Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Question Three: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: on beginnings

After reading the novel, reread the first two pages of chapter one (from "In my younger..." to "short-winded elations of men"). Authors don't merely start a novel. Thought goes in to the first words of a piece of literature. Why do you think Fitzgerald chose to begin chapter one with these thoughts from the narrator, Nick Carraway? How does this serve as an introduction to the novel as a whole? After reading the book, what new light is shed on these first words? Put yourself in Fitzgerald's shoes. How would you have started The Great Gatsby?

You will respond to this question by leaving a comment on this post. 
Responses should be at least 250 words each.
Remember: you must respond to at least 4 questions per novel. 
Extra credit will be awarded if you respond to more than 4 questions.

*and remember, this is a blog--write with good English and use your inner intellectual, but speak casually!


  1. This is a tough cookie, Sister. I want a cookie. You posted this at 2:34. Whoa. Okay, insight starting…Now! Fitzgerald begins his novel with Nick Carraway describing how he was brought up in terms of judgment. His father taught him to never pass judgment on another. He was inclined to reserve all his criticisms on others. He says, “I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since”. This insinuates that Nick is not necessarily uncertain about the advice his father gave him, but it does let the reader know that it is something that he has contemplated for years. This talk on judgment was a brilliant way for Fitzgerald to begin his beautiful novel. It foreshadowed the events that Nick would ultimately become a judge figure in. He was not of the rich and fancy world that Daisy, Tom, and Gatsby lived in. They were all caught up in a love triangle with Myrtle on the side, and Nick was a friend looking upon the disaster. He had been taught not to pass judgment, so you never really see him outwardly judging them and calling them down for their actions—his silence could have been what killed Gatsby. If Nick had said something, would Gatsby had been in his car with Daisy, which resulted in Myrtle’s death? Then her husband would have never put that bullet in Gatsby. Nick was taught that judgment was a bad thing. But maybe in this case, it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Maybe it wouldn’t have been judgment at all. It would have been constructive criticism. Maybe that’s all they needed in order to save Gatsby, who had no idea that his life was in danger. I honestly would not have started this novel any other way. Fitzgerald knew exactly what he was doing. He was introducing an important moral that would be shown throughout the entire book. On the second page of the first chapter, Nick does admit that he had passed judgment on Gatsby. He never did anything about it. And maybe that was his downfall, even though it is so minuet compared to the love triangle’s downfall. Up until I read this question, I hadn’t grasped the fact that judgment was such a big deal in this novel. Nick had been burdened with so many secrets in his lifetime due to his nonjudgmental nature, which anyone would see as a good thing, but it ultimately hurt Nick and everyone around him.

  2. These first two pages of The Great Gatsby describe the details of the narrator, Nick Carraway. Here we learn why anyone like Nick Carraway would even be interested in a man like Gatsby. Nick clearly states that normally he is not interested in men like Gatsby. He says, “Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction –Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.” The purpose of this introduction to the book is to show the reader the purpose of why the book was written under the point of view of Nick. These first few paragraphs let the reader know that the only reason that Nick, someone who dislikes snobs, would write about Gatsby is because Gatsby is someone special. Nick Carraway describes Gatsby as a man where “there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related tone of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away”. Without an introduction that shows the purpose of the novel, it would be harder to understand the purpose of the book. Foreshadowing took an important role in these first few sentences also. When Nick describes what his father taught him, like when he was taught to reserve all judgments, we know that he would be challenged once he met Gatsby. Even though Gatsby seems to be a rich party-thrower, he has somewhat of a good heart meaning the best for his friends.

    Edward Amos

  3. I was actually hoping you'd touch on this in one of your questions! The opening in many ways shows the conclusions of the Narrator, Nick Carroway comes to as a result of the story. It's almost as if the story is inverted, and this is a good thing. Simply Fitzgerald attempts to personalize the story through the eyes of someone else rather than his. The thoughts of Carroway also put into perspective the bigger picture, and that this is not just about him and his life, and that only what he knows is written in the account. Moreover it is about the people of the twenties and his observations of the evils that prevailed throughout the story. Once the reader has finished this novel certain thoughts given in the beginning are explained through example and the story. Carroway calls himself young and basically naive to have been a part of some of the events that unfolded in the story. In the case of the Great Gatsby words especially are meaningful at every point but especially at the beginning. At first the analogies and thoughts didnt mean all that much to me. However after reading the novel through, it was clear what was meant by the thoughts and the intricacy of Fitzgerald writing style. If given the chance to re-write the beginning; I'd probably destroy its great writing, unknowingly! I wouldn’t change a thing or re-word it, due to the fact that despite my contribution, any additional wording could ruin it and its style.

