Foreshadowing and Flashback
Two Writing Techniques That Make Fitzgerald A Great Writer by Jonathan Werne
" 'Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself.' 'I hope I never
will,' she [Jordan] answered. 'I hate careless people. That's why I like you.' "
(Fitzgerald, pg. 63) Jordan is explaining to Nick how she is able to drive badly as
long as everyone else drives carefully. This quote represents the writing technique of
foreshadowing, which is being used in one of its finest form. Fitzgerald is
foreshadowing to chapter seven where Daisy kills Myrtle Wilson because of her
driving. Fitzgerald uses foreshadowing to strengthen the plot of his book. In chapter
nine, Nick begins to recall the past and relive his old memories. His must relieve his
lingering thoughts of the past. During the chapter, Nick uses a flashback to tell about
Gatsby's funeral for the readers to know what happen the day Gatsby was shot.
in The Great Gatsby also helps to give the reader background information about the
characters. In The Great Gatsby, the structure of the novel is influenced by
foreshadowing and flashback.
Fitzgerald utilizes foreshadowing to the best of its ability to help organize
the novel. "Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of
his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back in
place. 'I'm sorry about the clock,' he said. 'It's an old clock,' I told him
idiotically." (Fitzgerald, pg. 92) This quote is the first use of foreshadowing which
is in chapter five. It pertains to all of the trouble Gatsby causes as he tries to win
Daisy back. The past is represented by the clock and how Gatsby wants to repeat it
Daisy. (Eble, pg. 963) This quote foreshadows to the end of the novel when Nick is
to tell the story of the dreamer whose dreams were corrupted.
(Eble, pg. 963) "they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into
their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and
let other people clean up the mess they had made." (Fitzgerald, pg. 188) In chapter
six, Fitzgerald focuses on the first moment of disillusionment which Gatsby has.
(Magill, pg. 90) " 'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. 'Why of course you
can!' " (Fitzgerald, pg. 116) This quote is clearly foreshadowing almost the entire
book. It foreshadows Gatsby's attempts to woe Daisy for Tom and tries to make things
the way they were before he left for the army . It also alludes to the fact that he
must be rich and powerful to do that. Overall, it shows that he destroys himself trying
to get Daisy back from Tom Buchanan. In the beginning of chapter eight Fitzgerald
foreshadows the death of Gatsby. "I couldn't sleep all night; a fog-horn was groaning
incessantly on the Sound, and I tossed half sick between grotesque reality and
frightening dreams. I heard a taxi go up Gatsby's drive and immediately I jumped out
bed and began to dress- I felt that I had something to tell him, something to warn him
about and morning would be too late."
(Fitzgerald, pg.154) This quote definitely foreshadows the death of Gatsby.
Fitzgerald also foreshadows Wilson's involvement when his wife died. " 'He murdered
her.' 'It was an accident, George.' Wilson shook his head. His eyes narrowed and his
mouth widened slightly with the ghost of superior 'Hm!' " (Fitzgerald, pg. 166) This
quote clearly tells the readers that George is not going to let the person who he thinks
killed his wife get away with it. Foreshadowing is sparingly displayed though out the
novel and especially in the last chapters.
Flashback is used quite often in The Great Gatsby. Jordan begins to remember
when she met Gatsby with Daisy for the first time and how they were in love. "One
October day in nineteen- seventeen.....The largest of the banners and the largest of
lawns belonged to Daisy Fay's house. She was just eighteen....His name was Jay
and I didn't lay eyes on him again for over four years." (Fitzgerald, pg. 80) As the
reader can clearly see, Jordan begins to narrate about the first and last time that she
saw Gatsby with Daisy which was four years ago. In chapter eight, Nick flashes back
the night of Myrtle's death and begins to tell the story of what went on after her
death. "Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened at the garage after we
left there the night before." (Fitzgerald, pg. 163) Nick tells the reader about how
Wilson thought he had figured out who had killed his wife. Nick follows step by step
he walks all the way to Tom Buchanan's. Nick then describes Wilson killing Gatsby in
the pool and then Wilson killing himself.
In chapter nine, another flashback is told by Nick. Nick recalls the night of
Gatsby's death, and the next day, when all the policemen were at Gatsby's house.
"After two years I remember the rest of that day, and that night and the next day, only
as an endless drill of police and photographers and newspaper men in and out of
front door." (Fitzgerald, pg.171) Nick then proceeds into another flashback where he
trying to get people to come to Gatsby's funeral. During this flashback Nick finally
meets Gatsby's father, Mr. Gatz, who came to his son's funeral. "Next morning I sent
the butler to New York with a letter to Wolfshiem which asked for information and
him to come out on the next train. [for Gatsby's funeral]...When the butler brought back
Wolfshiem's answer I began to have a feeling of defiance.....The third day that a
telegram signed Henry C. Gatz arrived from a town in Minnesota...It was Gatsby's
father." (Fitzgerald, pg. 175) In the last sentence of the novel the reader realizes
the story is being told as seen through the eyes of a Dutch sailor which transports the
reader into the past. (Magill, pg. 91) "Boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past." (Fitzgerald, pg. 189)
As one can see, the book came to life through the use of flashback and
foreshadowing. These two main ingredients in this novel made it possible for the
to be able to understand Gatsby the way Fitzgerald does. It also helps one to
understand Gatsby's relentless pursuit of the American dream. These two elements of
novel were weaved into a great book that was read and adored by millions of readers
Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc. 1963
Magill, Frank N. "Fitzgerald, F. Scott." Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Ed. Frank
N. Magill. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1983. 953-967.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1925.