The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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52 ‘The fella’s a regular Belasco.’ – A reference to David Belasco (1853-1931) a Jewish playwright and impresario who was a major force in the New York theatrical scene during the period. Belasco was famous for going to extraordinary lengths to create the illusion of realism in his theatre sets – even going to the extent of introducing appropriate scents into the auditorium! Gatsby, Owl-eyes implies, has gone to similar trouble to create his illusion. There is a subtext of references to theatre and vaudeville throughout this chapter: Joe Frisco, Gilda Gray and the Follies have all been name-checked, and now David Belasco is mentioned. On the next page ‘the girls in yellow’ turn out to be a vaudeville act.

52 ‘old men pushing young girls backwards in eternal graceless circles’ – There is something faintly suggestive and disturbing about the image.

53 ‘a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps.’ – These are, presumably, paid dancers and entertainers employed by Gatsby to create an appropriate mood of jollification. The ‘traps’ are ‘percussion instruments or devices (e.g. wood-blocks, whistles) used to produce a variety of special effects’ ( O.E.D. – Gatsby provides the first recorded instance).

53 ‘A celebrated tenor had sung in Italian, and a notorious contralto had sung in jazz’ – Something for every taste. Note the playful antithesis.

53 ‘The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales, trembling a little to the stiff, tinny drip of the banjoes on the lawn.’ – The magic mingles sound and image creating a wonderful melange: ‘risen higher’, ‘Sound’, ‘triangle’, ‘scales’ are all phrases or words with musical connotations. Fitzgerald adds sibilance (‘Sound…silver scales’) and assonance (‘stiff, tinny drip’) to add to the rich ambiguity of a sentence in which a sound can ‘drip’ and a ‘triangle of scales’ can ‘tremble’.

53 ‘a man about my age’ – There is nothing intrinsically extraordinary about Gatsby. He makes himself extraordinary – and others help him by contributing their own fantasies to the mythical figure he is fast becoming. The idea of a ‘melancholy Gatsby’ who doesn’t attend his own parties has so taken hold that the notion is worth dispelling. He obviously does attend his parties in the novel (though not in the film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola) and Fitzgerald never describes him as being noticeably melancholy.

53 ‘We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France.’ – Nick and Gatsby’s friendship is based on an important shared experience. It is interesting that Gatsby remembers Nick and not the other way around. The idea of Nick being rather a striking individual is again implied.

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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