Tone and Style in ‘The Great Gatsby’

The final passage in ‘The Great Gatsby’ can lead the reader to see the novel in a whole new light. Whereas the overall aspect of the book represents one mans attempt to fulfil his dream, the final passage seems a lot more pessimistic and down to earth.

The passage shows a negative view about what Nick thinks about Gatsby’s, and therefore the American dream. We learn that Gatsby’s ‘immaculate lawn’ is now overgrown and had ‘grown as long as [Nick’s].’ This obviously shows the breakdown of everything that Gatsby had strived for and now it bares a striking similarity to Nick. There is irony in this as in the beginning of the book Nick mentions that Gatsby ‘represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn’ and therefore had no wish to take part in the American dream is now in exactly the same position as Gatsby who had spent his whole life dedicated to become someone. This is shown rather oddly in the presence of the minor things such as Nick’s lawn. This decay in Gatsby’s dream can be seen in the decay of his house. It becomes a derelict building with ‘an obscene word’ graffitied onto the steps. In away this corrosion of Gatsby’s world could be compared to the decline of the American dream in the late 1920’s and given the time the book is set this becomes even more apparent as the Wall Street Crash is immanent. Fitzgerald uses the sentence ‘tomorrow we will run faster stretch out our arms further…and one fine morning. To show how the crash came about and how suddenly it occurred.

The tone of the book also has a feeling of death around it. Whereas Gatsby’s house was once buzzing with ‘dazzling parties’ it is now empty and now Nick now only has his memories of the ‘music and the laughter, faint and incessant’ to remind him of how it once was. Fitzgerald also uses many images to also give the impression that the book and ‘everything Gatsby stood for’ is now coming to a close. Most of the actions that Nick does in this passage take place at night. This gives the impression of a climax to everything around Nick and evening is also signified with death and moving on. The image of ‘the Sound’ with the boat travelling down it, could also give a reference to death as it gives me the picture of travelling down the river Styx to the underworld.

The style in this passage gives me the impression of sorrow and loneliness when it was written. As Nick prepares to leave West Egg I get the impression that he fells very much alone now that Gatsby is dead. Words like ‘brooding’ and ‘unknown’ give an air of uncertainty about Nick in this passage and I feel he had become so accustomed to Gatsby that now he is gone Nick no longer knows what to do any more.

The tone could also be seen in another way as regretful of what may have happened as Nick lays on the beach outside Gatsby’s house and begins ‘to melt away until gradually [he] became aware’ of how the island was before it was corrupted by man. Again this could refer to the depression that was occurring at the time of publication. Fitzgerald could be asking readers to look back upon their actions that led up to and caused the Wall Street Crash. It was money making schemes like Gatsby’s fake bonds and bootlegging that led to the crash and I think that Nick looking ‘back into the past’ could be Fitzgerald telling people to look back on their mistakes and learn from them, just as Nick has in the final passage. Nick sees what he has learnt from Gatsby as an ‘extraordinary gift for hope’ and even if in Gatsby’s case he cannot learn from his mistakes, other people can learn from his and I think Fitzgerald allows Nick to realise this so the book can pass that message on to others.