  4. I think Fitzgerald chose to start the book the way he did for just the same reason we are answering this question, for people after they had finished the novel to come back and reread the first few pages to give new meaning to the book. It serves as an introduction to the novel because it doesn’t just open the novel it tells us that it is being written after all the events have already happened. The opening shows us that Nick Carraway is an educated man. I can’t think of any other way I would have started the novel. Fitzgerald does a phenomenal job in starting it. I enjoyed the mini prologue and it helped get me into the book. After reading the book the part of the opening that stands out to me the most is when Nick says, “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.” After reading the book that line speaks volumes as to nicks character throughout the novel. I like the way Fitzgerald make it seem like Nick is much older in the prologue by saying things such as “ in my younger and more vulnerable years” and how it seems like he is writing it long after the fact when he is actually writing it soon after the events had taken place. The opening of The Great Gatsby is part of what make this book a classic and there is nothing I would change about it.

  5. Nick Carraway, the narrator, is a middle aged man in his late 20’s to early 30’s. He was born and raised in Minnesota. In the summer of 1922, Nick moves to New York to work in the bond business. I believe Fitzgerald started The Great Gatsby with the thoughts of Nick Carraway to inform the reader of Nick’s moral stands. It is important to understand why and how Nick thinks because his views and thoughts of all the other characters and scenes are innermost in The Great Gatsby. Explaining how Nick was raised and brought up, with a different level of moral code, is Fitzgerald’s way of giving the reader an understanding and general awareness as to understanding the story through Nick Carraway’s eyes. I think that without this type of character introduction, the rest of the novel would be harder to understand because everything is through Nick’s point of view. Without understanding Nick, you can’t understand Nick’s view points. After reading the whole novel, it is obvious that Gatsby really meant something to Nick in a way that other morally “unequal” people would not have. It is almost as if Nick is sharing this story because he is trying to find solace and understanding. Nick eventually returns to the Midwest because New York was so much less morally decent as opposed to what he is used to. Nick thinks of himself as having a higher moral code than most and this little adventure in New York seems to have left a bad taste in his mouth for city living. I think Fitzgerald nailed it by giving the rough character sketch of Nick in the beginning of the story. He left room for Nick to grow through the story but gave just enough information for the reader to understand and maintain interest.

  6. Follow me here, this is good. Fitzgerald has a grand novel where our "tour guide" (Carraway) walks us through the aristocratic life of New Yorkers chasing a false American Dream in the 1920`s. Fitzgerald has set up a story that would successfully convey a message (the falseness of the materialistic "American dream") to all readers on one condition: that they stay "with" their "tour guide" Carraway, in that they view, and judge, the events around him as he does. In other words, If Fitzgerald can get readers to accept Carraway as like-minded to themselves, thus viewing the plot as Nick does, Fitzgerald will be successful.

    Fitzgerald has a monumental roadblock in performing this task. If Nick Carraway simply dives into this careless, lustful, and drunken life where the novel takes place (and Carraway must be to narrate the way he does), the reader will immediately distance himself from Carraway, thinking, "I wouldn`t have done that... this Carraway character is much different than I am." So, do you see Fitzgerald`s problem? Carraway needs to be in party-world to narrate this novel, the reader needs to be with Carraway, yet for the reader to be with Carraway, Carraway can`t love party-land. I really hope you are following me, because I`m proud of how I`ve figured this out. SO... the opening two pages serve to DISTANCE Nick from the life he`s about to enter by offering AN EXCUSE.

    In order to soften the shock of entering into this crazy party life, Carraway says things like, "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven`t had the advantages you`ve had" or "Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope", and even states that he boasts of his tolerance.

