The Great Gatsby

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The Great Gatsby: Mood 1 key example

Definition of Mood
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect of a piece of writing... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes in the reader. Every aspect... read full definition
The mood of a piece of writing is its general atmosphere or emotional complexion—in short, the array of feelings the work evokes... read full definition
Chapter 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The mood of The Great Gatsby is whimsical and hopeful but also somber and pessimistic. When the novel begins, Nick’s reverent tone and lush descriptions of his surroundings convey a sense of optimism. In Chapter 1, he introduces Jay Gatsby in the following way:

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about [Gatsby], 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.

The use of hyperbole and simile in this passage invite the reader to feel just as charmed and impressed by Gatsby as Nick is and give them the sense that “the promises of life” that Gatsby is so attuned to are possible.

This sense of enchantment and optimism is also reflected in how Nick narrates the world around him, particularly scenes that take place at Gatsby’s house parties. In Chapter 3, Nick describes one of these parties:

[A]lready the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

Together, the novel’s figurative language and rich sensory details—the “gaudy primary colors” and the air “alive with chatter and laughter,” for instance—sweep the reader up in the opulent, exhilarating lifestyles that the characters are living and convey a lighthearted, hopeful mood.

But the novel’s atmosphere is decidedly darker at times, such as the description of the “grotesque” industrial wasteland (the “valley of ashes”) between Long Island and Manhattan. This darker mood is also evident in Chapter 9, when Nick describes how desolate Long Island looks in the autumn after Gatsby dies:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.

All in all, then, the mood of The Great Gatsby is at first lighthearted and romantic but becomes increasingly dark and pessimistic as the novel progresses and Nick becomes more entangled with Gatsby and the Buchnanans’ personal lives. This gradual shift parallels the novel’s critical view of American culture in the 1920s, leaving the reader with the sense that while the Roaring Twenties were initially defined by prosperity and possibility, people’s overindulgence and recklessness at this time would inevitably result in tragedy and disappointment.

Chapter 3
Explanation and Analysis:

The mood of The Great Gatsby is whimsical and hopeful but also somber and pessimistic. When the novel begins, Nick’s reverent tone and lush descriptions of his surroundings convey a sense of optimism. In Chapter 1, he introduces Jay Gatsby in the following way:

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about [Gatsby], 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.

The use of hyperbole and simile in this passage invite the reader to feel just as charmed and impressed by Gatsby as Nick is and give them the sense that “the promises of life” that Gatsby is so attuned to are possible.

This sense of enchantment and optimism is also reflected in how Nick narrates the world around him, particularly scenes that take place at Gatsby’s house parties. In Chapter 3, Nick describes one of these parties:

[A]lready the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

Together, the novel’s figurative language and rich sensory details—the “gaudy primary colors” and the air “alive with chatter and laughter,” for instance—sweep the reader up in the opulent, exhilarating lifestyles that the characters are living and convey a lighthearted, hopeful mood.

But the novel’s atmosphere is decidedly darker at times, such as the description of the “grotesque” industrial wasteland (the “valley of ashes”) between Long Island and Manhattan. This darker mood is also evident in Chapter 9, when Nick describes how desolate Long Island looks in the autumn after Gatsby dies:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.

All in all, then, the mood of The Great Gatsby is at first lighthearted and romantic but becomes increasingly dark and pessimistic as the novel progresses and Nick becomes more entangled with Gatsby and the Buchnanans’ personal lives. This gradual shift parallels the novel’s critical view of American culture in the 1920s, leaving the reader with the sense that while the Roaring Twenties were initially defined by prosperity and possibility, people’s overindulgence and recklessness at this time would inevitably result in tragedy and disappointment.

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Chapter 9
Explanation and Analysis:

The mood of The Great Gatsby is whimsical and hopeful but also somber and pessimistic. When the novel begins, Nick’s reverent tone and lush descriptions of his surroundings convey a sense of optimism. In Chapter 1, he introduces Jay Gatsby in the following way:

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about [Gatsby], 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.

The use of hyperbole and simile in this passage invite the reader to feel just as charmed and impressed by Gatsby as Nick is and give them the sense that “the promises of life” that Gatsby is so attuned to are possible.

This sense of enchantment and optimism is also reflected in how Nick narrates the world around him, particularly scenes that take place at Gatsby’s house parties. In Chapter 3, Nick describes one of these parties:

[A]lready the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

Together, the novel’s figurative language and rich sensory details—the “gaudy primary colors” and the air “alive with chatter and laughter,” for instance—sweep the reader up in the opulent, exhilarating lifestyles that the characters are living and convey a lighthearted, hopeful mood.

But the novel’s atmosphere is decidedly darker at times, such as the description of the “grotesque” industrial wasteland (the “valley of ashes”) between Long Island and Manhattan. This darker mood is also evident in Chapter 9, when Nick describes how desolate Long Island looks in the autumn after Gatsby dies:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.

All in all, then, the mood of The Great Gatsby is at first lighthearted and romantic but becomes increasingly dark and pessimistic as the novel progresses and Nick becomes more entangled with Gatsby and the Buchnanans’ personal lives. This gradual shift parallels the novel’s critical view of American culture in the 1920s, leaving the reader with the sense that while the Roaring Twenties were initially defined by prosperity and possibility, people’s overindulgence and recklessness at this time would inevitably result in tragedy and disappointment.

Unlock with LitCharts A+