Can I please have feedback on my Gatsby Essay?

2016: Effective writers use images that provoke us.

Great writers use imagery in their texts to provoke the reader. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald provides a strong case for this testimony. The narrative uses this literary device to appeal to the physical senses of the reader and their intrigue to involve them in the story of the American dream and its ultimate tragedy.

The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway, the son of a wealthy family as he mingles with both the old wealth (His cousin Daisy, and her husband Tom Buchanan, as well as their friend Jordan Baker) and the new wealth (Jay Gatsby) in in experience that will lead him to believe that the American Dream is nothing more than that, just a dream.

Fitzgerald transforms Gatsby from a naive and almost immature character to the protagonist of this novel, he carries the fundamental characteristics of a modern tragic hero but is still a cautionary character as he is in an era of realism and valued unimportant things like money and futile addictions more than the important aspects in life. Fitzgerald portrayed his failure to notice the significant value in morality and the development of one’s self by creating images of his unnecessary and purely cosmetic spendings. He does this by using imagery such as the green light, Gatsby’s parties, the Valley of Ashes and the eyes of Dr T.J Eckleburg to remind the reader of the sinister afflictions that are a result of excessive wealth.

A source of imagery that is used in this novel is Gatsby’s lavish and over-the-top parties, which are essentially what makes him a well-known name around the city of New York. These extravagant parties bring 1920s glamour and the plethora of wealth into the spotlight, showing the upper class at its most ostentatiously abundant. Fitzgerald uses imagery to paint a vivid picture of just how ridiculous these events were, as Nick arrives at his first visit he thinks that the people around him ‘conducted themselves according to the rules of behaviour associated with an amusement park’, which implies that Nick isn’t used to the lively atmosphere of the weekly occurrences and this gives the reader the idea that Fitzgerald is indirectly indicating that the guests are boisterous and noisy, and is trying to represent the immoral carelessness that the wealthy posses in this time period. This seemingly materialistic life corresponds with our consumerist behaviour in the 21st century, as 100 years on we still appear to be just as money-orientated as the hedonistic individuals that came before us.

A second well-known moment in this novel is in the first chapter when Nick catches a glimpse of his mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby standing on the end of his dock, stretching his arm out towards what seems to be a green light on the end of another dock across the bay. Gatsby associates this green light with Daisy, and as he reaches toward it in the darkness it acts as a guiding light to lead him to his goal, his American dream. The positive association of his ideal future connects with the colour green, as green is corresponding to rebirth and the start of new life, just as Gatsby wants to achieve.

Throughout the novel, Gatsby’s dream is slowly uncovered to be a delusional deception of his own life and the truth, and the symbolic meaning behind the green light collapses. At the end of the film, when Gatsby has passed, Nick relives the day he first saw his mysterious neighbour on the dock and celebrates his optimism ‘Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther’, at this point, the green light now only exists in Nick’s memory, it is now a symbol and nothing else. Fitzgerald uses the metaphorical and physical sense of the green light to signify the future that we continue to believe is a possibility and the unrealistic dreams that we chase, without realising that they are getting further and further away from us with every step.

A noticeable setting in this novel that provokes thought is the Valley of Ashes, a depressing industrial area of Queens that falls between Long Island and Manhattan. This environment is visualised as being a dark and dirty place covered in grey ash, as the colour grey has its symbolic use within the novel, insinuating the disappearance of hopes and dreams, a juxtaposed setting compared to the affluent societies of the West and East Egg, where the green light resides, as a symbol of aspirations and desires. Fitzgerald refers to the men who work in the Valley of Ashes as ‘ash-grey men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air’, this aids the reader to conceptualize the working class and their struggle against socioeconomic hierarchy. This concept is also another complication that is relevant in today’s society, as the upper class still flaunt their wealth and indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure, and the working class are stuck in a constant destitution cycle, immobilized and underrepresented in a broken civilization.

The ‘Eyes of Dr T.J Eckleburg’, an advertisement for an oculist in Queens whose billboard in the Valley of Ashes has decayed for a long period of time, now only displays the looming faux eyes behind the spectacles. Fitzgerald illustrates the giant, disembodied eyes to give the impression that they are all-seeing and cast judgment on society. Nick vocalizes about the eyes for a brief moment when he and Tom stop to pick up Tom’s mistress, ‘But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J’, Nick’s guilt manifests into a supposed glare from the eyes of Dr T.J Eckleburg, showing that he is the only character in this novel that still has some form of morals, he feels accountable for this misdemeanour despite the fact that he isn’t the one committing the offence.

Often depicted as the eyes of God, they watch over the moral wasteland and witness the fraudulent behaviour that transpires in and out of the Valley of Ashes. The decay of the billboard is just another suggestion that the ad is an example of the emptiness of American consumerism, highlighting that the materialistic tendencies of the roaring ’20s are causing obscured yet enduring damages to the economy and the environment. The only difference in modern-day life is that we are more aware of the detrimental effects we are having on the environment, but we are just too ignorant to realise the consequences. Luckily, there are people like Nick, who feel the guilt and try to steer others away from the destruction and havoc they are causing, but just like the 1920s and the Great Depression, there is going to be an unforeseeable phenomenon that will likely cause a recession in the economy, with devastating effects felt worldwide.

Fitzgerald wanted to explore the idea of the American Dream, and more importantly the decline of it. His work is still very relevant in the modern world, almost 100 years after it was written, as people are just as overindulgent and careless as they were last century. Showing the dark side of the American dream through the account of Gatsby and his forlorn obsession is done with unusual panache by Fitzgerald. As Gatsby’s situation doesn’t apply to all people, it still carries a compelling message that has withstood the test of time. Not everything is as it seems. The American Dream is an illusion, and no one can ever truly be fully happy. This novel projects the hope that is present in this idea of ‘the perfect life’, but shows the moral and social decay that results from this uninhibited pursuit of wealth.

In conclusion, I agree with the statement that great texts use imagery to make us examine ourselves. This novel highlights the one flaw we have carried through many generations that we can’t seem to get rid of. Materialism. Fitzgerald makes us take a look at ourselves and realise that we aren’t much different from Gatsby, maybe not as wealthy or criminal, but we all have unrealistic dreams that never die, but the difference between ourselves and Gatsby is that when the alarm clock of reality goes off, we know it’s time to wake up.


Kiā ora and welcome.
The intro sets up the essay well. Maybe you could have made a bit more of ‘provoke’ - not just ‘appeal’ and ‘involve’ but challenge?
A well written essay, some great vocabulary and well chosen examples which develop your argument.
A great read!
Well done. :+1: