The Great Gatsby Commentary: Chapter 1

Essay by torontoIBstudentHigh School, 11th gradeA, July 2005

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The opening excerpt from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby begins the novel with a clear sense of purpose. His strength of writing, both in terms of style and depth of meaning, persuasively establishes the characters of the narrator and novel's protagonist, Gatsby.

The passage can be divided into two sections, the first being a set up for the second, which works very effectively. There are two parts to the first section, one being the narrator's father's advice. The father's advice takes up the first six lines and is from the narrator's "younger and more vulnerable years" and sets up the second part to the first section, which runs for 21 lines and is an analysis of the father's advice. His father's advice begins the excerpt by commenting on the narrator himself, stating that the narrator learned from his father to reserve judgment about other people, because if he holds them up to his own moral standards, he will misunderstand them.

From this first section, we learn that the narrator characterizes himself as both highly moral and highly tolerant, convincing us to believe whatever he says. The next section, which takes up almost half of the passage runs for 25 lines and is a description of the hero of the narrator's story, Gatsby, saying that he represented everything the narrator scorns, but that he exempts Gatsby completely from his usual judgments. We are told Gatsby's personality was nothing short of "gorgeous" and is highly admired by the narrator. After the reader has developed something of an understanding of Nick's character is, the story starts to evolve, and we begin to learn more about The Great Gatsby.

The narrator is in first person, speaking in past tense with a wide use of vocabulary, from which we can assume he...