Modernism and Epistemology.

The period of literature we will now be looking at is called postmodernism, running from 1945 until now. In modernism after World War I, the literary temper was what you might call epistemological: authors generally tried to understand the world and to create meaning. Particularly following the catastrophe of World War I, authors wanted to make sense of a seemingly meaningless world. The questions they asked tended to focus on traditional metaphysical questions (although in non-traditional ways): how does this world tick? Who am I? What is a self?  What is meaning and how do I make sense of things?

Postmodernism and Ontology.

World War II was a war that was, in many ways, more horrific than the first one. World War I was supposed to be “the war to end all wars,” and there was a sense amonst the West that none of them ever wanted something on such a scale to happen again. Oh well. World War II involves so many ghastly issues concerning genocide, maga-death, extermination, that it is not difficult to agree with many authors who believed that Western civilization was no longer human, that there was no poetry left in the world.

Post-modernist literature, coming after the spectacle of World War II, responds to the world much differently than modernist literature. Instead of looking at the world and trying to create order and meaning, most of the major authors looks at the world and decide that there is no meaning. The world is absurd, and it does not make sense to try to create meaning, at least not in the traditional, metaphysical manner. Postmodernist literature tends to be ontological as opposed to epistemological. Instead of making meaning out of the world, postmodern authors attempt to create their own meaning. Instead of trying to order a confused world, postmodernist tend to embrace absurdity. A common motif amongst postmodern authors is to leave the so-called real world, and to create new, different and possible worlds. This accounts for the great rise in surrealist literature, fantasy, science fiction, phantasmagoria. As we will see, Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse Five discovers a “new world” on his “pilgrimage,” and it is not on the planet earth.

The Girls of Slender Means.

The first thing that always throws students when they start to read this novel is the radically different sense of point-of-view, or, perhaps, the lack of point-of-view. Whereas Fitzgerald’s novel evolves from a very specific, first person point of view, and Woolf’s from many different third- person points-of-view, you cannot discern a distinct perceiving consciousness in The Girls of Slender Means. Spark, as she does in most of her novels, writes using the “omniscient” point-of-view. The voice does not derive from any of the characters–we never see anything through their eyes, and we no little to nothing of their thoughts. Instead, we see everything depicted from a voice that comes from above. In a sense, the author is the point-of-view, telling the story from a detached position. It is almost as if we see the events of the novel unfold on a stage-set.

Omniscient point of view is popular amongst postmodernists, particularly those who depict humans reduced to characters, mirroring the post-war sense of de-humanization. Because of this, character tends to become less important than plot in Spark’s novels.

The novel takes place during a very specific and distinct period in history: between the end of the European war, and the end of the Pacific war, May – August, 1945. The opening of the novel is significant. Spark describes the typical destruction in London as a result of the Blitz. Londoners endured sometimes months on end of German ariel bombing, particularly in 1940. It left vast areas of London, and many other cities and towns in England, destroyed, and killed hundreds and thousands of civilians. A great many of the population became homeless, many living in the subways in lieu of bomb shelters. As traumatizing as having bombs falling on top of you was, it also became, after a period, a way of life for many at the same time.

You find the “girls” of the novel beginning to emerge from this stupor of the Blitz. The novel takes place in the May of Teck Club, which is one of many hostels for young women of limited financial means during the war in London. It is sort of like a dorm, where women who worked in London but could not afford an apartment lived. As you read the novel, pay particular attention to Spark’s narrative structure. Notice that most of the novel is a flashback. Jane Wainwright, a writer for a women’s magazine, is making telephone calls to other past members of the May of Tick Club in the present, trying to find information about their friend, Nicholas, who just died a “martyr” in Haiti. Surrounding the phone calls is the story of the late war period, and what happened to Nicholas that may have inspired him to convert to Catholicism, become a monk, and sacrifice his life.

Advertisements

Here are some questions to guide you into thinking and perhaps writing about some issues on Spark’s novel.

1. Spark uses the omniscient point-of-view to the extreme. (The omniscient point-of-view is when the author narrates the story from above. We do not see the story from any of the character’s perspective. Instead, the author assumes a perspective of authority. The author sees all.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of omniscience? Why do you think and author would choose the omniscient point of view over the other options, like first person narrative, or third person, etc?  What type of effect does the omniscient point of view have on your reception of the narrative? What kind of tone does it create?

A typical photo of the destruction from the Blitz: compare it to Spark’s description in the first two pages of the novel.

2. Re-read the first two, magnificent pages of the novel. How does the depiction of the destruction and the choice of words and phrases Spark uses pre-figure / foreshadow the events of the novel? How do the first two pages set the tone of the novel? What might the various scenes of the Blitz Spark depicts say about the people who live in and lived through the event?

3. How do you describe the inhabitants of the May of Teck Club? What are the dozen or so “girls” like that Spark focuses on? How do you interpret Spark’s description of the girls on p. 9: “few people alive at the time were more delightful, more ingenious, more movingly lovely, and, as it might happen, more savage, than the girls of slender means”?

4. What is the funciton of the fragments of phone calls that Jane Wright makes to people fifteen years after the events of the narrative?  What is she trying to figure out?  What type of success is she having? Why does it seem that most of the people she speaks to seem to have little to nothing to offer her?

5. Spark is a master of a technique known as “flashforward.” This is when an author shows events that happen in the future of the main temporal flow of the narrative. It is different from “foreshadowing” in that the author shows us details and events ahead of time, even going so far as to give away the ending of a narrative.  In this novel, Spark give us information about the future that is usually reserved for the ending of a traditional novel. We know in advance that Nicholas converts from atheism to Catholicism, becomes a monk, and dies a martyr for mysterious reasons in Haiti. We know that there is a great tragedy that afflicts the May of Teck Club. What effect does it have on the narrative, and reading the narrative, that you know most of the important details about the ending?  How does it effect the narrative that throughout the novel the focuses mostly on Nicholas, we know that he dies shortly after the events of the narrative?

6. Why does Nicholas idealize the May of Teck Club? How is his vision of the place dissonant with reality? What is important for the narrative and this issue of his idealization of the Club about the briefly mentioned fact that Nicholas served in Dunkirk in 1940? (If you don’t know what Dunkirk was, google it to see how both horrifying and triumphant the event was.) And that he suffered a mild nervous collapse shortly after?   Look closely at p. 92 when Nicholas sleeps with Selina in his apartment. How does the narrator depict how Nicholas feels about Selina, and the reality of who Selina is and what she wants?

