


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The Great Gatsby

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