Khrystyna Rudanets

Kamianets-Podilsky Ivan Ohienko National University

Scientific Supervisor: Matkovska M. V.



This paper explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval and excess, creating a portrait of the Roaring Twenties, having been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. Attention is focused on relational and absolute categories, which constitute the background of the basic values of the American youth. We try to analyse the dialogues in the last film version from the pragmatic perspective based on Grice’s conversational implicature.

Key words: semantics, pragmatics, linguistic culturology, communicative behavior, conversational implicature.

 “The Great Gatsby” is a novel written by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional towns of West Egg and East Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession with the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan.[4, p.3].

There are many definitions of pragmatics, because this field of linguistics has been so charming and appealing to so many people that each one of them seems to claim an interest in it and define it from different perspective.

 For instance, pragmatics is the study of language from the point of view of users, especially of the choices they make, the constraints they encounter in using language in social interaction and the effects their use of language has on other participants in the act of communication [3, p. 240] .

“Pragmatics is the study of deixis (at least in part), implicature, presupposition, speech acts, and aspects of discourse structure.” [8, p. 1].

Levinson views pragmatics as an inferential process. Levinson mentions:
“We can compute out of sequences of utterances, taken together with background assumptions participants are making, and the purposes for which utterances are being used. In order to assumptions about language usage, highly detailed inferences about the nature of the participate in ordinary language usage, one must be able to make such calculations, both in production and interpretation. This ability is independent of idiosyncratic beliefs, feelings and usages (although it may refer to regular and relatively abstract principles. Pragmatics can be taken to be the description of this ability, as it operates both for particular languages and languages in general.”[ 8, p.2].

Green  defines  that pragmatics as an act of faith. For this author pragmatics “is the study of the mechanisms that support this faith, a faith so strong that many can use the term communicate interchangeably with speak or write, never noticing that the term communication presupposes achievement of the intended effect of verbal action upon the addressee, whereas speaking and writing do not.”[8, p.4].

Brown considers, that pragmatics is the way we convey the meaning through the communication. The meaning includes verbal and non verbal elements and it varies according to the context, to the relationship between utterers, also to many other social factors. Thomas defined pragmatic competence as “… the ability to analyze language in a conscious manner.” [1, p.371].

Jones provides in-depth analysis of the work of Aristotle showing its relevance to contemporary times.

Leech defines pragmatics as “the study of meaning in relation to speech situations”. [ 6 p. 50]. Leech lists three reasons why deixis has become so dominant. These are: personal deixis, temporal deixis and spatial deixis. [6, p. 88].

 I like Crystal’s point of view. Because, his definition analyzes pragmatics from the perspective of the users. It takes into account the different

choices that speakers are able to make when using the target language, depending on the social interaction  of their communication. The notion of choice leads to another aspect into consideration useful to language learners, namely, developing the ability to make the right choices among a variety of pragmatic elements. Crystal considered pragmatics as the study of the communicative action in its sociocultural context.

But, most of all, I support  Grice’s definition . Our  research is  based on Grice’s conversational implicature.

        According to Cooperman “The Great Gatsby” achieved “objectivity” by means of “let the book say what it has to say without intrusive explication and ‘stay out of the book’. T. S. Eliot praised that it was “the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James” [2, p.13].

The ’characters’ conversational exchanges in the film are not decoration, but an important way of reflecting characters. Through dialogues, ‘characters’ motive will be revealed clearly. The conversation play such a vital role in the development of the story and make the characters of the film more vivid that it is necessary to make tan analysis the dialogues in the latest film version of “The Great Gatsby” from the pragmatic perspective.

During our daily communications with others, we usually think more about what a person infers to transfer by her or his literal meaning. Try to indentify the delicate distinction between the surface meaning of his or her words and real intention they made above and over what they said. In order to discover the mechanism of implicated meaning behind the process of listening and speaking, in his Logic and Conversation (1975), Herbert Paul Grice proposed the conversational implicature theory. In his book, he gives an example as following: Is the door open? Its conversational implicature is that: Shut the door, please; it’s cold inside the door. The conversational implicature theory is considered as a theory focusing on the use of language. According to Grice, there is a standard way of speaking, which can be accepting by all of us. Taking into consideration the fact that, sometimes, speakers do violate them in order to convey some context meaning [5, p. 19 ].

