The Great Gatsby Character Revision Notes by Thomas Vanderstichele


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The Great Gatsby Character Revision Notes by Thomas Vanderstichele

  1. 1. Thomas Vanderstichele’s Great Gatsby Revision NotesThe Great GatsbyNick CarrawayNarrative Stance- ‘life is more successful looked at from a single window, after all’, I was within andwithout, simultaneously enchanted and repelled’, ‘they had forgotten me’, ‘Looked back at me,remotely’Narrative stance throughout the novel is mixture of involvement and withdrawalSelf-effacingPresenting eye witness accounts and he’s not saying much about himselfDo we trust him? Is he a reliable narrator?Nick seems to move on the edge of other people’s lives at their whim or commandMoral Consciousness-Sensitively observes what’s going onJudges people where appropriate, and learns from his experiencesEnds the novel a sadder but wiser manHe’s a reliable narrator that undergoes a process of moral growth and therefore in a sensehe is the hero of the novelAmbiguous presence in the novelObtuse and Priggish- ‘I’m one of the few honest people I know’, ‘I’m slow thinking and full of interiorrules that act as brakes on my desires’Obtuse, priggish and self-satisfiedUnperceptive character who shows no real insight into his own motives and who at the endof the novel is as clueless as he was at the beginningHasn’t learnt anythingAmbivalence- ‘I’m inclined to reserve all judgement’, ‘unaffected scorn’, ‘something gorgeous abouthim’He is quite perceptive, he does learn a bit, but in other ways he is rather obtuse and thereare things he doesn’t understandIntriguing, ambivalent and complex characterJay GatsbyIsolation-‘figure emerged from the shadows’, ‘a dim background started to form’, ‘threw dust in youreyes’, Mr Nobody from Nowhere’, ‘skimming hastily through a dozen magazines’Makes him a memorable characterPatchy, hazy by selective deletionShadowy, elusive figure5% of novel is Gatsby’s own words
  2. 2. UnknownReduced direct speechPatched himself together from popular culture and ideas on self-improvementIsolation evident at his partiesDaisy, Tom and Gatsby- ‘following of a grail’, ‘artificial world was redolent with orchids’, ‘colossalvitality of his illusion’, ‘high in the white palace’, ‘golden girl’Idealistic romantic vision which Daisy cannot live up toDaisy is of an artificial world, prefers materialistic security over the romantic GatsbyGatsby has frozen time over the five years since he saw DaisyPushed away by the ‘domineering’ and ‘oppressive’ Tom BuchananTo Gatsby’s eyes daisy is something majestic while it is clear to Nick she is of an artificialworldGatsby tried to reach the green light but metaphorically drowned in the soundGatsby is killed in the process of trying to climb over the class divide which is represented bythe physical Tom Buchanan.Why ‘Great’? - ‘Gatsby turned out alright in the end’, ‘there was something gorgeous about him’,‘you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together’, ‘rotten crowd’, ‘delivered from his purposelesssplendour’Talent of reinvention makes Gatsby GreatGatsby is coloured by Nick as an unreliable narrator-corruption is avoided by Nick‘Great’-magician, mysterious figureQuality of dream that sets him apart from other charactersMartyr of a materialistic societySelective Detail-‘old sport’, ‘quality of eternal reassurance’, ‘pink suit’ , ‘ an oxford man’, ‘elaborateformality of speech’Never given details about his physical appearanceConspicuous consumption-corruption of GatsbyIndividual features that one remembers like smileEvery time we read the novel Gatsby is seen in a different lightChanges his name to reinvent pastGatsby isn’t who he claims he isDaisy BuchananSelective Detail-‘cool’, ‘silver idols’, ‘full of money’, ‘singing compulsion’, ‘a whispered ‘listen’’, ‘thekind of voice you follow’, ‘indiscreet voice’, ‘white’, ‘exhilarating ripple’Fey old English for fairyInnocent and pureSiren-attracts people towards her with her voiceUnattainable object to Gatsby
  3. 3. Valuable and preciousRepresents perfection that Gatsby aspires to attainCharming behaviour is an attempt to get attentionNeedyGatsby, Nick and Tom enchanted by herDaisy’s World-‘artificial world was redolent with orchids’, ‘high in the white palace, the king’sdaughter, and the golden girl ’, ‘above the hot struggles of the poor’, ‘you ought to see the baby’The name Daisy suggests an uncultivated and natural flower. Daisy is in fact the completeopposite.Orchid- artificial and cultivatedFlattered by Gatsby’s loveIgnorant of world below her classMaterialistic, self-absorbed and disloyalUse of hyperbole and pointless stories- lack of depthFear of change from privileged lifeDaisy fails to reach Gatsby’s expectationsDaisy and Tom- ‘careless people’, ‘retreated into their money’, ‘foul dust’, ‘beautiful fool is the bestthing a girl can be in this world’,Convenience and prestigeHas an affair to get back at TomShallow and not innocentGuided by other charactersDominated by TomShe has little control over her lifeWeak victim? Deliberately manipulative?Alternative ViewsJuddith Fetterly- “it is not the dead Gatsby, but the living Daisy that is the scapegoat in this novel’Subject to the consequences of careless peopleTom is physical, ‘hulking’ ‘cruel body’ someone who can smash up thingsDaisy is more delicate and therefore is seen differentlyNick’s portrayal of Tom is accurate but his portrayal of Daisy isn’tNick is misogynist- ‘dishonesty in a woman is a fault that I never blame deeply’Hard to trust Nick’s view hereTom BuchananPhysical Appearance- ‘cruel body’, ‘moving a checker to another square’, ‘the athlete’, ‘hulking’,‘brute’Powerful character-breaks myrtles nose and bruises daisy’s finger
