Analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald's use of figurative language in the first passage on page 78 of The Great Gatsby and how its final metaphor contributes to the overall meaning of the novel. The...

Analyze F. Scott Fitzgerald's use of figurative language in the first passage on page 78 of The Great Gatsby and how its final metaphor contributes to the overall meaning of the novel. The passage starts with "When Jordan... " and ends with "purposeless splendor."

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The passage to which you refer in your question is found toward the end of chapter four of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it is replete with figurative language. The two speakers in the passage are Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story. Most of the figurative language can be found in the initial paragraph of the passage:

When Jordan Baker had finished telling all this we had left the Plaza for half an hour and were driving in a victoria through Central Park. The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in the West Fifties, and the clear voices of girls, already gathered like crickets on the grass, rose through the hot twilight: "I'm the Sheik of Araby. Your love belongs to me. At night when you're asleep, Into your tent I'll creep--" 

The only simile (a comparison between two things using "like" or "as") in the passage is found in the second sentence, where Fitzgerald compares the girls, gathered in groups, to a collection of chirping crickets gathered in the grass.

Sensory imagery appeals to the senses, and there are several examples of this in the passage. The sights include Central Park, tall apartment buildings, the car itself, and small groups gathered on the grass, all seen through the lens of twilight and a setting sun. The sounds include the car, the nature sounds of whatever creatures inhabit the park, the gaggle of girls singing "Sheik of Araby." Touch imagery includes the car seats beneath them and the heat, even at twilight, and the coolness of the sunset's shadows; smell imagery includes the smells of the car (inside and out) as well as the smells of the park. 

The conversation in between the first and last paragraphs does not offer anything in the way of figurative language; however, it does set up the final metaphor.

"It was a strange coincidence," I said.

"But it wasn't a coincidence at all."

"Why not?"

"Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay."

Nick ends this excerpt with this commentary:

Then it had not been merely the stars to which he had aspired on that June night. He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.

Again there is a hint of sensory imagery in the form of the stars of a summer night, the night Nick saw his neighbor Gatsby for the first time. It is the metaphor (an implied comparison between two things) which is most striking, however.

Until now, Nick has always seen Gatsby as living in a "womb of...purposeless splendor," alone in his gargantuan, empty, and ostentatious house. Tonight, after talking with Jordan, Gatsby has figuratively been "delivered" (freed) from that meaningless, showy "womb." Nick now understands that Gatsby's actions have purpose and meaning; they are not more of the empty, idle acts of the rich. 

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Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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When Jordan Baker had finished telling all this we had left the Plaza for half an hour and were driving in a victoria through Central Park. The sun had gone down behind the tall apartments of the movie stars in the West Fifties, and the clear voices of girls, already gathered like crickets on the grass, rose through the hot twilight: "I'm the Sheik of Araby.Your love belongs to me.At night when you're asleep,Into your tent I'll creep--"

Other examples of figurative language in this passage include the simile between "the clear voices of girls" and "crickets on the grass". There is also an allusion to the 1920s jazz song "The Sheik of Araby". It makes sense that Fitzgerald would reference a jazz song in his novel since The Great Gatsby is an iconic representation of the Jazz Age. 

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