I think this is one of the best covers of the novel.
I think this is one of the best covers of the novel.

7. What do you think that the buried and un-exploded German bomb in the garden of the Club represents?  How do you think the explosion of the bomb in the end is symbolic?

8. The narration of the explosion in the penultimate chapter is brilliant. The climax of the scene, and of the novel, is when Selina races back into the slim bathroom window during the fire.  What is significant about her “inhuman” act? How does Nicholas respond to it?  What do you make of his gesture “crossing himself” when he sees her emerge from the window carrying the Schapperelli dress?

One of the elegant Schiaperelli dresses.
One of the elegant Schiaperelli dresses.

9. Why do you think that Joanna is the only member of the Club to perish in the fire?  What is her character all about?  How does she contrast Selina?  And here’s a challenge question: how does she resemble Selina in many ways more than she contrasts her?

10. Why do you think that Nicholas, an anarchist and an atheist, converts to Catholicism–and then goes the whole Catholic nine-yards, becoming a monk and then a martyr in Haiti?  What experiences and events in the novel serve as clues to his conversion?  Do you think it had a lot to do with Selina’s act during the explosion? And here’s a challenge question: how seriously do you think we are supposed to take Nicholas’s conversion?

11. How do you interpret the note that Nicholas left behind in his manuscript, “a vision of evil may be effective to conversion as a vision of good” (p. 140)?

12. How would you describe the narrative voice of the novel?  In other words, there is a distinct narrator of the story, looking down on all the events, and often making editorial comments.  Perhaps it is Spark herself as the author? Perhaps it is a narrator Spark assumes as a persona?

1. Choose a novel and examine how one of the characters develops. How does the character change? What might be his emotional development? What things might he/she have learned about himself and/or life? How did he / she either triumph or fail, or both?

2. Choose a novel and conduct an analysis of one or more of the characters. What is the character like? How do other characters help to define the character you choose? What problems does the character face and how does the character deal with / cope / resolve or not resolve the problems? How might you “psychoanalyze” the character(s)?

3. Choose a novel and interpret its structure. There are many ways you can do this: how does the plot relate to / resemble a myth or a plot that we recognize in other places (life, other stories, movies,etc.)? Is the plot a comedy or a tragedy? Why? How does the ending affect the whole story? How does the beginning of the story align with the ending? Is there a plot twist, and how does the plot twist create a sense of meaning, or define it as a comedy or a tragedy? Does the author do anything that “defamiliaizes” the plot, such as time shifts, fragementing the story, shifting the point of view?

4. Choose a novel and explore its voice–its point-of-view (first person, third-person limited to one character; third person from more than one character; omniscient. From whose perspective do we see the events and experiences of the story? How does this perspective effect how we see and interpret events and experiences in the narrative? How does the point-of-view affect and create an interpretation of the story? Why do you think an author chooses one type of point-of-view over another? What are the benefits of certain points-of-view?

5. Choose a “theme” that you can explore in a story: Facing up to vs. denying death; coping with trauma; trying to escape from the past; the negative effects of “pride”; the struggle of religious belief; belief vs. atheism; the struggle to develop an autonmous identity; what it means to be British or American; the struggle to gain a voice and a sense of empowerment as a woman; the struggle of individuality in the context of family, society, history, politics, race; coping with post-war trauma . . . there are, of course, many more.

6. Write a paper in which you interpret the nature of a novel’s ending, the way in which the novel closes. What does the ending do to the narrative as a whole? What important funciton does it serve? Does it surprise? Does it frustrate expectations? Does it supply the novel with mraing or does it make us ask further questions?

7. Choose a novel and explore how the author plays games with time. Consider the passage of time: flashback, flashforward, repetition, condensing time, parallel time, time shifts, delay / suspense. Perhaps you can reflect creatively on the issue of time in narrative: what a novelist can do with time; the unusual nature of time; the similarities and differences between the time of a novel and time as we live it in life.

8. View the movie version of either Mrs. Dalloway or Slaughterhouse Five. Compare and contrast the ways in which the author and the filmmaker represent the story. What elements in the film version are effective, perhaps even more so, than the novel? Likewise, what elements in the film are less effective? How does the filmmaker depicts the games with time that either author creates?

Below are some helpful issues to think of as you read.

Stream-of-Consciousness

The stream-of-consciousness writing style that Virginia Woolf uses is very different from the prosaic realism of F. Scott Fitzgerald. First, it is a much more “poetic” style, as every line carries more weight with figurative language. More importantly, the narrative shifts between different points of views of different characters. We enter the thoughts of different characters, and see actions from their different perspectives.

Keeping Track of the Narrative Voices

Keeping track of on who the narrative is focused can be challenging. It helps to keep aware of key names of characters, so that when you see their names, you can be on the alert that the narrative might have shifted to their point of view. The narrative focuses mostly on, but not exclusively:

Mrs. Dalloway (Clarissa).

Peter Walsh (Mrs. Dalloways teenage boyfriend).

Septimus Smith (the shell-shock victim. You can easily recognize his narrative voice since he hallucinates most of the time, particularly the vision of his good friend Evans getting blown up by a mortar in the war).

Lacrezia (Mrs. Septimus Smith, the belagured wife of Septimus).

Mr. Richard Dalloway (Clarissa’s husband, whose voice we do not hear until after the middle of then novel).

Elizabeth (Mrs. Dalloway’s daughter. We hear snippets of her thoughts, but we do not get a longer narrative concerning her until her failed lunch with Ms. Kilman, and her bus ride back home.)

The One Day Structure of the Novel.

Also, keep in mind that the entire novel revolves around one day, beginning at around 8 in the morning, and running until a couple of hours after midnight of the same day. The novel does jump back into the past, based upon people’s memories. The most significant memory is the weekend at Bourton, when Mrs. Dalloway meets Richard, her current husband, and ends her relationship with Peter Walsh.

After you have read the whole novel, it can be helpful to pick a random spot in the novel, and look at the passage closely, just to see how Woolf constructs narrative, how she jumps between people’s thoughts, and between the present and the past.

The Big Diametric Opposition.

A diametric opposition in literature essentially means anything that is the opposite of something else. Mrs. Dalloway focuses on two diametrically opposite voices, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith.

