Using the taxonomy and the terminology of classical rhetoric, this article examines the prose of the four novels published in Fitzgerald's lifetime as well as several of his most notable short stories. This methodology enables one to go beyond the fuzzy descriptors—such as “brilliant,” “clear,” “vital,” “lucid,” “fluent,” “natural,” “fine,” and “rich”—often applied to Fitzgerald's writing. The article eschews the impressionistic in favor of a more “scientific” approach to that prose: through the exegetical microscope of the rhetorical lexicon, it demonstrates the surprising subtleties of Fitzgerald's linguistic craftsmanship. Without claiming that Fitzgerald was steeped in the terminology of classical rhetoric, it proposes that he at least had an intuitive understanding of the syllabic, lexical, aural, descriptive, metaphorical, syntactical, argumentative, grammatical, verisimilous, emotional, psychological, and even the comedic and satirical strategies and maneuvers that the terms describe and for which the ancient Greeks and Romans provided names and categories. The article concludes with a number of observations about Fitzgerald's careful and conscientious craftsmanship: some buttress widely accepted pronouncements about his prose style, techniques, and philosophy of composition; others, one hopes, are new insights that may surprise even Fitzgerald's most enthusiastic champions and be embraced by them.

You do not currently have access to this content.