The Great Gatsby is considered to be one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's most
major works, and ironically this was also the novel that corresponds with the decline in his popularity. According to Twentieth-Century
Literary Criticism Volume 1, this work of literature was influenced greatly by cinema and Henry James. The influence
from the cinema caused Fitzgerald's writing to take on a cinematic approach. Fitzgerald utilized techniques from movies and
photography to create scenes instead of dialogue. The way Fitzgerald creates imagery contributes to the commentary Fitzgerald
makes about society and serves as a mention of death.
Images of Society
Fitzgerald's treatment of the descriptions in his novel is similar to techniques
used in cinema and photography. He hints at the idea that society treats everything (from people to products) as objects
that can be bought and sold. The character Jay Gatsby lives in a well furnished home and often holds lavish parties. When
Nick Carraway, the novel's narrator, is finally invited to one of these lavish gatherings, he makes notes on all the items
and people around him. During one scene, a picture is mentioned in detail that provides a hint on the society. The images
mentioned throughout seem commercial, often times Fitzgerald utilizes the words "copy", "print", "magazine", "photograph",
etc. The use of these words imply the act of replication. This is Fitzgerald's way of hinting at the ease in which people
buy and sell items, ultimately Fitzgerald feels that even subjective things such as ideas and thoughts can fall prey to this
Example of this type of Imagery:
The only picture was an over-enlarged photograph, apparently a hen sitting
on a blurred rock. Looked at from a distance, however, the hen resolved itself into a bonnet, and the countenance of a stout
old lady beamed down into the room. Several old copies of "Town Tattle"; lay on the table together with a copy of "Simon
Called Peter,"; and some of the small scandal magazines of Broadway.
In the above example, the imagery is found within the speaker’s description
of the picture. The details are explained in a movie-like shot. The speaker begins with a general statement about the picture,
stating its subject matter, and then focuses on the little details within the painting. Fitzgerald demonstrates his era’s
newfound obsession with the technicality of perception. His writing reveals a sense of cinematic appreciation in viewing
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 3
Images of Death
Death is often mentioned throughout the novel. The first instance that it
appears in the beginning of Chapter 2, in which Fitzgerald compares the scenery to a kind of hell. In mentioning hell through
such use of imagery, Fitzgerald comments on how he feels society decaying around him. He describes Myrtle's death is such
a grotesque manner that ironically paralleled the manner she lived her life- grotesque and useless. The use of imagery depicting
death helps Fitzgerald to indicate decay, grotesque manners, and other negative commentaries.
Example of this type of Imagery:
The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of the summer.
As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering
hush at noon. The straw seats of the car hovered on the edge of combustion; the woman next to me perspired delicately for
a while into her white shirtwaist, and then, as her newspaper dampened under her fingers, lapsed despairingly into deep heat
with a desolate cry. Her pocket-book slapped to the floor.
The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7
The above example is taken from the character’s encounter on a train during
a hot day. This imagery refers to touch, sight, and sound imagery. The touch imagery comes from the character’s description
of the damp heat stating, “…was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of summer”. Sound imagery
is found in the reference of the “hot whistle” and sight imagery comes from the description of the woman perspiring
in the seat beside the narrator. These images are used to emphasize the heat of the day. In bringing such images to the
story, Fitzgerald emphasizes the intensity of the day.