Clarissa, like her name, is clear, bright, dynamic, and very much a person who enjoys organizing dinner parties. She seems in control, at ease with her world.

Septimus, like his name, is dark, “septic,” underground, troubled, and extremely uncomfortable with the world. Shell-shocked, his thoughts are the opposite of Clarissa’s, in that they are cloudy, jumbled, confused and hallucinatory.

Consciousness versus Unconsciousness

One way you can think of the opposition between these two characters — and a theme in the novel — is that Clarissa very much represents consciousness, whereas Septimus represents the unconscious. Clarissa is in control and, at the same time, likes to control her surroundings. In other words, she has her mental bearings. Septimus, however, is not in control, nor is he in control of his surroundings. Quite the opposite of having his mental bearings, he is in the middle of a mental breakdown.

The Conscious – Unconscious Union

In a sort of “mystical” union, Woolf presents these two characters, who never once meet in the whole novel, as two necessary sides to human existence. Septimus needs more of Clarissa’s “clarity” and control in order to survive, whereas Clarissa is going to eventually have to confront emotions and passions in her life that she leaves repressed. The news she hears at the party of Septimus’s suicide disturbs her, and awakens her to an epiphany of the possibly messier aspects of life that she does not deal with.

Some Opening Questions for Thought.

Why do you think that Fitzgerald does not show any scene of the affair between Daisy and Gatsby?  Despite the fact that we would only be able to see the scene from Nick Carroway’s point-of-view, the absence of any details of their affair during the summer is prominent. Often the absence of something in literature can be just as powerful (if not more so) than the presence (like Cordelia’s absence from Acts 1 – 4 of King Lear). If we examine the chronology of the novel, which takes place for the most part over the summer of 1922, the time Daisy spends illicitly at Gatsby’s mansion would be maybe a month or so.

The Theme of Illusion and Reality in the Context of and Elegy to the American Dream.

I believe that the dichotomy of reality and illusion, or truth and fantasy is very important in this novel. We talked a bit about it in the last class. The title of the novel purposefully sounds like the name of one of those traveling magic or medicine shows popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Fitzgerald presents Gatsby as a sort of medicine man / con-man, someone who has deft sleight-of-hand. I have always been struck with how Fitzgerald describes his flash car, its gaudy flamboyance. It strikes me as the new, modern image of the traveling medicine man who used to get around by horse and buggy or covered wagon. Remember, the novel came out in 1925. The automobile was pretty new to the road. Car owners were still in the minority as opposed to the norm it would become a decade or so later.

I also believe that the brief and odd conversation that Nick and Jordan have with Owl Eyes in the library is significant in terms of this theme concerning reality and illusion. The dichotomy of reality and illusion, waking-life and dreams (however you want to state it) is as old as literature itself. It is so prevalent in literature that it can even become hackneyed–I can’t tell you how many times a student has used the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” in a paper. But Fitzgerald takes the dichotomy, and places it in the context of a decadent aspect of the American Dream (or at least notions of what such a concept means) in this particular period in American history, the mid-1920s post-War America.

My sense is that in order to get a full understanding of the power and poignancy of Fitzgerald’s “elegy” to the American Dream, it helps to have some knowledge and readership of American literature and history since the early 1800s. Whereas England has a vast and ancient history behind them, and became a superpower and world-leader centuries before American, the United States was still an infant by World War I. In fact, the America we know filled with the promise of individual success and the romantic yearnings and belief that you could purchase your dreams by going west, really begins with and after the Civil War. Many historians–and I agree–believe that what we understand as freedom, liberty, equality, the pursuit of happiness became the romantic invention of Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysberg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the first real efforts to use capitalism to feul expansion and industry.

1918: the Birth of America as a Superpower.

The birth of America as a super-power has a distinct date–1918, when the United States entered World War I on behalf of the allies. Ending the war and saving France and England (the former having saved us, the latter having been our foe in two of the three major previous wars) was America’s nativity, so to speak, as a superpower. And it marked, in many ways, the decline of England and France as the dominant leaders of the free world. Interestingly, as quickly as we could have ascended to this throne, we retreated from it. Although president Wilson fought to his death for our inclusion in the League of Nations, we turned it down, and wanted nothing much more to do with Europe and her problems to the benefit of our own industry and prosperity, and to the detriment of European affairs.

The Literary and Artistic Explosion of the 1920s: American Modernism.

The 1920s is a spectacular decade in America both economically and artistically. Some of the greatest novels and poetry were written in the 1920s–the authors we often consider “canonical” were either writing in the 1920s or began their careers in that decade: Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, William Faulkner. The list could go on. The explosion of modern art occurred in the War years and in the 1920s, most artists taking their cues from either Picasso (Cubism) or Matisse (Post-Impressionism /Fauve). Importantly, America developed and defined its own music that would dominate musical culture up until today with Jazz, Country and Blues. Most of (not all, if you consider British music-hall) that we know as rock and roll has its roots in these three musical genres.

The roots and influences on this explosion of artistic production (which I have been calling “modernism”) is complex and indeterminate. Hundreds of books have been written over the decade on the birth, rise and course of modernism, so I could not possibly give you a complete education on its vastness here. Never (with the exception, perhaps, of late sixteenth and seventeenth century renaissance) had there been such development, innovation, production and excitement in so many fields: art, literature, music, science, industry. There is no doubt that the rapid ease and ability with which different nations could communicate ideas–the influence of French literature on British, the influence of American Gothic on French and German symbolism, etc. etc.–allowed for an exchange of ideas never circulated with such intensity before. What we know as Globalism gets its jump start in the 1920s. The rapid rise of industry and technology coinciding with the turn of a century combined with a devastating war that divides history between an old world and a new world creates a mentality of futurity that I do not think we have ever quite experienced, even with the beginning of the twenty first century.

The War itself fostered the desire for Europe and America to want a New World, the move forward into a future and leave the devastation behind, and to proclaim, “never again.” The explosion of both an artistic and industrial invention in America derives from a unique belief in dreams–a belief in a future of endless possibility. It is this future-oriented attitude–even in the most dark of existentialists during this period–that I believe divides modernism from the postmodern mentality after 1945. The world after 1918 was very different from the world after 1945. We were growing as a superpower in America, and we had no doubt that we would be the strongest nation on earth in the 1920s.

