Literary Devices in “The Great Gatsby”
Personification- where inanimate objects or abstract concepts are seemingly endowed with human self-awareness; where human thoughts, actions, perceptions and emotions are directly attributed to inanimate objects or abstract ideas.
Fitzgerald uses personification to set a sense of allure and mister y in the book, giving it a more mysterious tone. He also uses personification to enhance the qualities of a character and give them more depth, and in this case, capture the wonder of the persona that is Gatsby; “He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly.
It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It face–or seemed to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that tit had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
” pg 49. One of the strongest, and most prominent examples of personification in the book is the advertisement that overlooks the ash-heaps; “..above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust … you perceive … the eyes of Doctor. T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes … are blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. … But his eyes … brood on over the solemn dumping ground.” The eyes reinforce the statement that Fitzgerald is making about the characters in the book shaping their personality to impress others. Fitzgerald also uses personification to embody the mood around a particular event, and submerge the reader into the experience that much more. Another important use of personification is to give more life and personality to symbolical aspects that are represented in the novel.
Symbolism- the representation of something in symbolic form or the attribution of symbolic meaning or character to something Fitzgerald is a author who is distinguished by his use of symbolism, especially in the novel “The Great Gatsby”, which is full of symbolical elements. While the image of Doctor T.J Eckleburg is an example of personification, it is even a greater example of symbolism. The eyes symbolize God to the people who stand under them, making them feel that much more scrutinized in their day-to-day life of faking and trying to please. They also suggest the downfall of the American Dream, as the all-seeing ( seemingly living) eyes overlook a desolate wasteland. A great use of symbolism is the two young ladies dressed in yellow at Gatsby’s party; “Do you come to these parties often?” enquired Jordan of the girl beside her.
“The last one was the one I met you at,” answered the girl in an alert, confident voice. She turned to her companion: “Wasn’t it for you Lucille?” It was for Lucille too. “I like to come,” Lucille said “I never care what I do, so I always have a good time. When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked me my name and address- inside of a week I got a package from Croirier’s with a new evening gown in it.”( Here Fitzgerald uses Lucile and her friend as a symbol of the values of the people who lived during the time period of this novel. Lucile admits that her attitude towards life is that, as long as she is having a good time, she doesn’t care what she’s doing. Another example of symbolism is in the description of the food at Gatsby’s party; On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold”. Fitzgerald uses the food to symbolize the people of this era; garnishing themselves ( quite absurdly), in hopes of impressing and outdoing those around them. Fitzgerald also uses the other quality of food ( it’s longevity), to show that all these superficial things will fade, and in the end, they are all just as rotten as the other. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald uses symbolism to foreshadow, to entice the reader, and to give a deeper understanding of his work and the era it took place in.
Metaphor- a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action that it does not literally denote in order to imply a resemblance Fitzgerald uses metaphors in “The Great Gatsby” , to describe the way society thinks or at least used to think, to describe relations between different people and most importantly, to describe feelings. One of the greatest metaphors in the novel is Gatsby himself; life is a play in which we try to be the best (fake) version of ourselves as we can be. To look at Gatsby as he is portrayed in the novel, one would think he was born into money and lived with money all his life. Gatsby ( his real name being Jay Gatz), was born to a poor family in 1890 and used to work as a janitor. Now that those times are behind him, and he is living comfortably, Gatsby is trying to fake his way through life, outputting a persona that he does have, and constantly running from a past he can never escape. Another great metaphor is the “Green Light” that Gatsby can see across the bay.
Both the colour green and light itself are associated with hope; in this case, the green light symbolizes Gatsby’s wanting of a life he can never have. His only concern is that one day he can be reunited with Daisy, and this is Gatsby’s only true concern. As Nick says; “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther….”. Fitzgerald uses this metaphor to make Gatsby more relatable to ourselves, as we all have our own “green light”, and no matter how hard to achieve it might seem, we will always seek it. Fitzgerald also uses metaphors to show the materialistic values that are placed very highly in society, and shows their superficiality; “Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes “ Here, Fitzgerald is telling us that the way a person acts cannot be found on a physical item, thus showing the transparency of the personalities of many of the people living in that era. Another metaphor is when Nick describes Daisy’s voice;
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl […]. “ Fitzgerald chooses to compare Daisy’s voice to money, and to provide this explanation, in order to show the power status held over their society. One could work all their lives, and earn their money ( as Gatsby had), but could never attain the status of those born into money, as they were born with a sense of richness and sophistication that one could not attain through
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