The style of
While an elegy is often written in a reverential style, Fitzgerald undercuts the sense of mourning in
The sophisticated style is also indicated by the extended metaphors and elaborate imagery that characterize the novel. For example, in the description of the same party, Nick observes: “The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.” Held together by semicolons and conjunctions, this lengthy descriptive sentence gives the reader a vivid vision of the scene. We get a strong sense of continual movement (“dissolve and form,” “wanderers,” “glide on,” “constantly changing”), much like a dance, implying that the partygoers are accustomed to moving effortlessly through life. The passage also includes a subtle extended metaphor of the ocean (“swell,” “dissolve and form,” “sea-change”), adding to the sense of ceaseless motion.
Fitzgerald uses rhetorical devices such as alliteration and repetition to contribute to the text’s evocative mood. For example, when Gatsby and Tom visit Myrtle in the city, Nick imagines someone looking up at them illuminated in a window, saying: “Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” The list of contrasts (“within” and “without,” “enchanted” and “repelled”) illustrate Nick’s restlessness and fascination with the city. Even the most casual observations are highly stylized, often more poetic than literal, like Nick’s description of an enraged wife who appears “like an angry diamond,” or the city “rising up out of the river in white heaps and sugar lumps.” These metaphoric descriptions are contrasted with the vernacular speech of many of the lower class characters, such as the Wilsons. “I just got wised up to something funny… that’s why I been bothering you about the car,” Mr. Wilson tells Tom. Whereas some other writers of the time period, such as Ernest Hemingway, preferred to use simple language, Fitzgerald delights in the poetic capacities of his prose, and in juxtaposing elevated, imagistic language with the rough voices and brutish nature of many of his characters.