Publication details [#3574]

Coleman, Daniel. 1997. Mixing description and dialogue: An anatomy of narrative voices in 'The Great Gatsby'. Ithaca, N.Y.. 197 pp.
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


Most formalist criticism of the Novel concentrates its attention on passages of narration marked by a unitary voice most characteristic of lyric poetry. But novels are full of what he said and she said - as well as a range of other narrative voices which intermingle with the direct speech of the characters - and a criticism that would do justice to the Novel needs to account for the diverse kinds of talk that fill so many of its pages. This dissertation aspires to model such an approach to the Novel by exploring how Fitzgerald's Gatsby exemplifies a genre that Bakhtin describes as "full of other people's words." By focusing on passages of fictional conversation from Gatsby (and alluding to his other novels, stories, and manuscripts), Chapter One begins the author's attempt to discern the different voices which echo through Nick Carraway's narrative - e.g., Daisy's banter, Tom's decisive discourse, and Nick's ventriloquistic speech tags. Using methods borrowed from contemporary discourse linguistics, this chapter studies the various ways in which Fitzgerald exploits those modes of meaning unique to dialogue and unavailable to the Novel's other kinds of discourse. Chapter Two analyzes the struggles of Gatsby's narrator to conjure around his hero - by means of such techniques as metaphor, synecdoche and syntax - a "world complete in itself" wherein "even Gatsby" could turn out "all right at the end." The last chapter sketches out the theory of fiction underlying the dissertation's approach through a critique of Matthew J. Bruccoli's critical edition of 'Gatsby'. Through a critique of Bruccoli's attempts to "fix" Fitzgerald's "mistakes" (by correcting geographical or anatomical errors, or by filling gaps left in the information the novel provides), this section of the dissertation analyzes how the "facts" in Fitzgerald's fiction are transformed by the particular uses to which they're put. In concluding, Chapter Three discusses how an editor's assumptions about a novel's comprehensive realism can not only interfere with the effects that authors achieve by obscuration and elision, but slight their power to write and rewrite the particular terms of their readers' suspended disbelief. (Dissertation Abstracts)