Hi, could I please get some feedback on my Gatsby essay? Thanks :-)

Question - Deliberately crafted imagery in a written text is more important than its storyline.

Materialism is merely another term for consequential greed. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s morality tale, ‘The Great Gatsby’, crafted imagery through symbolism and motif is essential to developing the argument that greed has ultimately corrupted the American Dream. This vivid visual representation through motifs ie dust motif, Valley of Ashes and Eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, is arguably more important in portraying such a message than the storyline as a whole.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his magnum opus during the height of the 1920s in America, a period of time known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’, and the ‘Jazz Age’. It was a time when economic prosperity was at an all-time high and the ‘upperclasses’ of society ‘lived large’ with magnificent properties and opulent properties. It was also the time of the ‘American Dream’, a dream of betterment, creating one’s own version of success. A success that Fitzgerald believed had been corrupted, therefore it was his intention to make his reader aware of such corruption.

The dust motif is essential to emphasising the premise of Fitzgerald’s use of crafted imagery. The dust motif is symbolic of the destruction of the dreams of the common man, while also holding connotations of hopelessness, desolation and loss. All important ideas used by Fitzgerald to emphasise the death of the American Dream and what remains in its wake. This can be seen in, 'what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams’. This is mentioned at the beginning of the novel in relation to Jay Gatsby (protagonist). It essentially foreshadows the death of his ‘common’ version of the American Dream.

The use of the term foul before dust is an interesting move by Fitzgerald as it provides intriguing imagery. Foul often comes with deeply negative connations, ie unappealing, disgusting, unwanted etc. Fitzgerald uses this crafted imagery to emphasise that the American Dream has been corrupted in the most horrid way. Ultimately greed has overtaken what was once a dream that was pure at its core. A dream that would have allowed people to find their place in society. The use of imagery of ‘foul dust’ by Fitzgerald indicates that this is no longer possible, the common man must remain common. He is unable to dream for more. Thus highlighting the true depth of social disparity. Fitzgerald’s use of crafted imagery in this way is arguably more important than the storyline as a whole as it offers a deeper, more concentrated view of the consequences of greed and materialism. One that is significantly more poignant to the reader, particularly his 1920s audience.

The dust motif is also reflected in the death of Myrtle Wilson, (lived in the Valley of Ashes, and had an affair with a married man). Myrtle was another ‘common’ character who believed in the American Dream and moving her way up the social ladder. However, her dream ultimately results in her death, 'her life violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mingled her thick dark blood with the dust’. This image highlights Fitzgerald’s point that greed has corrupted the American Dream. No matter how hard the average, ‘common’ person works; blood, sweat and tears will no longer move them up the social ranks of society. ‘Lowerclasses’ cannot become ‘Upperclasses’, the greed of the Upperclasses dooms them to failure. Through the crafted imagery, Fitzgerald questions his audience about their own views. Do their money and ‘statuses’ mean that they do not acknowledge the suffering, the blood of others? Has their greed blinded them to what is right in front of them? Fitzgerald argues that the greedy pursuit of wealth is blinding. In this respect, the argument could be made that Fitzgerald’s use of crafted imagery is more important that the storyline as a whole as it leaves a lasting impact on his audience. One which explains in great detail the true corruption of a once prized dream.

The setting of the Valley of Ashes is vital to the crafted imagery that Fitzgerald uses to depict the corrupted American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is a barren wasteland described as, 'a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens’. This provides imagery of a desolate location with an air of hopelessness. What is most important for crafted imagery, however, is the deliberate juxtaposition of ‘fantastic’ and ‘grotesque’. This juxtaposition highlights the pride by which humanity pursues the wealth that has ultimately led to their destruction. ‘Fantastic’ indicates something that is tremendous, remarkable, great etc, whereas grotesque tends to have more negative connotations ie distorted, deformed, and abnormal.

Essentially, what Fitzgerald suggests through this is a dream which was once great, once ‘fantastic’ has been transformed by the greed of humanity, a ‘grotesque’ change that has led to something much darker, much more disparing. This chaos and destruction of the American Dream has resulted in something that, much like the Valley of Ashes, people choose to ignore. Nick Carraway is a perfect example of this, ‘When I rode the train that morning and saw the ashheaps…I deliberately crossed to the otherside of the car’. Fitzgerald makes the point through his crafted imagery that their dream, once fantastic, has become distorted by their own materialistic greed. No longer does enough mean enough - humanity has gone beyond the limit. Fitzgerald argues the consequences are too great. Thus the imagery has a greater impact than the storyline for it is through deliberate imagery that Fitzgerald is able to develop a deeper purpose and meaning for his readers.

The final motif used by Fitzgerald to establish crafted imagery in ‘The Great Gatsby’ is the Eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg. Through George Wilson, (a mechanic in the Valley of Ashes), Fitzgerald introduces the eyes and gives them their symbolic nature. ‘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 Eckcleburg’. The crafted imagery from this comes from the feeling that the eyes are looming over, surveying the land. Such is the interpretation made by Wilson. Wilson belives that the eyes are representative of God’s eyes looking down on the moral wasteland that is America. He (God) will judge them for the personal and environmental cost that their greed in search of the American Dream has caused. Fitzgerald argues that one day, there will come a day where people will have to face the repercussions of their actions. Greed comes at a great personal cost, one which people will only have themselves to blame for. Wilson states at one point, ‘God sees everything’ in reference to the eyes of Doctor T.J. A rather poignant quote that further emphasises this point made by Fitzgerald. The imagery created by the eyes has a much greater and lasting impact for the readers as they are able to draw this otherworldly connection, one which forces them to look at their own actions.

Overall, I strongly agree that deliberately crafted imagery in a written text is more important that its storyline. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a text which contains many motifs and symbols that provide fantastic imagery. This allows Fitzgerald to explores his themes, ie the Corruption of the American Dream, through vivid visual representation. That is to say, in a way in which the majority of his audience would be able to absorb the meaning that he was trying to portray. This is far more important than the storyline as a whole.

Kia ora bmack

Lots of good stuff here - a very strong essay overall.

Look carefully at your structure - you split lots of paragraphs that really are about the same idea and eg and should be together. Eg the paragraphs starting “The dust motif is essential to emphasising” and “The use of the term foul before dust is an interesting move” should be together.

Aside from that - this is an excellent essay with insight and perception and a sense of evaluation of the author’s purpose - well done!

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Awesome, thank you for your feedback. I had the paragraphs together originally but I wasn’t sure if they would end up being too long so I split them. However seeing your thoughts on it have helped a lot with that, so thank you very much!!