The Great Gatsby: Chapter 3

Notes on the use of setting, characterisation and symbolism in Chapter 3 of The Great Gatsby

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Lights are reference continually when referring to Gatsby's house:

  • "summer nights"
  • "stars"
  • "sun"
  • "lights"
  • "glistening"
  • "lights grow brighter"
  • "changing light"

Constant references to light could be symbolic of the hope the party brings.

Alternatively, it could be a refernce to the hope Gatsby emanates.

Thirdly, it may represent the hope of the Jazz Age, which could be construed as Fitzgerald's or Nick's opinion.

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Similarly, colours are often referred to when Nick has arrived at the house:

  • "blue gardens"
  • "yellow bug"
  • "oranges"
  • "coloured"
  • "dark gold"
  • "primary colours"
  • "yellow"
  • "colour"

The vibrancy, vivacity, cheerfulness and joy epitomises the popular opinion of the 20s.

"Dark gold" is an anomolous colour, juxtaposing the other bright colours, which could be a representation of Gatsby attempting to be aristocratic.

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Context: ideas of the Jazz Age

The use of setting may itself be representative of the 20s:

  • "earth lurches away from the sun" yet the "lights grow brighter" - hope increases as night falls and the party nears, symbolise the excitement of the era
  • The sentance structure, consisting of many subordinate clauses, coupled with particular vocabulary such as "swell" and "sea-change" represent a flowing of music, time or people --> epitomises the 20s
  • "burst of chatter", "the party had begun", "simplicity of heart that was it's own ticket of admission", "easy money in the vicinity" --> illustrate all the stereotypes at the time
  • "dancing", "superior couples", "fashionably", "hilarity had increased", "laughter rose", all suggest that the time was a period of liberality and freedom, happiness and joy
  • "significant, elemental, and profound" - i think this quote illustrates what many thought of the decade however it cannot be generalised to everyone
  • It was post-war therefore lives had been lost, not everyone experienced the Jazz Age as such, is this Fitzgerald's view or Nick's?
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"Oranges and lemons" arrive on Friday and leave on "Monday" a "pyramid of pulpless halves"

This could symbolise the guests themselves--> they arrive vibrant, vivacious and leave drain after the party?

Owl eyes:

  • "stout, middle-aged man", "enormous owl-eyed spectacles", "somewhat drunk"
  • amazed that the books are "absolutely real" with "pages and everything"-->at the time people would by spines of books so they appeared aristocratic and knowledgeable, suggesting there is more to Gatsby then just a persona? OR could it illustrate the level of effort he puts into his persona?
  • He could be used as a foil by Fitzgerald to illustrate more about Gatsby's character
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Characterisation of Jordan:

  • "contemptuous interest"
  • "impersonally"
  • "lost in the finals the week before"
  • "slender golden arm"
  • "sauntered about"

From the quotes in the chapter we, as a reader, develop an extended idea of her personality. She still appears pompous and supercilious, perhaps and indication of how Fitzgerald viewed women at the time, however, we also learn more about her work background.

As she is not obsessed with Gatsby as so many other characters are, i think, it makes us more sympathetic towards her and we warm to her character.

"He's just a man named Gatsby"

This quote suggests that she just views him as a man, not by the elaborate storied told.

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Characterisation of Gatsby:

Before meeting him there is an air of ambiguity over him and his history:

  • He sent a woman a "new evening gown" because she "tore" hers-chivalrous?
  • "something funny" about him
  • "he was a German spy"
  • "in the American army"
  • "killed a man"
  • "whispers about him"
  • "romantic speculation he inspired"

Fitzgerald, by placing Nick as the narrator, has ensured that we learn about Gatsby the same way Nick does, through other characters' opinions of him. This ambiguity creates tension and suspense within the reader. This may be Fitzgerald's way of experimenting with the characerisation of different characters.

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Characterisation of Gatsby:

Meeting Gatsby: He is introduced in an extremely nonchalant way, atypical for a main character

  • "I'm Gatsby", "I thought you knew"
  • Nick's views on him: "quality of eternal reassurance", "irrisistable prejudice", "seemed to face-the whole eternal world"
  • "elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd" due to the constant use of "old sport"-attempting to be aristocratic? facade?
  • "Chigago was calling"-influential, important?
  • "Oxford man" expected to be "florid and corpulent"
  • "grew more correct as the fraternal hilarity increased"-would expect it to be the opposite, perhaps he isn't enjoying it as much as them, we question why he would hold a party if he didn't enjoy it?
  • "no-one swooned backward on Gatsby"-reader feels sympathy
  • "tightened" into "formality" when "people appeared"-suggests he alters his manner in front of certain people, it matters what they think of him
  • Being introduced to Gatsby in this way heightens the readers interest as we discover, with Nick, about him and his past and are intrigued the entire time.
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Themes throughout this chapter include:

  • HOPE


  • LOVE




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