The Great Gatsby-Chapter 2

Setting and characterisation in Chapter 2 of The Great Gatsby

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Use of setting:

The valley of ashes:

  • "hastily" moving away to "shrink" from the "desolate land"-in a rush to get away from the old way of life3 and move toward the excitement of New York
  • "valley of ashes"-ashes connote death
  • "ashes grow like wheat"-uncontrollable?
  • ashes take the form of "houses and chimneys and rising smoke"-consuming everything around it, suffpocating, claustrophobic
  • "transcendant effort, of men"-even encapsulates the men who are there
  • "dimly", "crumbling", "powdery"-everything breaking down and imploding, languidly moving through life-->contrasts idea of new monet and jazz age-->Fitzgerald suggesting not everyone enjoyed the 20s?
  • "gray cars" and "invisible track"-indifferent, apathetic, neutral-no visible sign of where to go
  • "impentetrable cloud", "screens their obsure operations from sight"-the work they do is not seen or appreciated by people
  • valley is "bounded" by a "small foul river"-constricted, trapped, isolated
  • passengers "stare at the dismal scene"-looking in at a different culture, only have
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The use of setting:

to see it for "half an hour" but they have to live with it forever

Doctor T.J Eckleburg:

  • "eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg"
  • "blue and gigantic"- first colour mentioned, stands out, conspicuous
  • "no face", "yellow spectacles", "nonexistent nose"-eyes prominent
  • "external blindness"
  • Could represent the middle-class overlooking the working-class
  • God judging American society?

Use of pathetic fallacy:

  • Tom slid from the "grey" station to the "glowing station"-valley of ashes to glorious new money
  • Nick sitting at the end of the night-"cold lower level"
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Characterisation of Tom:

He was "insisted upon wherever he was known"-bragging, supercilious

"aquantances resented" him-illustrates he is not well liked, pompous

Nick had "no desire to meet her" yet Tom insisted almost "violently"

He exchanges a "frown with Doctor Eckleburg"-puts himself of par with Doctor Eckleburg, arrogant

Buys Myrtle a dog at "ten dollars" just to impress her-materialistic


Initial characterisation is extended and reinforced in this chapter.

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Characterisation of Wilson:

Garage mirrors him:

  • "interior was unprosperous and bare", "dust-covered wreck"-working class, connotes poverty
  • "shadow of a garage"-not even a garage, less than tangible, worthless

Initial characterisation:

  • "spiritless", "anaemic", "faintly handsome"-sympathetic readers,view him as pathetic?
  • "damp gleam of hope"
  • Myrtle walked through him "as if he were a ghost"-he's invisible, not tangible, barely a prescence
  • "mingling immediately with the cement colours of the walls", "veiled"-hidden, not seen, disappears in the background
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Characterisation of Myrtle:

Inital impressions created:

  • "thickish figure"
  • "middle thirties"
  • "faintly stout"-for a modern reader not the typical idea of beauty however in the 20s fuller woman connoted health and wealth
  • "carried her flesh sensuously", "gleam of beauty"-from the perspective of Tom maybe?
  • walked through Wilson-doesn't appreciate him, believes herself above him?
  • "rather wide hips"
  • "haughtily"-pompous yet she's working-class
  • "influence of the dress" her personality underwent a change-->"disdain"-materialistic
  • "implying that a dozen chefs awaites her orders"-acting above her social class
  • She appears to be reaching above her social class, wanting to gain social mobility through Tom
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Impressions of the other cahracters:

Mr and Mrs Mckee and Catherine-all used as foils to illustrate the culture of the upper class at the time

"It's his wife that keeps them apart. She's a catholic"-Daisy is not a catholic therefore it is a lie, assuming that it is Daisy's fault, pompous

"you can't live forever"-concept of time prominent in the era

"artificial laughter"-the people are artificial? they are fake, pompous, arrogant, materialistic, supercilious, egotistical etc

The laughter is articial which could suggest their happiness is artifical and money cannot buy you happiness

Themes: wealth, arrogance, class.

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this is amazing thank you!

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