The Transformation of “Hard Work” and the Notion of the “Land of Opportunity.”

In the world of industry and business there was the same sense of excitement and future-oriented mentality as there was in the arts. The notion that anyone could make it big in America had certainly developed before the War. America was a land of opportunity primarily because everyone had the opportunity for land. Westward expansion in the mid to late 1800s created a sense that we will probably never have again–that you could travel to your dreams; that you could make your dreams come true by setting out upon and arriving at a destination. On top of it, we felt mandated by God to expand, to move westward. We felt spiritually chosen, just as Europe felt it their divine right in the 1700 and 1800s to colonize Africa and Asia.

But the dream of expansion and prosperity in America in the 1800s entailed hard, hard, hard work, travail, tribulation, suffering, the risk of death. The notion of rugged individualism was born from the covered wagon, the gold prospectors, the first to drill oil rigs, etc. In the 1920s, the American dream of prosperity came in a new form. The gold prospectors and frontiersman gives way to the Robber Baron, the Wall Street tycoon.

By the 1920s, there was a new notion that prosperity was easy to come by, easy to get–intimations of “fast food.” In some cases it required hard work–you needed to work hard to get an education, or gain connections, or make yourself known–but for the first time the notion of ease enters the American economic consciousness–easy credit, easy fortunes made in the market, a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage. A consumer and capitalist mentality enters the mainstream American consciousness. Remember, the notion of everyone owning a house and having enough money and credit for luxury seemed only possible for aristocracy, for people to the manor born in the 1800s. If you workded hard to make a fortune, as in a trade, it was even looked down upon by many in the 1800s. You could have a ton more money because you worked hard to build a factory, or to develop a trade, but you were looked down upon by the aristocracy in America or England (you would never be able to marry their daughter).

The old world of aristocrats and upper-class, inherited wealth and new wealth as divisions break down. What we know now as the middle class, a class that is not rich, but not poor, that works for its wealth and lives off of the consumer luxuries it provides, takes it MODERN American form in the 1920s.

The Centrality of “East” and “West” in the Novel as Symbols for Different Americas.

I would suggest that the monetary dreams of America in the 1800s tended to have its roots in the ground, in land, in property, in owning tracts of the West. Industry was, in many respects, a “European” affair up until the 1900s. The monetary dreams the grows in the early 1900s is rooted in the office, in industry, in the home. New York City, Wall Street, banks and bonds becomes, in a way, the frontier for Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. That is why, I  believe, you have such prevalent images in the novel of people–Nick, Gatsby, Daisy and Tom–mirgrating from the West to the East, the reverse of the great Westward expansion of the 180os. In fact, there seems to be a sort of disgust people have with the idea of the West, and a desire to escape East, rather than take up the mantle of the hard working, life-risking frontiersmen of their parents and grandparents. Notice the Fitzgerald makes a big deal out of the dichotamy of East and West. The “new wealth” populates “West Egg,” which tends to be people, like Nick and Gatsby, who come from frontier backgrounds and want to accumulate wealth in an aristocratic manner, and “East Egg,” peopled by those who inherited wealth, which would have meant, generally, “European” or “old world” wealth.

Gatsby’s Story: a Possible “Tragic” Figure Unique to American Literature?

I want you to look at, consider and think about the “story” of Jay Gatsby’s rise to wealth, how he got to where he is when the novel begins. Consider his poor, agricultural background–basically a poor farm-boy from Kentucky–and the things that inspire him to break from this upbringing and work toward what he becomes. Also consider that we are not talking about a huge stretch of time between Daisy leaving Gatsby for Tom and the beginning of the novel: at most, five years. Gatsby returns from the war in 1918, and the novel takes place in 1922. Although Fitzgerald makes it feel like there is a great span of time between the past and who Gatsby is now, it really is fairly short. But that sense of “distance” that is “short” is, I think, important, and a key to understanding the novel. TIME is a prevalent image in the novel: clocks, its passage, people obsessed with time and age. The novel ends with Nick reflecting upon the paradoxical nature of time, the fact that as much as we try to move forward into the future, the past tends to always draw us back.

But additionally–and this is what I  began with–I believe that everything I just typed here contributes to a very poignant and important meditation upon the American Dream Fitzgerald makes in this novel, one that is very different from how we may lament its death today as much as we may feel an affinity for it. Look particularly at Nick’s meditations at the very end of the novel–look at the items he finds of Gatsby’s, particularly the notebook Gatsby kept when he was younger that resembles the almanac style of inspiration of Benjamin Franklin. Consider Don Cody and Myers Wolfshiem in Gatsby’s context, and Gatsby’s origins.

I want to challenge you into considering that Gatsby may be the modern medicine man of the travelling show, an illusionist, but that he is far more genuine and worth a sort of tragic respect than we may be willing to grant him.

Here are a series of issues and questions for thought and discussion. They can also be used for ideas for writing.

You do not have to write responses to these, although writing ideas down can be very helpful.

In bold, I offer page numbers to re-read the important bits and pieces of chapters 3 to 5, which will help you to interpret the novel.

Chapter III

1. Skim through pages 42 – 45, the first few pages of Chapter III. Look at how Gatsby’s parties are described. What are his parties like? How do you think these large and wild parties might be a symbol of (or represent) the 1920s? Is it possible that Fitzgerald is making a commentary on the age? Look at the second to last paragraph on page 45, which begins, “I believe that on the first night . . . ” What does this paragraph say about Gatsby and his parties? Why do you think that Gatsby is so seemingly remote and disconnected from his own gatherings? What might this say about his character and possibly his motives?

2. From pages 49 – 50, as Jordan and Nick wander through Gatsby’s mansion during the party, they run into “Owl Eyes” in Gatsby’s giant library organizing the books. Owl Eyes shows Nick and Jordan a few books, and says at the top of page 50: “They’re real . . . Absolutely real–have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact they’re absolutely real.” He goes on to say, “See! It’s a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism!” Why do you think Owl Eyes makes a big deal out of the fact that the books in the library are “real”? Why wouldn’t they be? What do you think Owl Eyes means when he appears surprised the Gatsby has real books in a library?

3. On page 51, read the description of the party in the first paragraph beginning, “There was dancing now.” Then look at the bottom of the page, just before dialog begins when Nick claims that “the scene had changed.” From the bottom of this page to the next one is when Nick first meets Gatsby. Why do you think Fitzgerald introduces Gatsby to us just after the garish description of the party that then suddenly transforms into something romantic?

