Choose a novel that deals with a character who experiences isolation or alienation.
Explain how this character is isolated or alienated and go on to show the significance of this isolation or alienation for the text as a whole.
Gatsby is the main character within the novel and as such obviously of great importance - the novel is named after him after all! However, throughout the novel, there is a sense that Gatsby remains isolated from the other characters and he is certainly the most shadowy figure in terms of reader knowledge. His isolation is portrayed in several ways:
i) through the structure of the novel
ii) through the use of imagery and symbolism
iii) through the theme of the shallowness of the American Upper Classes
iv) through the characterisation of Jay Gatsby - his dreams etc.
A) The way in which Gatsby's isolation is conveyed through the structure of the novel:
i) Although the text is entitled "The Great Gatsby", the whole of the first chapter is devoted to Nick Carraway and his background. At this point, it is made clear to the reader that Gatsby will be presented primarily through Nick's view.
This immediately distances Gatsby from the reader.
ii) Fitzgerald also uses the technique of delayed character revelation to further isolate Gatsby. Even up to his introduction, Gatsby remains a mystery. He does not appear in a speaking role until Chapter III and Fitzgerald initially presents Gatsby as the aloof, isolated host of the most unbelievably opulent parties. Interestingly, up until Chapter III, the reader has only encountered Gatsby from a distance, heard other characters talk about him and read Nick's thoughts about him, but not actually met him. The third chapter also builds on the idea that there is something mysterious and sinister about Gatsby. Indeed Fitzgerald uses the party to continue building an aura of mystery and excitement around Gatsby who has yet to make a full appearance in the novel. Even at his party, Gatsby appears as the subject of gossip - has he committed murder? Is he a German spy? When Nick finally meets Gatsby he is unassuming and ordinary. He is also isolated from the other guests, as he alone does not dance. Gatsby seems curiously out of place with all this lavish expenditure. Just as he stood alone on his lawn in Chapter 1, he now stands outside the throng of pleasure seekers.
B) The way in which Gatsby's isolation is shown through the use of Symbolism and Imagery:
i) At the end of Chapter I the first appearance of Gatsby is a dramatic and symbolic gesture. It has a religious solemnity and Gatsby himself seems Godlike. He is alone and isolated, mysteriously appearing and disappearing. He reaches out to the sea in an attempt to grasp some intangible object, a green light at the end of the dock. In this scene, Gatsby literally reaches for something he cannot hold.
ii) Nick's parting from Gatsby at the end of Chapter VII, parallels his fi...