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The Great Gatsby: A Formalist Approach

By: June Lee, Megan Wang, Michelle Gu

June Lee

on 17 June 2013

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby: A Formalist Approach

Gatsby's mansion and Nick's "eyesore" house located in West Egg
The "new-rich"; New Money
The West Egg
"...a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of a dock." (21)
The Buchanans live in East Egg
The East Egg
The "born-rich"; Old Money
The Great Gatsby:
A Formalist Approach

By: June Lee, Megan Wang, Michelle Gu
What is Formalism?
Point of View
The Theme
(a.k.a. NEW CRITICISM, Russian
Formalism): Formalism attempts to treat each work as its own distinct piece, free from its environment, era, and even author. It focuses on the literature's fundamental nature, concentrating their analysis on the interplay and relationships between the text’s essential verbal elements.

Type: First Person
by a bystander; Nick Carraway
In his novel, "The Great Gatsby", Fitzgerald suggests that despite hard work and perseverance, class division and prejudices will always exist in society.
Reliable or Unreliable?
Effective or Ineffective?
Jay Gatsby
-Protagonist of the Story
Nick Carraway
Narrator, friend and neighbor of Gatsby
Daisy Buchanan
The Golden Girl; Rich and Beautiful
Cousin of Nick; object of love for Gatsby; Wife of Tom Buchanan
Nick's colleague from Yale University; former football player in Yale
Tom Buchanan
Rich and Arrogant; Husband of Daisy Buchanan
Jordan Baker
Pro-golfer; famous for insincerity during games
Girlhood friend of Daisy and becomes Nick's girlfriend
Myrtle and George Wilson
Myrtle is "Tom's mistress in New York"; dissatisfied with life with her husband.
George is the owner of a car repair shop and a devoted husband of Myrtle
Events Occur in FRAGMENTED Form
-"Self made" man
"..of those who accepted Gatsby's hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him." (61)
-Hosts parties at his mansion on West Egg
"...one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwords savors of anticlimax." (6)
"I hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool."
story within a story
Nick starts his story in the present
Gatsby's story starts in chapter 3
"Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water..."
the use of flashbacks
follows the usual dramatic structure
repetition and parallelism
Impact of Structure and Flashbacks
Impact of Structure and Flashbacks
Impact of Structure and Flashbacks
Impact of Structure and Flashbacks
“…he had on a dress suit and patent leather shoes and I couldn’t keep my eyes off him …” (40)
Nick acts as a very "invisible" first-person narrator. Why do you think Fitzgerald still chose to use a first-person narrator rather than a third person omniscient? How does his choice amplify theme?
Jordon narrates Daisy's past to Nick: "...Tom ran into a wagon on the Ventura road one night, and ripped a front wheel off his car. The girl who was with him got into the papers, too, because her arm was broken - she was one of the chambermaids in the Santa Barbara Hotel." (77)
... lying on her bed as lovely as the June night in her flowered dress - and as drunk as a monkey.
... "Here, deares'." She groped around in a waste-basket she had with her on the bed and pulled out the string of pearls. "Take 'em down-stairs and give 'em back to whoever they belong to. Tell 'em all Daisy's change' her mine. Say: 'Daisy's change' her mine!"
She began to cry... we... got her into a cold bath. She wouldn't let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet ball...
Next day at five o' clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver. (76)
"I am careful... Well, other people are... They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an accident."
..."I hate careless people. That's why I like you."
It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again... a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour."
"Her voice is full of money."
"He told me all this very much later, but I've put it down here with the idea of exploding those first wild rumors about his antecedents, which weren't even faintly true.” (101)
"He's a bootlegger... one time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to Von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil." (61)
"Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water" (5)
"a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay ..." (6)
"...they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park." (41)
...this party had a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the countryside - East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety" (44)
"But the rest offended her ... She was appalled by West Egg... appalled by its raw vigor that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut of nothing to nothing..." (107)
"...sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established a dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward... It was a body capable of enormous leverage - a cruel body." (7)
Do you think Nick is as honest as he describes himself to be?
How is the fragmented form of the story effective in capturing the interest of the readers?
Do you think the story could have been better told by another character?
The Valley of Ashes
Where poverty and actual poor individuals; bottom of the society's hierarchy inhabit.
The Wilsons live in the Valley of Ashes
"About half way between West Egg and New York... a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air." (23)
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