4. From page 52 – 53, we get our first upfront descriptions of Gatsby. What seems amiss about him? Why do you think he has an affected British accent (even though he is from the Midwest), and why does he call everyone “old sport.” Look particularly at the description of Gatsby from the bottom of page 52 to the end of the paragraph at the top of page 53. What does this description say about Gatsby, his personality and his character?

5. On page 57, Jordan Baker comes out of a private meeting with Gatsby and returns to the party. She claims to Nick that Gatsby told her something “simply amazing,” but she has to keep it secret. Like the character of Gatsby himself, why does Fitzgerald leave it a mystery what Gatsby told Jordan?

6. On the middle of page 63, Nick is out on a date with Jordan. Jordan is driving the car, and she is always almost missing hitting people. She tells Nick that, “They’ll keep out of my way. It takes two to make an accident.” And then a moment later she tells Nick, “I hate careless people.”  What does this altercation say about Jordan’s character? How might Jordan and her attitude symbolize most of the people in this novel?

CHAPTER IV

1. Gatsby takes Nick out to lunch in Manhattan. In Gatsby’s magnificent Rolls Royce on pages 69 – 71, Gatsby tells Nick things about his life. Why do you think he tells Nick he is the son of wealthy parents in the Midwest, he was educated at Oxford, and became a hero in World War I and awarded medals? He also tells Nick that after the war he spent several years as an adventurer, uncovering treasure. Do you think that Gatsby is telling the truth? Is there anything about what he says that might be questionable? Gatsby also repeats several times to Nick that he is “trying to forget something very sad that happened to me long ago.” What is the effect of this repeated statement?

2. From pages 74 – 77, Gatsby introduces Nick to an older man, Mr. Wolfshiem, someone Gatsby knows and seems to do business with.  Glance over these pages, and try to ask yourself who Mr. Wolfshiem is, and what kind of “business” do you think he is involved. Additionally, why do you think that Fitzgerald writes this scene? Why do you think it is important that we see Gatsby with this man?  An additional note, the 1919 World Series mentioned on the top of page 78 was a very famous historical occurrence. The game was fixed by gamblers and involved many of the baseball players.

3. At the end of Chapter IV, pages 79 – 83, Fitzgerald tells us the story of Gatsby’s past through Jordan’s story to Nick. What do we learn about Gatsby and Daisy from this story? How in love do you think was Gatsby with Daisy in the summer of 1917?  How in love was Daisy?  How did Daisy break Gatsby’s heart?  What has Gatsby been trying to do ever since?

4. By the end of Chapter IV, we have a contradictory picture of Gatsby. He is a very wealthy business man who seems to have accumulated and maintained his fortune through shady and criminal activities. At the same time, he is also a lovesick, innocent young veteran, desperately trying to win the woman of his dreams. Why does Fitzgerald give us these two, difficult to reconcile pictures of Gatsby?  What are we supposed to think of his character?  What might these contradictory sides to his personality represent or symbolize?

Chapter V

1. How does Gatsby’s personality change in Chapter V from the previous chapters with the preparations to reunite with Daisy, and the meeting itself? Is Gatsby still the suave and mysterious character he was?  Likewise, how does Daisy’s personality and attitude change when she reunites with Gatsby and the chapter progresses?

2. Why is Daisy genuinely overcome with joy at Gatsby’s financial success when he givers her a tour of his mansion, and especially when he shows her the hundreds of beautiful shirts he has imported to his wardrobe at the top of page 98?

3. In Chapter V, the symbol of clocks and timepieces rampant throughout the novel becomes highlighted. In particular, on page 91, during the reunion between Daisy and Gatsby at Nick’s house, Gatsby almost knocks over the clock on the mantle. What do you think clocks symbolize?  What does it symbolize when Gatsby almost knocks over the clock?

Here are some themes, symbols and motifs that run through The Great Gatsby. These are just some; I will post some more as we go over the novel during the next two weeks.

The type of stock ticker Nick would have used to keep track of stocks in 1922.
The type of stock ticker Nick would have used to keep track of stocks in 1922.

THEMES

Money: The effects of money on human behavior is a major issue in the novel. As for the theme of money, one could specify many variations: Money creates the illusion of happiness; money corrupts moral behavior; money has a diffuse influence on everything in life, etc. In fact, if you were interested in interpreting and writing something concerning money / materialism in The Great Gatsby, you could look at something in your own life and / or the world around you in which money has some influence or effect, and place it in the context of the novel.

One of the “exercises” Fitzgerald engages is the “what if” method of writing popular amongst Naturalist writers of the time. He wonders, what if a young, inexperienced man from the Midwest amassed a great amount of wealth, and moved to metropolitan and cosmopolitan New York to impress and win over the aristocratic boyhood girl of his dreams? We will discuss in the next class the issue of literary Naturalism, the sort of fictional laboratory experiements of human behavior certain authors practiced.

Illusion versus Reality.

This is an age old theme in literature. Illusion / Reality is known as a “dichotomy,” which means two terms that are opposite to each other, but which create an interpretive tension. Literature is filled with dichotomies, and authors use them to create meaning: light / dark; good / evil; war/ peace; male / female; life / death. There are hundreds of them. A very effective way to understand and interpret literature is to locate the different dichotomies, and try to understand why the author is using them.

So Fitzgerald uses the dichotomy of Illusion / Reality throughout the entire novel. In context of the issue of MONEY, Fitzgerald shows a world in which wealth creates veils darker human nature. The beautiful mansions hide an ugliness inside. The same holds true for people. Although Jordan Baker is beautiful and outgoing, she reveals herself bit-by-bit to be uncaring and ruthless. Centrally, Daisy Buchanan is beautiful, vivacious, friendly and elegant. She comes across to the reader as being a positive and attractive person. But as the novel progresses, Daisy manifests her carelessness, selfishness and apathy. Finally, at the end of the novel, she not only lets Gatsby take the fall for murder, but flees the east coast with Tom without a return address, so to speak.