    BOOM. Fitzgerald has done it. In effect, Nick says, "I know what I`m about to get into is wrong... I`ve just been kind enough to reserve judgements and give people the benefit of the doubt." And that`s logical. We empathize with that excuse, plunging us into a sketchy plot line hand-in-hand with our like-minded tour guide, Nick Carraway.

    After reading the novel, I realize it worked. I was friends with Nick and agreed with him because that was the thing to do. If i was given the chance to re-write the beginning, I wouldn`t have been NEARLY as clever as that, thus failing to convey the message, thus wasting the rest of this classic novel.

  7. "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." After reading this statement again, it sort of sets the story up. It is an odd way to begin a story. It reminded me (nerd moment) of Spider Man's Uncle Ben, and his famous phrase, "With great power, comes great responsibility." It sort of sets the audience up. Its advice that Nick carried throughout his life and it just churned in his head. Fitzgerald just jumps right into describing the narrator. I personally think that Fitzgerald likes to describe characters more than anything else in the writing process. He likes detail. He describes the characters and their living styles in a very well written way.

    I like how it says "Gatsby turned out all right in the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men."

    It makes so much more sense when you re-read these first two pages. He seemed to have a different view of Gatsby at the beginning and toward the end he sort of saw Gatsby a little bit differently. I think that Fitzgerald set it up like this to make people look over the beginning again and fully grasp what he was talking about. I am now using this very last sentence to put me at exactly 250 words. :)

  8. After reading the first two pages of The Great Gatsby, it makes so much more sense why Nick Carraway is so amazing in character. When I first read the opening, I was a bit confused and kind of skipped over it. Most of the characters in the book are shallow and like to judge people. They are all rich and gaudy. Knowing Nick’s background and the marvelous advice that his father has given him when he states “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” It brings the whole plot into perspective. Fitzgerald starts the book off secretly telling all of us exactly what is going on and why Nick is such a perfect narrator. Nick tries to keep his judgments to himself if he has any. Unlike the other spoiled rich people of his time, Nick was raised in such a way to appreciate what he has and not look down on others if they are not like him and have not had the same opportunities. Because of this, he is able to deal with the craziness of Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom’s world. Part of the trouble all of them faced may have been able to be avoided if Nick hadn’t kept his thoughts to himself. He even admits to judging Gatsby, but he never really calls him out on all the wrong that he is doing. Fitzgerald started The Great Gatsby in a rather clever and perfect way. There is no way that I would be able to right anything near as stupendous as he has. If I even tried to start this book off from scratch or just try to remake a beginning, I would absolutely ruin it. I would not change a thing.

  9. The beginning statements of "The Great Gatsby" are very informative to the heart, philosophy, and conclusions of Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book. From a first person point of view, all through the book, Nick verbalizes his thoughts on the lifestyle and the actions of those he came in contact with while living in West Egg. The introduction of the book gives a little bit of background of his father’s wisdom directed toward Nick and some conclusions about life after experiencing months of living near Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and other early eighteenth century characters mentioned in the book.
    Nick tells the reader in the introduction that his father had always told him that when criticism of others crossed his mind to “remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” This suggestion imposed on Nick caused him not to judge others and led him to becoming friends with many differing personalities.
    Nick Carraway goes on to tell us that, after spending time in West Egg and with its inhabitants that he wants the world to be upright, moral, and attentive to orderliness and formality. He did leave one exception to this ideal standard that he sought and this man was Gatsby. In a way, Nick began to feel a compassion and respect for Gatsby that caused him to visualize Gatsby as a figurehead.
    I think that F. Scott Fitzgerald introduced "The Great Gatsby" with Nick Carraway’s thoughts in order to prepare the readers with the experiences about to be explained by Nick that caused him to think in such a different way; wanting the whole world to have a moralistic attitude.
    After completing this book, the reader discovers the traumatic things that happened in the narrator’s time in West Egg to have such views on life. The reader is able to understand why he defends Gatsby’s actions and what “preyed on Gatsby” as mentioned in the introduction. I rather like the introduction to chapter one and to the novel as a whole and if I was the author of the same novel, I think I would have started The Great Gatsby very similarly to the original beginning. If I had not been as clever as Fitzgerald, then I would have probably started the novel with a scene or personal flashback to Nick Carraway’s childhood.