The Great Gatsby Chapter One
Quick Quiz How much can you remember? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. From where did the narrator come and why? What is Nick’s house like? What is the difference between the 2 locations? How does Nick know Daisy and Tom? What sport did Tom play? What part of Daisy was bruised? Who telephones during dinner? What flower does Daisy compare Nick to? What was Gatsby looking out at?
l The narrator, Nick Carraway is writing a book about his experiences in the East. l He tells us little about his own origins, except that he is a descendent of the Dukes of Buccleuch. l Nick tells us that he has served in WW 1 and that it has had an impact on his life so he moves East to get a job in the bond business.
Nick recounts a visit to the house of Tom Buchanan, a friend from Yale, and his wife Daisy, (Nick’s cousin). Tom is an archetypal alpha male: he is strong, extremely wealthy and aggressive. He also has racist views. l As the evening draws to a close, Nick catches his first glimpse of the eponymous Gatsby; he is staring, almost transfixed, at a green light at the end of the Buchanan’s dock. l
Nick’s Function l Both observer and participant. Be aware of not only what he discloses about others, but also about himself. We see the events of the novel through his eyes. l What are his values and ideals? l We must keep this in mind as he is not an impartial narrator!
Daisy – First Impressions She comes across simultaneously as somewhat false but also truthful (“I hope she’ll be a fool”). Daisy’s main flaw is that she is intelligent enough to see how aimless and shallow her entire existence is yet won’t do anything to change. Her growth as a human has been halted and she is indeed “pparalysed”. l Almost immediately we are made aware that Tom is having an affair, reinforcing a central theme that everything from the outside looks perfect but the real truth is far from perfection. l
Daisy First Impressions “I hope she’ll be a fool…a beautiful little fool!” Her relationship with her daughter seems empty of natural affection and empathy but she has enough intelligence to accept that her life is meaningless and she doesn’t want her daughter to realise that her life will be the same. l “I’m p-paralysed with happiness” Seems to be a contradiction. Shows how lifeless she is and has so little energy to show any real feelings. l
Setting Chapter one introduces the reader to the two main settings: West Egg and East Egg. l These settings are very important as they help to establish the characters and also link in with the main themes of the novel. l They are also symbolic of different class systems in America (the supposedly classless society). l
TASK l Find two quotes which describe each Egg and explain what they tell you about the setting. l Explain what these two settings symbolise in terms of class and The American Dream.
West Egg and East Egg Chapter one introduces the reader to both West Egg and East Egg and establishes the symbolic significance of both. l West Egg represents ‘new money’, ostentatious and flashy, whereas East Egg represents ‘old money’, established and genuine. l One represents the aspiring class, the other the established, upper middle-class. l
The Eggs and the American Dream The eggs are very different – Nick refers to the ‘sinister contrast’ between them. l East Egg (T & D) – Fashionable, houses families with long-established generations of wealth – the ‘royalty’ of New York. l West Egg, - no less splendid: white palatial mansions - Wealth is everywhere. The reason that West Egg is ‘less fashionable’ is because the inhabitants have not been born into wellestablished ‘money’ families. l Gatsby – among others on West Egg – is part of the ‘nouveau riche’ that is, he has made his fortune from scratch, emerging from a natural state of poverty to become a ‘self-made man’. l
Gatsby and the Green Light At the edge of his dock, Gatsby is seen to be holding out his arms and trembling. He is gesturing towards a: Single green light, minute and far away coming from the edge of Daisy’s dock on East Egg. l This light and Gatsby’s gesture has great symbolic resonance throughout the rest of the novel. l What do you think it represents? l
What does the green light represent? Most simply, it represents Daisy – whom he has loved for years. l It could represent money – green is (traditionally) the colour of money in America and the dock is in East Egg, which is very rich. l Alternatively, green can represent jealously and this could indeed by applied to Gatsby’s desire to be part of East Egg and to be just like them, while knowing that he will never be good enough. l By placing this episode at the end of the chapter, Fitzgerald effectively foreshadows Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy Buchanan and delays his introduction to the novel. By painting a comprehensively damning portrait of her character in this chapter, he questions the very wisdom of Gatsby’s love. l
Main Themes l East vs. West l Old world vs. New world ideals l The fallacy of the American Dream vs. the inherent hopefulness of it l Illusion vs. reality