Study Guide

The Great Gatsby Writing Style

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Writing Style


Hold on to your hats, Shmoopsters, because once you ride the Fitzgerald train, there's no stopping. You'll be hurtling through this plot faster than you can say "T.J. Eckleburg." It seems to us that F. Scott Fitzgerald loves winding sentences that begin with one idea, person, or location and end up somewhere else entirely. Because of this, he draws amazing connections. In this example, watch how he begins with personality and ends with earthquakes:

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. (1.4)

How's that for some plate tectonics? Our speaker talks about the "unbroken series of successful gestures" that characterizes personality, but we can't help but think of the series of successful words that live in this very sentence. Unlike a personality, these words are broken up by three commas. We can't get enough of the commas and semi-colons that live in The Great Gatsby; they are everywhere, and they make for some juicy, action-packed sentences. Sometimes, we have to read sentences over and over again, just to make sure we actually did read the phrases "whole caravansary" and "card house" in the same sentence (8.15).

These commas tell us that, while Fitzgerald may like beautifully ornate sentences, he also loves to enforce order. The sentences may look like they're rambling, but there's always a map.

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