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Great Gatsby 6 Essay, Research Paper

Foreshadowing and Flashback: Two Writing Techniques Repeatedly Used in

The Great Gatsby

In one of the greatest works of the Twentieth Century, “The Great

Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are many writing techniques used

throughout the novel. However, the two literary devices that occur in

just about every chapter in the novel are: foreshadowing, and/or

flashback. Immediately in chapter one, upon his arrival in West Egg,

Nick Carroway makes the distinction between Gatsby, whom he loves

because of his dream, and the other characters, who constitute the

“foul dust” that “floated in the wake of his dreams.” Nick’s

instantaneous scorn for these “Eastern” types for shadows all the way

to the very end of the novel. At the end the novel, after all the

commotion has been caused by these Easterners, Nick refuses to deal

with them any longer. He leaves the East, returns to the Midwest, and,

for the time being at least, withdraws from his involvement with other

people. “Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.” “I

hope I never will,” she [Jordan] answered. “I hate careless people.

That’s why I like you.” (pg. 63) Jordan is explaining to Nick how she

is able to drive badly as long as everyone else drives carefully. This

quotation represents the writing technique of foreshadowing, which is

being used in one of its finest form. Fitzgerald is foreshadowing to

chapter seven where Daisy kills Myrtle Wilson because of her reckless

driving. Fitzgerald uses foreshadowing to strengthen the plot of his

book. In The Great Gatsby, the structure of the novel is influenced by

foreshadowing and flashback. Fitzgerald utilizes foreshadowing to the

best of its ability to help organize the novel. “Luckily the clock

took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head,

whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it

back in place. ‘I’m sorry about the clock,’ he said. ‘It’s an old

clock,’ I told him idiotically.” (pg. 92) This quotation is the first

use of foreshadowing that is in chapter five. It pertains to all the

trouble Gatsby causes as he tries to win Daisy back. The past is

represented by the clock and how Gatsby wants to repeat it with Daisy.

This quotation foreshadows to the end of the novel when Nick is left to

tell the story of the dreamer whose dreams were corrupted. They

smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their

money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them

together, and let other people clea! n up the mess they had made. In

chapter six, Fitzgerald focuses on the first moment of disillusionment

which Gatsby has. “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously.

“Why of course you can!” (pg. 116) This quotation is clearly

foreshadowing almost the entire book. It foreshadows Gatsby’s attempts

to woe Daisy for Tom and tries to make things the way they were before

he left for the army. It also alludes to the fact that he must be rich

and powerful to do that. Overall, it shows that he destroys himself

trying to get Daisy back from Tom Buchanan. In the beginning of

chapter seven Fitzgerald foreshadows the death of Gatsby. “I couldn’t

sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning incessantly on the Sound, and

I tossed half sick between grotesque reality and savage frightening

dreams. I heard a taxi go up Gatsby’s drive and immediately I jumped

out of bed and began too dress- I felt that I had something to tell

him, something to warn him about and morning would be too late.”

(pg.154) This quotation definitely foreshadows the death of Gatsby.

Fitzgerald also foreshadows Wilson’s involvement when his wife died.

“He murdered her.” “It was an accident, George.” Wilson shook his

head. His eyes narrowed and his mouth widened slightly with the ghost

of superior ‘Hm!’ “(pg. 166) This quote clearly tells the readers

that George is not going to let the person who he thinks killed his

wife get away with it. Foreshadowing is sparingly displayed though out

the novel and especially in the last chapters. Flashback is used quite

often in The Great Gatsby. Jordan begins to remember when she met

Gatsby with Daisy for the first time and how they were in love. “One

October day in nineteen- seventeen…..The largest of the banners and

the largest of the lawns belonged to Daisy Fay’s house. She was just

eighteen…His name was Jay Gatsby and I didn’t lay eyes on him again

for over four years.” (pg. 80) As the reader can clearly see, Jordan

begins to narrate about the first and last time that she saw Gatsby

with Daisy that was four years ago. In chapter eight, Nick flashes

back to the night of Myrtle’s death and begins to tell the story of

what went on after her death. “Now I want to go back a little and tell

what happened at the garage after we left there the night before.” (pg.

163) Nick tells the reader about how Wilson thought he had figured out

who had killed his wife. Nick follows step by step as he walks all the

way to Tom Buchanan’s. Nick then describes Wilson killing Gatsby in

the pool and then Wilson killing himself. In chapter nine, another

flashback is told by Nick. Nick recalls the night of Gatsby’s death,

and the next day, when all the policemen were at Gatsby’s house.

“After two years I remember the rest of that day, and that night and

the next day, only as an endless drill of police and photographers and

newspaper men in and out of Gatsby’s front door.” (pg.171) Nick then

continues into another flashback where he is trying to get people to

come to Gatsby’s funeral. During this flashback Ni! ck finally meets

Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, who came to his son’s funeral. “Next morning

I sent the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfshiem which asked

for information and urged him to come out on the next train. [for

Gatsby's funeral]…When the butler brought back Wolfshiem’s answer I

began to have a feeling of defiance…..The third day that a telegram

signed Henry C. Gatz arrived from a town in Minnesota…It was Gatsby’s

father.” (pg. 175) In the last sentence of the novel the reader

realizes the story is being told as seen through the eyes of a Dutch

sailor which transports the reader into the past. “Boats against the

current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” (pg. 189) In chapter

nine, Nick begins to recall the past and relive his old memories. His

must relieve his lingering thoughts of the past. During the chapter,

Nick uses a flashback to tell about Gatsby’s funeral for the readers to

know what happen the day Gatsby was shot. Flashback in The Great

Gatsby also helps to give the reader background information about the

characters. As one can see, the book came to life through the use of

flashback and foreshadowing. These two main ingredients in this novel

made it possible for the reader to be able to understand Gatsby the way

Fitzgerald does. It also helps one to understand Gatsby’s relentless

pursuit his dream. These two elements of the novel were weaved into a

classic novel that was and is read and adored by millions of readers

and students.

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