The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Flashbacks In The Great Gatsby

Where is "flashback" used in The Great Gatsby?

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In Chapter VIII, after the confrontation between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in the city, after the death of Myrtle, and after Nick watched as Daisy and Tom sat at their dinner table looking intimate and not unhappy, Gatsby tells Nick the truth about his past with Daisy.  Nick tells Gatsby's story to us, based on Gatsby's telling of it to him, beginning with the fact that Gatsby "took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously -- eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand." 

But then, he fell in love with her, in addition to loving the security she would bring him.  Gatsby tells Nick, "'I can't describe to you how surprised I was to find out I loved her, old sport.  I even hoped for a while that she'd throw me over, but she didn't, because she was in love with me too.'"  But paradise was lost when Gatsby had to go away to fight in the war.  "He did extraordinarily well [...]" but began to receive letters from Daisy that had a betrayed her "nervous despair."  It was too difficult for her to be away from him for so long; she needed "her life to be shaped now," and she found she could not wait for him. 

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Flashback is used at various points in The Great Gatsby to provide background information and insight into the characters.

Nick learns the history of Daisy's acquaintance with Gatsby and of her marriage to Tom through a flashback narrated by Jordan Baker. Nick introduces the presentation

One October day in nineteen-seventeen - (said Jordan Baker that afternoon, sitting up very straight on a straight chair in the tea-garden at the Plaza Hotel) - I was walking...

Another use of the technique fills in the factual life history of "James Gatz of North Dakota." Nick gains this information partially as the result of investigations by "an ambitious young reporter from New York" and partially as told by Gatsby himself, "very much later."

Gatsby indulges in the use of flashbacks to keep alive his fantasy that someday he and Daisy will be able to shed other connections and complications and build a future together. After the dance at his house, Gatsby talks with Nick. He expresses his regret that Daisy didn't enjoy the party, then begins remembering earlier and better times in their relationship. When Nick urges him to stop, saying, "You can't repeat the past!", Gatsby's immediate reply is, "Can't repeat the past?...Why of course you can!"

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kkp886 | Student

Thanks a lot , if <the great gatsby >was based on memory of Nick,we can say that the whole book is flashback?

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