Jay Gatsby encapsulates the dichotomy of illusion / reality the most. His whole “aristocratic” pose is a front for his criminal operations. His slight British accent is feigned. In the first few chapters of the novel, Gatsby remains a mysterious figure. We only hear snippets of information about him from various people that may or may not be trues, such as: he is friends with the Kaiser; he killed a man once when he was young; he went to Oxford; he inherited piles of money from German descendants. In fact, we never know the complete truth about Gatsby, except for the story of his life he tells both Jordan and, later, Nick, and Myers Wolfsheim’s story of how Gatsby came to the underworld (which may, ironically, be the only truthful story about him).

Notice how in many of the “party” scenes, at one moment the party looks glamorous, and the next it looks cruel and tawdry. Pay particular attention to the conversation between Owl Eyes and Nick during the first of Gatsby’s parties that he attends on pp. 49 – 51. In many ways, this short dialog encapsulates the whole theme of illusion in the novel.

There are many more examples of illusion / reality, or lies / truth we could look at as we go on.

The Betrayal of the American Dream

Fitzgerald/ Nick announces fairly outright at the end of the novel that it is about the collapse of the American dream of happiness and individuality. In particular, he exposes the lie that one can use money to transform one’s dreams into reality. Jay Gatsby, in fact, is the last man, according to Fitzgerald / Nick, to attempt to transform his dream into reality with money. Gatsby innocently believed that cleverness, hard work and material fortune would win him the boyhood girl of his dreams. In fact, he does not imagine that it could be anyway different.

The notion of “the American Dream” is a big topic in literature and history, and much debated. What is the American dream? How is it fulfilled? Is it financial fortune? Personal accomplishment toward a goal of happiness? A family and a house? Many American novels after Word War I question the nature of the American dream, particularly after the shock of the War, and then very much after the 1929 Crash and during the Great Depression.

Nick Carroway from the movie. It is pretty on target with how the typical Wall Street guy dressed in the 1920s
Nick Carroway from the movie. It is pretty on target with how the typical Wall Street guy dressed in the 1920s

The First Person Narrator / The Unreliable Narrator

Fitzgerald also explores point-of-view, what it means to tell a story, and how perspective affect the telling of a story. Nick Carroway is the first person narrator, meaning he tells the story through his point of view. The novel is told in the first person, “I,” and everything we see through his eyes. Therefore, we do not get any of the narrative through any of the other characters points of view. When an author uses the third person–“he” “she”–or the omniscient point of view, he tends to show a story from the perspective of many different characters.

Since we see everything through Nick’s eyes, it is important for us to assess his character, and to interpret how he sees things. The unreliable narrator means that, since everything is seen through one person’s eyes, we have to question how much we can trust his perspective, and how this character’s personality and attitude toward the world might affect the way in which he tells the story.

So consider Nick’s attitude toward his subject matter, how he feels, what he has to say about the world around him.. And also consider the type of person Nick is. These things will have a big effect upon the meaning of much of the novel, particularly at the moral climax when the reader is forced to assess how he/she feels when Nick exclaims to Gatsby near the end (the last words he says to him before he is shot): “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” On page 162.

A very loose definition of a novel is “a long, fictional prose narrative.” If a novel is under 70 – 100 pages, it is generally considered a “novella.” The novel we will read, The Girls of Slender Means, is often billed as a “novella.”

Most critics have thought that the novel is entirely a European invention from the 18th century. Other critics, like Ian Watt, have argued that prose “romances” date back centuries, and constitute the development of the novel.

The coffee house in 1700s London became a popular place to meet and discuss what everyone had read. It was also the place where the newspaper became first popularly distributed.
The coffee house in 1700s London became a popular place to meet and discuss what everyone had read. It was also the place where the newspaper became first popularly distributed.

For our purposes, we are going to consider the novel of the twentieth century as a British and European product. Although there is a long history of prose narratives going back to the ancient times, that which we recognize as the genre, “novel,” really began in the early to mid-1700s in England.

In England in the mid 1700s, print media grew to a level that the nation had never before experienced. The printing press was still a fairly new invention, and had been used mostly to publish the Bible, theological, philosophical and political writing. Up until the 17-1800s, fiction had always been considered less of a priority to reproduce. As England grew into an industrial and commercial super-power by the 18th century, and as a rising middle class was increasingly literate for the first time in history, print media came into demand. For the first time, large groups of urban people began reading political pamphlets, philosophical and scientific tracts. In many ways, this period in England is the birth of the Information Age. The first newspaper, Corantte, was published in London in 1621, and Publick Occurrences was the first newspaper in America, published in 1690. Other than information, newspapers catered to a rapidly growing desire amongst the middle class for entertainment.

By the 1700s, the newspaper was almost as ubiquitous a commodity in London as it is today. The coffee house in London became a popular meeting place where people could read a variety of journals and newspapers, and where they exchanged news and information. The desire for things to read, the ability to read, and the new availability of time afforded by a rising merchant and middle class made for growing populations of people looking for new sources of print media. Daniel Defoe, often considered to be the first journalist, began publishing articles about European affairs in the Review. Eventually he also became, arguably, one of the first novelists. Seeing that a large population of people enjoyed reading newspapers, particularly sensational events, he began to write long prose narratives that looked real, but which were, nonetheless, fiction. At one point he wrote a very convincing chronicle of a plague that ravages the city–although it was fiction, many people thought it was real. Blurring the line between reality and fiction, these prose pieces became very popular. People wanted to read more. As the movie Field of Dreams says, “if you build it, they will come,” writers in the 1700s realized that “if you write it, they will read.”

Daniel Defoes Robinson Crusoe was, arguably, one of the first novels written in England.
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was, arguably, one of the first novels written in England.

Defoe wrote the famous novel Robinson Crusoe. Although it is fiction, it reads like a very real account of one man’s chronicle of survival on a deserted island. By the mid-1700s, the craze for long, fictional prose pieces grew, and many authors began to write them. Normally these long narratives were about the everyday life of middle class people who experience sensational events, and the novels would leave people wanting to read more. No one is sure who coined the term novel, but these long prose pieces came to be known as “novelties,” because they were new and different. The term is also disparaging, suggesting that these early novels were trivial, meant for quick mass consumption. In many ways, a lot of the early novels were meant to be for quick consumption, sort of like literary fast-food. The literary and philosophical elite looked down upon “novelties.” They considered reading novels in the 1700s  low-brow, beneath an educated person’s taste, seedy, revolting, even pornographic. Some of the famous satirists of the time even believed that the novel marked the end of civilization.

