Monday, May 21, 2012

Read to Improve your English: The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This novel was set in New York in the 1920s.  F. Scott Fitzgerald writes in a very interactive style, so this story truly transports the reader to that place and time.

"The Great Gatsby" is in the public domain in Australia, so you can read or download the whole thing at Project Gutenberg Australia.

Let's start with vocabulary.  As you read the novel's introduction below, click on any of the highlighted words to find out their meaning.

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought--frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon--for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

F. Scott Fitzgerald used a lot of literary devices to make his writing more vivid and enjoyable to read. The highlighted passages below are examples of literary devices. See if you can figure out which device is used, and then scroll to the bottom of this entry to check if you were right.

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction--Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. 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. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament"--it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No--Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes is an example of metaphor. “Conduct” is an abstract noun; it is not a person, place or thing, but an idea; “conduct” means the way we behave. In this metaphor, conduct is being compared to a building by saying it can be “founded” on a certain type of ground. This metaphor shows the reader that his or her basis for his or her conduct can be solid or mushy.

personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures has a repeated ‘s’ sound. This is called “sibilance.” It simply makes this passage sound nice to the ear (or the mind’s ear, as you are probably reading silently.) It builds up to the description of Gatsby as “gorgeous” later in the sentence. The pleasant sound of the sibilance makes it easier for the reader to accept that Gatsby, a character as yet unknown, is gorgeous.

as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away is a simile. It compares the man, Gatsby, to something that is powerful, useful, and enigmatic… this gives the reader a lot of insight into Gatsby without F. Scott Fitzgerald explaining that Gatsby has these traits.

Now, whether you are reading The Great Gatsby for class, or you just love to read awesome literature, you can find out more about it at Sparknotes. Read to improve your English!

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