The Great Gatsby

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The Great Gatsby: Foreshadowing 2 key examples

Definition of Foreshadowing
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved... read full definition
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don't actually occur until later in the... read full definition
Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis—Gatsby’s Fate:

Gatsby’s tragic fate—that he will die without having won Daisy back—is foreshadowed early on in the novel:

But I didn’t call to him, for [Gatsby] gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.

The green light mentioned here is located at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock across Long Island Sound and is a stand-in for Daisy herself. Throughout the novel, the light symbolizes the distance between Gatsby and what he wants most—to recreate his past love affair with Daisy. The fact that he reaches out toward it but isn’t able to reach it (and, of course, will never be able to reach something that far away) foreshadows the fact that he will never achieve his goal despite having shaped his entire identity and lifestyle around winning Daisy back. Too much time has passed, there is too much emotional distance between them, and Daisy herself is not the person he thinks she is, just as there is too much physical distance between Gatsby and the light.

In addition, the way Gatsby seems to vanish, leaving Nick alone in the dark, foreshadows Gatsby’s death at the end of the novel. He will be suddenly and unceremoniously murdered as a result of taking the blame for a crime that Daisy committed, and after Gatsby’s death, Nick is left feeling isolated and disoriented like he does in this passage.

Chapter 3
Explanation and Analysis—The Car Accident:

There are several moments in the novel that foreshadow Myrtle Wilson’s death in a car accident. The first is an earlier accident that happens after one of Gatsby’s parties in Chapter 3:

Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up, but violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby’s drive not two minutes before.

The wrecked car, which a drunk man has driven into a ditch, is “violently shorn of one wheel.” This foreshadows the later image of Myrtle’s “left breast [...] swinging loose like a flap” after Daisy strikes and kills Myrtle with Gatsby’s car.

More foreshadowing happens soon after this in Chapter 3, when Jordan Baker nearly hits some workers on the road but insists that preventing an accident is the pedestrian’s responsibility as well as the driver’s:

“They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”

This attitude echoes Daisy’s choice to drive away after hitting Myrtle rather than stopping to help her. Daisy, like Jordan, refuses to take accountability for her actions, even allowing Gatsby to take the blame for the accident.

The final instance of foreshadowing happens in Chapter 7, just before Myrtle is killed. Nick reflects on the moment when he, Tom, and Jordan drive off separately from Gatsby and Daisy:

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

This line comes just after Nick remembers that it’s his 30th birthday, and so the idea of figuratively “dr[iving] on toward death” signifies Nick grappling with his own mortality as he enters his thirties. But it can also be read as Tom, Nick, and Jordan literally “dr[iving] on toward death,” as it foreshadows the imminent car accident that the three of them are going to come across on their way back to Long Island.

All in all, then, other characters’ reckless driving and musings about mortality foreshadow Myrtle’s death in a hit-and-run, emphasizing the inevitability of death and also pessimistically suggesting that people’s carelessness can usher in death prematurely.

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Chapter 7
Explanation and Analysis—The Car Accident:

There are several moments in the novel that foreshadow Myrtle Wilson’s death in a car accident. The first is an earlier accident that happens after one of Gatsby’s parties in Chapter 3:

Fifty feet from the door a dozen headlights illuminated a bizarre and tumultuous scene. In the ditch beside the road, right side up, but violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby’s drive not two minutes before.

The wrecked car, which a drunk man has driven into a ditch, is “violently shorn of one wheel.” This foreshadows the later image of Myrtle’s “left breast [...] swinging loose like a flap” after Daisy strikes and kills Myrtle with Gatsby’s car.

More foreshadowing happens soon after this in Chapter 3, when Jordan Baker nearly hits some workers on the road but insists that preventing an accident is the pedestrian’s responsibility as well as the driver’s:

“They’ll keep out of my way,” she insisted. “It takes two to make an accident.”

This attitude echoes Daisy’s choice to drive away after hitting Myrtle rather than stopping to help her. Daisy, like Jordan, refuses to take accountability for her actions, even allowing Gatsby to take the blame for the accident.

The final instance of foreshadowing happens in Chapter 7, just before Myrtle is killed. Nick reflects on the moment when he, Tom, and Jordan drive off separately from Gatsby and Daisy:

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

This line comes just after Nick remembers that it’s his 30th birthday, and so the idea of figuratively “dr[iving] on toward death” signifies Nick grappling with his own mortality as he enters his thirties. But it can also be read as Tom, Nick, and Jordan literally “dr[iving] on toward death,” as it foreshadows the imminent car accident that the three of them are going to come across on their way back to Long Island.

All in all, then, other characters’ reckless driving and musings about mortality foreshadow Myrtle’s death in a hit-and-run, emphasizing the inevitability of death and also pessimistically suggesting that people’s carelessness can usher in death prematurely.

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