F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925) : Variations on Forms and Themes
This research seeks to explore the variations that Francis Scott Fitzgerald plays on literary forms and themes in his modernist novel The Great Gatsby. Taking my theoretical bearings from archetypal criticism, the gift theory of literature, and dialogism inspired respectively by Northrop Frye, George Bataille, and Bakhtin, I have reached the following findings. First, The Great Gatsby is unique in the sense that it blends neoclassicism with romanticism, giving birth to what is a romantic modernist novel. Second, the novel appeals to more than one mode of writing resulting in a multimodal narrative with the predominance of irony, which in the words of Frye is characteristic of the modern age. Third, The Great Gatsby resorts to multi-stylism, combining, for example, the ironic and the epigrammatic styles. The preference of metaphor over metonymy has made the author eschew the technique of the narrative of saturation for the technique of selectivity. To this, one can add the resort to the mythic method, which allows the author to give his text a writerly instead of a readerly dimension. The fifth finding resides in the anxiety of authorship. Contrary to other authors, Fitgerald is all too ready to give credit to those authors from whom he borrows his techniques and themes. Therefore, instead of the usual anxiety of influence, his novel is marked by an anxiety of authorship wherein the author is desperately looking for a way of affirming his authorship in an age marked by the emergence of cheapened literature, and a culture of consumption. Thematically, the author puts great emphasis on love as a panacea for healing the social tensions of his community. The use of Plato’s Symposium as a model for love constitutes the sixth finding. This sixth finding pertains to the ethics of the modern novel. The seventh finding has to do with the theory of masks and counterfeiting. In this regard, it is argued that the novel puts a parallel between the production of literature and the minting of paper money. This analogically led to the way the social bonds, including those related to financial speculation, are distended with people wearing masks to hide their identities. Finally, in the general conclusion, the variations on forms and themes are categorized into three types. The first type is parody. The romance, before its tragic failure, is characterized as a parody romance of the type best represented by Don Quixote. As for the other forms regarding style and theme, the variation takes the shape of stylization wherein the author follows up in the lead of previous authors without falling in the trap of imitation. The hidden polemics is perfectly exemplified in the polemical tone that Fitzgerald adopts towards the culture of consumption such as Peter calls Simon, or the Town Tattle. The hidden polemics, which in the words of Bakhtin, concerns the clash over the referent is also seen in the privilege that Fitzgerald gives to performance of identity as far as masculinity and femininity are concerned on the one hand, and that of the ethnic Other, on the other. In tune with his times, Fitzgerald borrows from romantic Orientalism the notion of “theatrical staging” of the Self and the Other that the Orient films of the time, such as The Sheikh, made very conventional.