Cooperative principle is essentially a theory about how people use language. Grice (1975) says: “Make your contribution such as is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accept purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged”. When people communicate, speakers try to contribute meaningful, productive utterances to move forward the conversation. It them follows that listeners assume that conversational partners are doing the same, and they will be conversationally cooperative. We will cooperate to achieve mutual conversational ends. Grice holds that conversational cooperation manifests itself in conversational maxims, which are need of abiding by [7, p.1].

      Grice (1975)   elaborates further Cooperative Principle in terms of maxims under four headings further: the Maxim of Quality; the Maxim of Quantity; the Maxim of Relevance; the Maxim of Manner. [5, p. 34].

Let us exemplify:

Nick: “Don’t bring Tom”.

Daisy: “What?

Nick: “Don’t bring Tom.”

Daisy: “Who’s ‘Tom’?” [9, chapter 5, p.89].

This dialogue happens between Nick and Daisy after Nick has made an appointment with Gatsby that he will tell and invite Daisy to meet Gatsby. In order not to let Tom know and come, Nick tells Daisy to bring Tom. But Daisy replies “What?” and “Who’s ‘Tom’?Tom is Daisy’s husband, she should know him. Thus in this dialogue, Daisy violates the maxim of quality of cooperative principle. From this dialogue, we can infer that Daisy is indifferent to her husband, for example:

 Tom: “By the way, Mr. Gatsby, I understand you’re an Oxford man”.

 Gatsby: “Not exactly”.

 Tom: “Oh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford”.

 Gatsby: “Yes, I went there” [9,chapter 7,  p. 137.]

This dialogue happens between Tom and Gatsby when they, together with Daisy, Nick and Jordan, go to the town. It seems that Tom queries whether Gatsby is an Oxford man or not. Instead of answering “Yes” or “No” to his question, Gatsby says “Not exactly”, from which we can infer that Gatsby does not want to talk about this identity or he may be wants to hide something. But because Tom has already surveyed Gatsby’s  identity and knows that he is not a “true Oxford man” as what he once asserted, thus Tom says “Oh, yes, I understand you went to Oxford”, maybe he just wants to expose Gatsby’s fake identity in order t look upon him. Being aware of his identity was challenged, Gatsby just replies  “Yes, I went there” , from which we can see that Gatsby is in the inferior place while competing with Tom, and that is why he almost loses his temper inclining to beat Tom later. From this dialogue we can know that Gatsby violates the maxim of manner of cooperative principle, because his answer to Tom’s query is too ambiguous, this maybe because he is not so confident when talking about his identity. To emphasize main idea this dialogue, we can see how merited Tom is.


      This paper is aimed to analyze the dialogues in the film Great Gatsby from pragmatic perspective by utilizing Grice’s conversational implicature and cooperative principle. Through applying cooperative principle in the dialogue in the film Great Gatsby, we can see the different characteristics of the figures clearly, such as generous Gatsby, vain Daisy, kind Nick and merciless Tom. On the one hand, we can get a better understanding of the vivid characters and appreciate of the style of the writer through the application of pragmatic theories; on the other hand, the feasibility and significance of taking pragmatic theory into literature works can be proved.


  1. Brown, H. Douglas. Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. New York: Pearson Education.2007.
  2. Cooperman, Stanley. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. 1996.
  3. Crystal, David: A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics. 2nd, updated and enlarged ed. – The language library; Oxford:Blackwell,1985 xi, 240 p.
  4. Donaldson. Critical Essay on. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co. 1984.
  5. Grice, H. P. Logic and Conversation. New York: Academic Press. 1975.
  6. Leech, G.N. Principles of Pragmatics. London: Longman. 1983.
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