  4. 4. ‘Straw haired’- straw is dry flammable material suggests Tom Buchanan’s volatility as acharacterPersonality- ‘Nice place I’ve got here’, ‘savours of anti-climax’, ‘depressed by a book’EgoistBest days are behind himStupid- fluency and articulation of dialogue often breaks down with Tom (‘fractiousness’)Manner of speech is in contrast to Gatsby’s which ‘bordered on being absurd’Unsympathetic-‘little spree’, ‘intermarriage between black and white’, ‘some woman in New York’,‘women run around too much these days to suit me’RacistSexistAdulterer’ has had many affairs beforeCorruptDetermined to preserve Nordic purity and raceDominance-‘aggressively’, ‘oppressiveness’, ‘it’s up to us the dominant race’dominates the booktype of person that survives everythingforce that shatters Gatsby’s dreamaggressive mannerismsimpenetrable wall of old money from which Gatsby is barredAlternative ViewWe accept Nick’s account of Tom as the antagonist in the plotNick’s novel champions Gatsby and not TomJordan BakerModern Woman–‘young cadet’, ‘absolutely in training’, ‘balancing girl’, ‘it takes two to make anaccident’, ‘bad driver’, ‘wore her dress like sport clothes’Modern, emancipated womanLost femininity – androgynous‘New woman’ who claims advantages of and emancipated lifestyle but retains the traditionaladvantages accorded to a ladyJordan and Baker are two makes of car- new woman increased freedomPracticality- cheated in her first golf tournament‘Balancing girl’ treading a fine line between the new and the oldPhysical Appearance- ‘slender, small breasted girl’, ‘brown tint’Apparently a beautiful young woman
  5. 5. Tan emphasised throughout novel- working womanRelationship with Nick ‘clean hard limited person who dealt in universal scepticism’, ‘wasn’t able toendure being at a disadvantage’, ‘incurably dishonest’Manipulative towards NickLevel of mystery- meeting suggested but never describedJordan brings out emotional depth in Nick which he doesn’t allude to in his self-characterisationCounterpoint to Gatsby’s relationship with NickRole in Novel- ‘balancing girl’, ‘it takes two to make an accident’,Role in novel problematicFoil to DaisyWomen’s status and sexual image is at a point of crisis in the post-war worldMyrtle WilsonVitality-‘immediate perceptible vitality’, ‘sensuously’, ‘as she expanded the room grew smalleraround her’, ‘panting vitality’Lives in fantasy world when with TomVitality juxtaposed to Wilson’s ghostlike appearanceVitality is in contrast with her environmentCoarse voiceMyrtle dreams are in their own way at vital as Gatsby’sOvert, unconcealed sexualitySocial climber- ‘shrill insistence’, ‘regal homecoming glance’, ‘haughtily’, ‘I told that boy about theice’, ‘implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders’Myrtle- fleshy shrub associated to goddess Venus, plant had a tendency to move upwardsTelephone call interrupts dinner, wants to be heard by all, intrusive, brings tension betweenDaisy and TomDestructive characterTries to carve out a larger role in Tom’s life that she is aloudUse of imperative on all characters except TomGrabs at what life has to offerFoil to Daisy- ‘smouldering’, ‘blocked out the light’Daisy is described as ‘cool’While Daisy radiates light Myrtle blocks it outRepresents the ‘hot struggles of the poor’ which Daisy is aboveVictim- ‘tragic achievement’, ‘left breast swinging loose like a flap’
  6. 6. Only sympathetic once she is deadPunished for social ambitionParallel to Gatsby- victim of crossing social divideFoolish to think that Tom loves herDies in Valley of Ashes- her escape plan has failedNot allowed to realise dreamVictim of the callous rich who hold the social and economic powerBreast mutilated, Fitzgerald wants to show America desecrated, mutilated, violatedUnsympathetic- ‘get some chairs’, ‘he wasn’t even fit to lick my shoe’, ‘flounced’Treatment of WilsonAdultererDrama queenGeorge WilsonPhysically weak- ‘pale green colour’, ‘walked right through him’, ‘so dumb he doesn’t know he’salive’, ‘blond spiritless man’Drifting, aimless lifeInferior to other charactersPervasive sense of drift and exhaustion that exists beside the raw vitality of the new ageGhostlike- ‘mingling with the cement colour of the walls’, ‘piece of waste’Wilson has become part of his environment- reflection of his environmentDirty- never clean of worry or anxietyNot regarded as being humanPhysically fades and dissolvedMoral conscious- ‘God sees everything’Society with no values with nothing to support ones moralityMost virtuous and honourable character in novelAmerica is God forsakenRepresents Christian values and faithBears the brunt of societies guilt, he is the scapegoatVictim-‘unprosperous and bare’, ‘damp gleam of hope sprang into his eyes’Victim of new wave of money and rich societyMurderer but virtuousCuckolded but not invited to laugh at himLiving on the dump that people like Daisy and Tom createLink with Gatsby both victim and scapegoatsTom exploits Wilson