But they were very popular. Interestingly, at many times during the 1700s, women constituted the largest population of novelists. There were many women novelists during the 1700s. Since novels tended to be read by women, who spent most of their time caring for the home, and since novels tended to focus upon the daily lives of middle class people, women were the most experienced to write them. This added to their unpopularity amongst the dominantly male literary elite. But as the popularity, and particularly the commercial success of novels, began to sink in, novels quickly became accepted and, eventually “canonized” by the literary elite. It is similar to todays “web-log,” or “blog.” At first a decade ago they were considered low-brow, fast-food style disposable writing. Now, the blog has become an art-form, and huge intellectual institutions, like CNN or the New York Times, have journalists who write blogs.

By the 1800s, men quickly took over the industry of writing and publishing novels, and women’s short dominance in the field faded. By the late 1800s, women had to take on a male psuedonymn if they wanted to write and publish, like George Eliot. The repression of women in literature, particular the novel, is an issue Virginia Woolf (who we will read) explores famously in her marvelous book A Room of One’s Own.

Fanny Burney wrote Evelina, one of the most popular 18th century novels in England.
Fanny Burney wrote Evelina, one of the most popular 18th century novels in England.

By the 1800s, most novels were written in “serial” format in newspapers. This means that usually every week, the novelist would publish his / her novel in installments in the newspaper. Usually the installment of the novel would end with a “cliffhanger” to draw people back to read the next installment the following week. Most of Charles Dickens novels were published this way, which is why each chapter tends to end leaving the reader hanging. In many ways, the serialized novel was like our modern day soap-opera for readers in the 1800s. Novelists knew the the more suspense, intrigue, mystery and sensation they could produce, the larger their audience would be . . . and, too, a larger paycheck.

One of the oldest newspapers in America. The development of the novel was greatly influenced by the popularity of the newspaper, a fairly new invention in the 1700s.
One of the oldest newspapers in America. The development of the novel was greatly influenced by the popularity of the newspaper, a fairly new invention in the 1700s.

By the 1900s, the period we will start looking at, novels undergo a radical change. For the first time, a publishing industry evolves separate from the newspaper industry, and novelists begin to write more crafted and autonomous pieces, developing their writing beyond the limits of the “serialized” format. In many ways, the novel by the 1920s becomes an art-form for the first time. Aiding in the heightened aesthetic of the novel was the philosophical and literary tenor of “modernism,” a movement from 1900 – 1945, that attempts to both embrace the new and inventive world, and to carve out art and literature that is more of its own world, separated from the changeable and corrupt world of industry and science. Novels, as a result, became shorter, more “chiseled,” and more polished. Henry James voiced the departure of the novelist from the 1800s when he called novels of that era “big baggy monsters.” He, along with many other novelists – – James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Ford Maddox Ford – – began to experiment with the form and content of the novel, trying to take the novel beyond its “soap-opera” format.

In the early twentieth century, novelists begin to use the tools of poerty: metaphor, symbol, imagery. But they do so

Although we wont be reading one of his novels, Joseph Conrad was one of the most significant innovators of the genre. He experimented with point of view, description, and temporality in ways that still can be felt today. Amazingly, Conrad is considered one of the four or five most important British authors, but he was from Poland! He did not learn how to read and speak English until he was about 25 years old!
Although we won’t be reading one of his novels, Joseph Conrad was one of the most significant innovators of the genre. He experimented with point of view, description, and temporality in ways that still can be felt today. Amazingly, Conrad is considered one of the four or five most important British authors, but he was from Poland! He did not learn how to read and speak English until he was about 25 years old!

in the context and flexibility of narrative as opposed to lyrics. They also begin to develop techniques unique to fictional narrative: point-of-view, voice, tense, flashback, foreshadowing, a-chronological time. Particularly the 1920s, when F. Scott Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf wrote their novels, novelists became far more creative, artistic and experimental. They began to question “realism,” the foundation of the novel up until that point. Most novelists believed they should represent the world as it really appears and operates. Most novelists before the twentieth century believed in representing the world accurately, like a mirror held up to experience.

By the 1920s, however, literary modernists began to question what reality is altogether. How do we experience the world? What is time? How can we play with and experiment with representations of experience? Novelists began to experiment with impressionistic writing, with abstraction, with stream-of-consciousness, with interior points-of-view and shifting perspectives. Many novelists, like Joseph Conrad and James Joyce, began to play with time, jumping back and forth in time in a narrative; showing events occurring in one time but from different points-of-view.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. Both of them lived, to their detriments, the high life they wrote about.
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda. Both of them lived, to their detriments, the high life they wrote about.

The first novel we will read, The Great Gatsby, is considered one of the greatest modernist American masterpieces. Although F. Scott Fitzgerald “holds a mirror up” to life during the Jazz Age of the 1920s–the mansions, the huge parties, the wild-ride on Wall Street–the novel is, in many ways, an experiment in point-of-view. Written in the first person, we see everything that happens through Nick Carroway’s eyes. Fitzgerald develops in this novel what is now famously known as the unreliable narrator. Most of the events and the drama Nick records occur between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, and we rely solely upon his perspective. But we must question how much we trust Nick’s depiction of events.

Although Joseph Conrad, with such novels as The Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim in the early 1900s was one of the first to significantly use the “unreliable narrator,” Fitzgerald made it most famous and accessible with his novel. As one reads the novel, one must always recognize that we are getting one perspective on a series of events and experiences. While we must interpret those events and experiences, we must also juxtapose this to interpreting the narrator, Nick.

Here is a basic plot summary of the Great Gatsby that you can use as a guide in your reading.

Gatsby and Daisy from an early movie version of The Great Gatsby.
Gatsby and Daisy from an early movie version of The Great Gatsby.

In the summer of 1922, Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, moved to New York to learn about the bond business. He rents a home in West Egg, Long Island, a place where new people have moved who are making their fortunes in the stock market. Nick’s next door neighbor is a mysterious young man, Jay Gatsby, who lives in an enormous and new mansion and who throws extravagant parties every Saturday night.

Nick is not like the other “new wealth” inhabitants of West Egg in that he was educated in the east at Yale, and has connections to people in the “old wealth” area of Long Island on East Egg, including Daisy and Tom Buchanan (a classmate of Nick’s at Yale). One evening, Nick drives out to visit Daisy and Tom for dinner at their mansion. They introduce him to Jordan Baker, a beautiful but cynical young woman with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. Nick also learns from Jordan that Tom has been involved with another woman, Myrtle, his “mistress.”

