Literary Devices

Throughout The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald makes use of numerous literary devices. He uses them to convey deeper meanings of his novel as well as to make the text more interesting. Most frequently employed by Fitzgerald are;

Foreshadowing – The act of presenting materials that hint at events that occur later in a story. All the way leading up to the climax, Fitzgerald hints at the downfall of Gatsby, such as in Chapter 3 where he writes, “He snatched the book from me and placed it hastily on its shelf muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse.”

Irony – The difference between appearance and reality. There are three types;

Dramatic – Something is known by the reader but not by the characters. Characteristic of this is the scene where all the characters except Tom are aware of the affair between Gatsby and Daisy, until of course it finally hits him.

Verbal – A statement that was made that implies the opposite. Used extensively by Fitzgerald, it was many times in reference to Gatsby, like when Wolfshiem says that Gatsby “would never so much as look at a friend’s wife.”

Situational – An event happens that is contrary to the expectations of the reader. At the very end of the story, contrary to the expectations, or at least the hopes, of the readers, Fitzgerald has Daisy stay with Tom instead of leaving him.

Allusion – a reference to a person, event, object, or work from literature that is expected to be known by the reader. There are numerous references throughout the entire work to literature, such as the John L Stoddard Lectures, Hopalong Cassidy, and Castle Rackrent, and to the popular culture of the 1920’s, such as Frisco, Belasco, and the popular novel “Simon Called Peter.”

Symbolism – presenting a thing that represents both itself and something else. Fitzgerald made many things in The Great Gatsby highly symbolic to try and better convey his themes Among others, he uses colors, locations, seasons, cars, and Daisy’s voice.

Aphorism- An aphorism is a short saying or pointed statement. Examples of aphorisms include “Time is money” or “The early bird catches the worm.” An aphorism that gains currency from generation to generation is called an adage or proverb. An example of an aphorism occurs early in the book when Nick Carraway narrates for us the wise advice his father had given him, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.

Flashback- A flashback is a section of a literary work that presents an event or series of events that occurred earlier than the current time in the work. Writers use flashbacks for many purposes, but most notably to provide background information, or exposition. In popular melodramatic works, including modern romance fiction and detective stories, flashbacks are often used to end suspense by revealing key elements of the plot such as a character’s true identity or the actual perpetrator of a crime. An example of a flashback occurs in chapter 4, starting when Jordan says “One October day in nineteen-seventeen.”

Simile- A simile is a comparison of two things using the word “like” or the word “as”. Similes occur very regularly throughout the book. Some examples include at the start of chapter 3, where Nick narrates to us,” In his blue garden men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Another one occurs in chapter 7, when Nick says, “Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans”. These occur rather regularly throughout the book.

Metaphor- A metaphor is an indirect comparison of two things without the use of the words “like” or “as”. Daisy uses a metaphor to describe Nick in chapter 1 when she says, “You remind me of a- of a rose, an absolute rose. Doesn’t he?” These occur regularly throughout the book.