In a time where the economy was booming and cultural rules were changing, the overall feeling of America in the 1920’s was that of excitement, recklessness, and pleasure. This is all encapsulated in the third chapter of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, where the wealth and lavishness are showcased through the actions of the upper class. When looking at the extravagant parties, the moods of enchantment and glamour are highlighted, in turn depicting the party as perfect, on the outside at least. However, when further describing the party, Fitzgerald creates subtle cracks which allow a true dark and negative nature to be exposed. By incrementally unveiling the true nature of the party and its guests, Fitzgerald is able to reveal the magnificence of Gatsby’s party to be a facade that hides the ungenuine and empty nature of the party.
From an outsider’s point of view, the party appears to be enchanting and lively, but upon closer glance it is clear that is not true. As Nick enters Gatsby’s mansion for the first time, he mentions how “the lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun”(40). Here, Fitzgerald disconnects Gatsby’s party from the real world which causes it to seem as so grand that it is in a world of its own. Further into the party, “a tray of cocktails floated at the guests through the twilight”(43).
The drinks are not simply carried, they float creating an elegant and magical mood which furthers the unrealness of the party. Similarly to the alcohol being drunk, “laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality”(40). The laughter is shown as plentiful as it is compared to the alcohol which is being drunk in excess. This depicts the liveliness and atmosphere among the guests as seen from an outsider. Later on, Fitzgerald describes the “vacuous bursts of laughter” again. However, on this occasion he describes the laughter as “vacuous”, exposing it as as empty.
He is showing the shallowness of the apparent happiness of the guests. Even earlier, when describing how the “Earth lurches”(40), Fitzgerald is comparing the disconnect of the party to the disconnect of a drunk person. The constant, subtle remarks within the description of the party reveal discreetly bring to light the true nature of the party.The subtle phrases that expose the party’s dark side allow Fitzgerald to completely unveil the falsehood and chaos at the heart of the party. Fitzgerald calls the interactions between guests as “introductions forgotten on the spot”(40) and “eternal graceless circles”(46). In these instances, the many meaningless interactions are more bluntly pointed out leading to the build up of the negative side of the party being shown. And despite being a crowded party, there is a moment where “a sudden emptiness seemed to flow… from the windows and the great doors”(55). The true emptiness is able to flood the grandeur and glamour, completely overtaking that facade.
At the end of the party, “most of the remaining women were.. Having fights with men said to be their husbands”(51) and “in the ditch beside the road… rested a new coupé which had just left Gatsby’s drive”(53). All of the glamour, enchantment, and liveliness has completely been unravelled exemplifying the recklessness of the twenties. All of Fitzgerald’s subtle phrases built up to the revealing of the mood of the party being empty and chaotic.Artifice is the main theme of chapter three; where that from the outside everything seems perfect, but in fact it is far from it.
The entire party is just a performance that attempts to show the positives and hide the negatives, but ultimately fails. Fitzgerald is able to show both the feelings, both good and bad of the 1920’s perfectly in this party.