In Chapter Two, Nick accompanies Tom to visit Myrtle, who lives with her husband, George, in an apartment above the gas station he owns in the Valley of Ashes, an area in Queens in between West / East Egg and Manhattan. Nick goes with Tom and Myrtle to the apartment Tom has set up in Manhattan to have his affair, and they throw a big party. Later in the evening, when Myrtle begins to taunt Tom about Daisy, he punches her in the nose and breaks it.

As the summer progresses, Nick eventually receives an invitation from Gatsby to one of his infamous parties in Chapter Three. Nick meets Jordan at the party, and they both encounter Gatsby, who is Nick’s age, and who affects an English accent. He has affected demeanor, calling everyone “old sport.” During the party, Gatsby asks to speak to Jordan alone. Nick learns later that Gatsby tells Jordan about his fantastic past. He tells her that he knew Daisy in Lousiville, Kentucky in 1917, just before the War when he was a high schooler, and had been deeply in love with her. After they had a quick romance, Gatsby went overseas to the War, and Daisy promised to be there for him when he returned. But she married Tom instead. Ever since, everything Gatsby has done in his life has been aimed at winning Daisy back.

Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between him and Daisy. Nick invites Daisy to his house for tea without telling her that Gatsby will show up. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their romance and rekindle their love affair.

Now luxury apartments and condos, The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan was the most luxurious hotel in NYC up until the 1990s.
Now luxury apartments and condos, The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan was the most luxurious hotel in NYC up until the 1990s.

Tom grows suspicious of his wife’s “friendship” with Gatsby. When he is at lunch at the Buchanan’s mansion, Gatsby stares at Daisy with such passion that Tom realizes he is in love with her. He is deeply (and obviously hypocritically) outraged that his wife could cheat on him. He forces the luncheon group to drive into Manhattan for drinks at a suite in the Plaza Hotel, where he confronts Gatsby about his relationship with Daisy. Tom tries to convince Gatsby that he has a history with Daisy that he could never understand. He also announces to everyone at the gathering that he knows that Gatsby is a criminal. He tells everyone how he gets his fortune from bootlegging alcohol and other criminal activities.

During the altercation, Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom. Tom orders Daisy to go back to East Egg, and out of contempt, he orders Gatsby to drive her in an attempt to prove that he does not fear Gatsby.

Nick, Tom and Jordan shortly follow behind them in a car through the Valley of Ashes, and they discover that Gatsby’s car has hit and killed Myrtle, Tom’s mistress. When they get back to Long Island, Nick finds Gatsby, and learns that Daisy was driving the car, but that Gatsby wants to protect Daisy and take the blame. The next day, Tom goes to George Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, and tells him that Gatsby hit his wife, that he was the driver of the car, not Daisy. Burning for revenge, George drives out to West Egg, and finds Gatsby in his swimming pool where he shoots him dead, and then kills himself.

Nick arranges a small funeral for Gatsby (which only his father and Owl Eyes attend), breaks up with Jordan Baker, and moves back to the Midwest to escape the disgust he feels for the people he met and the immorality and ruthlessness of the wealthy on the East Coast. Nick comes to the conclusion that, just as Gatsby dream and desire for Daisy was corrupted by money and recklessness, the American Dream of life, liberty and happiness has fallen into the mere pursuit of money. Nick believes that Gatsby is a symbol of the last American to believe one can turn their dreams into reality.

Before the topics, here is a link to the very moving “backwards war movie” that inspired Vonnegut’s important moment in Slaughterhouse Five when Billy Pilgrim watches the backwards air-attack just before he is abducted by the Tralfamaforians.

1. Choose a novel and examine how one of the characters develops. How does the character change? What might be his emotional development? What things might he/she have learned about himself and/or life? How did he / she either triumph or fail, or both?

2. Choose a novel and conduct an analysis of one or more of the characters. What is the character like? How do other characters help to define the character you choose? What problems does the character face and how does the character deal with / cope / resolve or not resolve the problems? How might you “psychoanalyze” the character(s)?

3. Choose a novel and interpret its structure. There are many ways you can do this: how does the plot relate to / resemble a myth or a plot that we recognize in other places (life, other stories, movies,etc.)? Is the plot a comedy or a tragedy? Why? How does the ending affect the whole story? How does the beginning of the story align with the ending? Is there a plot twist, and how does the plot twist create a sense of meaning, or define it as a comedy or a tragedy? Does the author do anything that “defamiliaizes” the plot, such as time shifts, fragementing the story, shifting the point of view?

4. Choose a novel and explore its voice–its point-of-view (first person, third-person limited to one character; third person from more than one character; omniscient. From whose perspective do we see the events and experiences of the story? How does this perspective effect how we see and interpret events and experiences in the narrative? How does the point-of-view affect and create an interpretation of the story? Why do you think an author chooses one type of point-of-view over another? What are the benefits of certain points-of-view?

5. Choose a “theme” that you can explore in a story: Facing up to vs. denying death; coping with trauma; trying to escape from the past; the negative effects of “pride”; the struggle of religious belief; belief vs. atheism; the struggle to develop an autonmous identity; what it means to be British or American; the struggle to gain a voice and a sense of empowerment as a woman; the struggle of individuality in the context of family, society, history, politics, race; coping with post-war trauma . . . there are, of course, many more.

6. Write a paper in which you interpret the nature of a novel’s ending, the way in which the novel closes. What does the ending do to the narrative as a whole? What important funciton does it serve? Does it surprise? Does it frustrate expectations? Does it supply the novel with mraing or does it make us ask further questions?

7. Choose a novel and explore how the author plays games with time. Consider the passage of time: flashback, flashforward, repetition, condensing time, parallel time, time shifts, delay / suspense. Perhaps you can reflect creatively on the issue of time in narrative: what a novelist can do with time; the unusual nature of time; the similarities and differences between the time of a novel and time as we live it in life.

8. View the movie version of either Mrs. Dalloway or Slaughterhouse Five. Compare and contrast the ways in which the author and the filmmaker represent the story. What elements in the film version are effective, perhaps even more so, than the novel? Likewise, what elements in the film are less effective? How does the filmmaker depicts the games with time that either author creates?