Write a critical appreciation of this extract, paying particular attention to its significant at this point in the novel and the ways in which it is written.
“There was…”(Page 41) to “…constantly changing light.” (Page 42)
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths…” This surreal introduction to Gatsby’s summer parties highlights an alarming sense of corruption to the reader. The immediate dreamlike image of the blue gardens proves both glamorous and surreal. The colour blue is used as a symbolic tool. The initial portrayal of men and girls as moths creates a sense of destruction. Moths are attracted to light, which in turn kills them. This image reinforces the idea that there is something threatening about Gatsby’s parties. On the surface Gatsby’s parties seem like the place to be; they are beyond the ideals that people in America in the 1920s dared to dream. Gatsby owned a number of motor vehicles, including a Rolls Royce. These vehicles took the guests to and from the parties. This gives a clear image to the reader that Gatsby was a very wealthy man. The mention of his motor vehicles implies impatience and a constant need for change. Gatsby employs eight servants including an extra gardener to keep his dream parties alive.
“Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York…”
Everything at Gatsby’s parties is in immoderation. The military precision is reinforced by the “Corps of caterers” and the freshly machine squeezed juice. His garden has enough lights to resemble a Christmas tree, his buffet glistens with food, the turkey is “bewitched to a dark gold”, and the orchestra is stunningly brilliant.
The dream quality of their lives shines through but it quickly grows further away from the real world.
“The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun”.
Throughout this passage there are numerous hints of falseness that reinforce corruption to the reader. The immediate mention of champagne and stars involves insignificant reference to glitz and glamour. These references are overshadowed by what seems to the reader as superficiality. The use of light to describe Gatsby’s garden reinforces the artificial idea of magic. This is also created through the surreal description of the “bewitched golden turkey.” The ironic use of the light growing brighter and the orchestra playing “yellow cocktail music” heightens the amount of flowing drink and the superficiality of the party.
Underneath the surreal party, it is incredibly impersonal; throughout the entire passage no other name is mentioned. There is only the referral to the “guests” who indulge in Gatsby’s extravagances and who travel in his motor vehicles to attend his parties. Gatsby’s eight servants and one extra gardener are only spoken of with reference to the jobs that they carry out and the equipment that they use. Their only use is to behave as a machine and to carry out the jobs Gatsby pays them to do. A good example of this is the machine, which can juice two hundred oranges in half an hour,
“If a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb”
The butler is only referred to as the “thumb”. He acts as a machine for the convenience of Gatsby and his guests and the orchestra is simple referred to as the instruments. His guests were spoken of as his rooms being filled with “primary colours, and hair bobbed in strange new ways, and shawls…” giving the reader just a blur of people who lack identity with voices and laughter. Even the women at Gatsby’s parties include themselves in “enthusiastic meetings…who never knew each others names”. Fitzgerald uses this lack of identity to add to the superficiality of Gatsby’s parties and lost dream he insists not to let go of.
Not only is destruction symbolised through describing the guests as moths, but also through, the description of the males as men and females as girls. This emphasises a sense of immorality at the dream-like parties and gives a hint to what is beneath the romantic character that Gatsby portrays. A number of times there is the referral of “men” and young “girls”. This becomes evident to the reader when Nick hints at Gatsby’s wealth. He describes the ‘real brass rail set’ that is stocked with varieties of alcohol, “most of his female guests were too young to know one from another”.
This entire passage is written in a very floral fashion, every description of what happens at Gatsby’s parties contains incredible detail. Fitzgerald gives us a sense of being able to “feel” the parties through the use of light and colour; giving symbolism to the reader. The use of colour intensifies emotion and allows the reader to become closer to the passage. Throughout the passage the colour “yellow” is used. This lively colour catches the reader’s attention. The blue light emphasises the surreal life, and the primary colours of the guests’ gives the feel of elaborate dress. The “pyramid of pulpless halves” grabs the reader’s attention. This use of alliteration highlights the lavishness of the party. The formation of the sentence containing “the champagne and the stars” seems overwhelming, this adds to the feeling of excitement of the parties. This comment is also valid for the description of the real brass rail stocked with “gins and liquors and with cordials”. Perhaps Fitzgerald is attempting to display to the reader that Nick admires Gatsby for his lavish lifestyle. The language used throughout proves dreamy, but still shows a crack of destruction, for example, “men and girls…”
The frequent mention of Gatsby’s motor vehicles and motorboats suggests the constant movement of Gatsby’s residence. Even if the parties are not happening, the servants are cleaning or the fruit is being delivered from New York, then being thrown away once used. The movement in Gatsby’s parties could consist of the orchestra arriving or people coming in from the beach.
“The groups change swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form the same breath…”
The people with no identity are constantly changing which Fitzgerald so precisely describes as the “sea-change of faces and voices…” This gives the exact idea of just how many guests who are merely another sound and space in Gatsby’s parties. This ironically reflects the need for change through which Gatsby lives his life as dreams being held together by his “prodigality” which can only ever be over shadowed by his true character.