The Great Gatsby

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The Great Gatsby: Frame Story 1 key example

Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The Great Gatsby is a frame story, or a story within a story. The main narrative takes place when the narrator, 29-year-old Nick Carraway, is living on Long Island in 1922; this is framed by Nick telling the story two years after the events of the novel. At the beginning of Chapter 1, the ensuing narrative is portrayed as a memoir that Nick is writing (though, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald is the real author of The Great Gatsby):

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.

Beginning the novel this way, rather than jumping straight into the main plot, establishes distance between Nick in the present (sitting down to write his and Gatsby’s story) and Nick in the past (having the experiences he’s writing about). In this sense, Nick’s narration is framing the events of the novel, adding exposition and commentary from a future date.

There are several instances throughout the book when present-day Nick comments on the events that happened to past Nick. For instance, in Chapter 4, before Nick lists some of the guests who attended Gatsby’s parties in the summer of 1922, he pulls back from the main narrative and describes the chart he’s reading the names from:

Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby’s house that summer. It is an old time-table now, disintegrating at its folds, and headed “This schedule in effect July 5th, 1922.” But I can still read the gray names, and they will give you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.

Framing this part of the book with what Nick is doing in the present—looking at “an old-time-table” that’s “disintegrating at its folds”—emphasizes how distant the summer of 1922 now seems to him. This sort of narration happens again in Chapter 9, as Nick is recounting the days after Gatsby was murdered. He distances himself from these events by reminding the reader that he’s narrating two years after they happened:

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.

Whereas Nick narrates most of the novel in a way that feels as if it is happening to him in the moment, moments like this remind the reader that present-day Nick is recounting his memories. In this instance, the shock of Gatsby’s death was traumatizing for Nick, and the way he remembers the aftermath as a chaotic blur of “police and photographers and newspaper men” suggests that he is still trying to make sense of what happened.

Later in Chapter 9, near the end of the novel, Nick reflects on the story as a whole:

I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

In retrospect, Nick is able to see what he didn’t necessarily see when the events of the novel were happening to him: that his and the other characters’ experiences in New York were defined by a culture clash between the Western and Eastern United States. Through this commentary, then, he offers a perspective that the reader wouldn’t necessarily get if the story was simply told directly. The changes in Nick himself speak to the importance of his experiences in relation to Gatsby—which is the overall function of the frame story in The Great Gatsby.

Chapter 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The Great Gatsby is a frame story, or a story within a story. The main narrative takes place when the narrator, 29-year-old Nick Carraway, is living on Long Island in 1922; this is framed by Nick telling the story two years after the events of the novel. At the beginning of Chapter 1, the ensuing narrative is portrayed as a memoir that Nick is writing (though, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald is the real author of The Great Gatsby):

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.

Beginning the novel this way, rather than jumping straight into the main plot, establishes distance between Nick in the present (sitting down to write his and Gatsby’s story) and Nick in the past (having the experiences he’s writing about). In this sense, Nick’s narration is framing the events of the novel, adding exposition and commentary from a future date.

There are several instances throughout the book when present-day Nick comments on the events that happened to past Nick. For instance, in Chapter 4, before Nick lists some of the guests who attended Gatsby’s parties in the summer of 1922, he pulls back from the main narrative and describes the chart he’s reading the names from:

Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby’s house that summer. It is an old time-table now, disintegrating at its folds, and headed “This schedule in effect July 5th, 1922.” But I can still read the gray names, and they will give you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.

Framing this part of the book with what Nick is doing in the present—looking at “an old-time-table” that’s “disintegrating at its folds”—emphasizes how distant the summer of 1922 now seems to him. This sort of narration happens again in Chapter 9, as Nick is recounting the days after Gatsby was murdered. He distances himself from these events by reminding the reader that he’s narrating two years after they happened:

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.

Whereas Nick narrates most of the novel in a way that feels as if it is happening to him in the moment, moments like this remind the reader that present-day Nick is recounting his memories. In this instance, the shock of Gatsby’s death was traumatizing for Nick, and the way he remembers the aftermath as a chaotic blur of “police and photographers and newspaper men” suggests that he is still trying to make sense of what happened.

Later in Chapter 9, near the end of the novel, Nick reflects on the story as a whole:

I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

In retrospect, Nick is able to see what he didn’t necessarily see when the events of the novel were happening to him: that his and the other characters’ experiences in New York were defined by a culture clash between the Western and Eastern United States. Through this commentary, then, he offers a perspective that the reader wouldn’t necessarily get if the story was simply told directly. The changes in Nick himself speak to the importance of his experiences in relation to Gatsby—which is the overall function of the frame story in The Great Gatsby.

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Chapter 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The Great Gatsby is a frame story, or a story within a story. The main narrative takes place when the narrator, 29-year-old Nick Carraway, is living on Long Island in 1922; this is framed by Nick telling the story two years after the events of the novel. At the beginning of Chapter 1, the ensuing narrative is portrayed as a memoir that Nick is writing (though, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald is the real author of The Great Gatsby):

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.

Beginning the novel this way, rather than jumping straight into the main plot, establishes distance between Nick in the present (sitting down to write his and Gatsby’s story) and Nick in the past (having the experiences he’s writing about). In this sense, Nick’s narration is framing the events of the novel, adding exposition and commentary from a future date.

There are several instances throughout the book when present-day Nick comments on the events that happened to past Nick. For instance, in Chapter 4, before Nick lists some of the guests who attended Gatsby’s parties in the summer of 1922, he pulls back from the main narrative and describes the chart he’s reading the names from:

Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby’s house that summer. It is an old time-table now, disintegrating at its folds, and headed “This schedule in effect July 5th, 1922.” But I can still read the gray names, and they will give you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.

Framing this part of the book with what Nick is doing in the present—looking at “an old-time-table” that’s “disintegrating at its folds”—emphasizes how distant the summer of 1922 now seems to him. This sort of narration happens again in Chapter 9, as Nick is recounting the days after Gatsby was murdered. He distances himself from these events by reminding the reader that he’s narrating two years after they happened:

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.

Whereas Nick narrates most of the novel in a way that feels as if it is happening to him in the moment, moments like this remind the reader that present-day Nick is recounting his memories. In this instance, the shock of Gatsby’s death was traumatizing for Nick, and the way he remembers the aftermath as a chaotic blur of “police and photographers and newspaper men” suggests that he is still trying to make sense of what happened.

Later in Chapter 9, near the end of the novel, Nick reflects on the story as a whole:

I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.

In retrospect, Nick is able to see what he didn’t necessarily see when the events of the novel were happening to him: that his and the other characters’ experiences in New York were defined by a culture clash between the Western and Eastern United States. Through this commentary, then, he offers a perspective that the reader wouldn’t necessarily get if the story was simply told directly. The changes in Nick himself speak to the importance of his experiences in relation to Gatsby—which is the overall function of the frame story in The Great Gatsby.

Unlock with LitCharts A+