The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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45 ‘On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’œuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold.’ – The sense of magical transformation is strong, so that ‘turkeys’ are not roasted but turned golden by enchantment. Just for a moment, the reader might even see real pigs made of pastry, while the ‘harlequin designs’ suggest the fantastic world of pantomime and the Commedia dell'arte. A ‘pastry pig’ or ‘pig in a blanket’ is a cocktail sausage wrapped in pastry – similar to a small sausage roll.

46 ‘gins and liquors and…cordials…long forgotten’ – Gatsby is set during the period of Prohibition (which ended in 1933). Although a Federal Law, individual States did little to enforce it, and Gatsby is, of course, holding ‘private’ parties.

46 ‘By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived’ – The reader hardly notices the shift from simple past to the perfect tense. The first present tense verb comes in the next sentence with ‘are dressing upstairs’ and the dream-like immediacy of the present is used up until Nick interrupts his own narration on page 47 with ‘I believe that on the first night…’

46 ‘shawls beyond the dreams of Castile.’ – Fitzgerald refers to the traditional brightly-coloured mantones of Spain.

46 ‘The bar is in full swing’ – The disorientating effect of the present tense narration of this passage and the magical quality of Fitzgerald’s description, continue, to an extent, the theme of inebriation that began with Nick’s drunken binge at the end of Chapter Two.

46 ‘floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside’ – More slightly surreal and ambiguous language: the cocktails seem to float of their own accord – they are carried, presumably, on round salvers and also constitute many ‘rounds’ of drinks. Finally, they become a kind of alcohol mist that penetrates to every corner of the mansion’s grounds.

46 ‘The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun’ – The sense that the earth is spinning beneath the guests adds to the disorienting effect – as does the word ‘lurches’. There is also the strangeness in the immense contrast of scale between Gatsby’s garden and the world itself – almost as thought Gatsby’s garden has become the whole world.

46 ‘yellow cocktail music’ – A synesthetic effect, which adds a further element to the reader’s sense of disorientation.

46 ‘the opera of voices pitches a key higher’ – A sense here of growing excitement, of grandeur and fantasy.

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F. Scott Fitzgerald
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul