Gatsby Crescendo

CRESCENDO ANALYSIS BY PABLO ROCHA: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Pablo Rocha, a college student, provides an interesting Crescendo Analysis of The Great Gatsby, using these instructions.

Crescendo Analysis Instructions:




The word should be a “keyword”—a significant or descriptive word, and a word that you will use as a reference point for connecting words with ideas.  For example, choosing the word “himself” in Homer’s Odyssey may not be as helpful as choosing the word “self-possessed.”


When you’ve chosen your word, analyze the word.  Record your interpretation of the word, and the way it makes you feel (yes, feelings are important).  Look it up in the dictionary too (even if you think you know what it means) and record its definition(s).



Now crescendo or zoom out into the sentence.  Remember, because you chose a “keyword,” it’s important to interpret and analyze the sentence using the ideas you developed about the word.  First, how is that word used in the sentence?  Second, how does the word’s meaning and implication fit into the context of the sentence? Third, the word and sentence suggest what ideas?  Think sub-textually here.  The purpose is to investigate ideas that aren’t explicitly stated.  What ideas exist “under” the obvious and explicit meanings of the sentence?



Zoom out from the sentence to either the paragraph or even the page.  How does that sentence fit into the ideas surrounding it?  Does your word reappear?  How do the ideas you developed in the word section and the sentence section develop?



Investigate the book.  Look for other words, sentences, and pages in the text that relate to the ideas you’ve developed.  Explain the connections and analyze how those ideas function in the book.



Connect the ideas you’ve developed to the world—either the world of the text, your world, or both.  For example, if you’re working on Homer’s Odyssey, how do the ideas you’ve developed relate to what you know, or can infer, about Ancient Greek culture?  And, how do they relate to our world now?  Just because you’re zooming out to the world doesn’t mean you can be vague.  Focus on an example.



After you’ve completed Crescendo Analysis, try to form complex, paragraph-length questions about ideas you’ve developed.  For example, begin by explaining your idea/position/discovery, quoting the word and the sentence in the text, and forming questions about the implications of your developed idea.  Zoom in and zoom out on various points in your crescendo.  These questions may serve as thesis questions.   You may begin to form a Slant by answering them.

A Father's AdviceBy Pablo RochaNote: Published in SLANT.


Advantage (noun)

According to the American Heritage Dictionary:

1. A beneficial factor or combination of factors.

2.    Benefit or profit; gain: It is to your advantage to invest wisely.

3. A relatively favorable position; superiority of means: A better education gave us the advantage.


The word is often associated with idioms or phrases such as: “unfair advantage” or “take advantage of” or “vantage point.”  These associations suggest unfairness or even exploitation.  Synonyms are privilege, favor, and benefit.  This word is often used in the analysis of competitions, suggesting certain players’ or teams’ advantages.  This can also be applied to the class system, where some people are born with an advantage and others are not.



“‘Whenever you feel like criticizing someone … just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’” (Fitzgerald 3).  This is Nick’s Carraway’s father’s advice, and it sounds as though it may have been spoken to Nick Carraway after he criticized someone.  It has the tone of a reprimand.  Had his father said, “If you ever feel like criticizing someone…” it would sound less like a reprimand for bad behavior and more like a reminder.



This quotation being on the first page of the novel suggests the significance of the idea of advantage.  Nick Carraway admits that he’s “been turning [the idea] over in my mind ever since” (3).  Carraway goes on to say that as a consequence of that advice he “reserves all judgments” and was often accused in college of being a politician “because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men” (3).  However, this observation about himself has a self-congratulatory tone that comes with that word “advantage.”  He might as well have admitted that his compliance with his advantage allows him rationality.



Nick Carraway writes of Jordan Baker, “She was incurably dishonest.  She wasn’t able to endure being at a disadvantage” (74-75).  This links dishonesty with being at a disadvantage, as though Carraway is suggesting that the poor or underprivileged are more likely to be dishonest.  You could argue that this indicates Carraway’s disapproval of oppression.  However, it seems more likely that it indicates his dismissive attitude toward the underprivileged.  To him, they are often liars and cheats and have no sense of morality.


“I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the Yale News—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the ‘well-rounded man.’  This isn’t just an epigram—life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all” (7).  While part of Carraway’s obvious advantage is his education, his outlook on life is also one that treats books and knowledge and his education as though it were a fun dalliance.  The single window can be seen as a metaphor of his advantage—the lens through which he sees all human life.  It’s a cynical outlook, and one that discredits all viewpoints except his own.



I can’t help but get frustrated when I read books or watch films about the poor and/or oppressed created and narrated by very wealthy, highly-educated people.  It’s not that they don’t have anything to say.  Rather, it’s that they often only see the world through Nick Carraway’s “single window.”  A film like Slumdog Millionaire, though containing many admirable ideas and depictions about oppression and poverty, glamorizes and exploits not only the actors that participated in the film, but their own stories and the plight of their poverty.  That film depicts India through the point-of-view of someone who is looking in on it, or looking down on it, but not through the eyes of an underprivileged Indian.  Is the message really that hope for the oppressed resides in televised game shows?  Is the message we are to “carry away” from Nick really that contentment lies in aloof detachment and a view out our only window?  To have a window, you need a wall, and if Nick Carraway were standing right here I’d tell him to break it down and not look at life through any windows or any walls, but just live it.



What does Nick Carraway’s connection between Jordan Baker’s dishonesty and disadvantage say about both his character and his reliability as a narrator?  If Carraway freely admits that he’s advantaged, doesn’t this automatically skew his narration, especially of Gatsby?  If advantage suggests unfairness, the reader has a better understanding of why Gatsby ends up floating in a pool and Nick Carraway heads back to the Midwest.  However, did Carraway learn anything?  Is the root of his advantage the fact that he claims that “life is much more successfully looked at from a single window” (7)?