The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Notes on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitgerald. This set of Tower Notes is 107 pages long and is sold as a fully illustrated PDF file with footnotes.

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A free sample, text only, is provided below drawn from some of the opening, middle and later chapters of the book.

INTRODUCTION: THE GLAMOUR OF AMBIGUITY

All page references are to the Penguin Popular Classics edition .
A famous study of 1947 by the poet and critic William Empson discusses ‘Seven Types of Ambiguity’ , but the total with regard to The Great Gatsby might well be a significantly higher number than this. Empson doesn’t consider, for instance, the more general ambiguities of character, theme and narration that are obviously features of Fitzgerald’s novel; however, the sort of textual details that Empson does write about – metaphors, oxymorons and the like – are a good place to begin a discussion of the whole theme of ambiguity in The Great Gatsby . Such devices, in fact, frequently inform the detailed texture of Fitzgerald’s prose, full, as it is, of ambiguous modifiers and strange surrealistic phraseology.

An example that will be familiar to many readers is Fitzgerald’s use of the adjective ‘blue’. In the course of the novel, the reader first encounters the word in ‘blue honey’ (40), a phrase describing the ‘late afternoon sky’ viewed from Tom and Myrtle’s flat, and then he or she learns of the ‘blue gardens’ (45) that surround Gatsby’s mansion and of the ‘robin’s egg blue’ (47) of his chauffeur’s uniform. Then a dress chosen by Gatsby is ‘gas blue’ (49) in colour. On page 92, Daisy’s hair appears to have turned blue: ‘A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek’; on page 124, the ‘white wings’ of a boat move ‘against the blue cool limit of the sky;’ on page 158, birds sing ‘among the blue leaves’ of a tree; on page 184, Nick includes the ‘blue smoke of brittle leaves’ among the things that impel him back to the Middle West. Gatsby’s lawn is still ‘blue’ on the last page of the book (188).

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F. Scott Fitzgerald