What literary technique is Fitzgerald using at the end of chapter one of The Great Gatsby when Nick refers to the "Silver pepper of the stars"?

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arwallace's profile pic

arwallace | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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F. Scott Fitzgerald is using both imagery and metaphor when his character Nick in The Great Gatsby refers to the “silver pepper of the stars”.

This reference is a metaphor because it is a comparison of two unalike things, stars and pepper, without using the words like or as. If you use like or as when making a comparison, it is a simile instead of a metaphor.

This reference is also imagery because it brings an image of the stars and a description of how the sky looks to the reader’s mind. You may also want to ask yourself, why does this description work? The word peppered can also be used as an adjective that is a synonym for sprinkled. Therefore, the dark night sky is sprinkled with the light of the stars.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In this passage, Nick first observes Gatsby in front of his own house in the dark, and Gatsby stands looking at the "silver pepper of the stars." This figure of speech is a metaphor, a comparison that does not use "like" or "as." This metaphor is particularly striking for the beauty of the image it creates.

It is also a deep metaphor with several layers of meaning, as Nick goes on to say that Gatsby has "come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens." In other words, the use of pepper—something that a person would sprinkle on his or her food—to describe the stars makes it seem as if Gatsby is claiming something that isn't really his to claim. As the reader goes on to discover more about Gatsby, the reader knows that Gatsby tries to buy things to make himself seem more important and that Gatsby lays claim to things and people—even Daisy—that aren't really his to claim. Therefore, this scene, in which Gatsby even tries to measure out and claim the stars, sets a precedent for other objects and people he will try to claim later in the novel.


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