"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms...

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

What is the diction (and specific words that support the diction), and what is the tone?

What are the literary devices in the passage?

What is the overall significance of the passage and how does it help to develop the book?

Expert Answers
kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this quote, Fitzgerald uses a metaphor to compare the future (and the fulfilment of one's personal goals) to the green light outside Daisy's house. He also uses personification to describe the future as a living thing which can be chased and caught by the likes of Jay Gatsby.

Initially, the tone of this quote is hopeful and optimistic.  It is based on the idea that we must overcome failure by continually striving for success. In other words, we must never give up, just as Gatsby never stopped trying to be with Daisy.

But the tone changes towards the end of the quote, becoming more pessimistic. The idea of the boat being "borne back," for example, highlights the idea that no matter how hard Gatsby tried to win back Daisy, he was never successful. Moreover, he paid the ultimate price since he lost his life in his pursuit of Daisy.

In the wider context, then, this quote describes the failure of the American Dream because it negates the idea that if we keep trying, we will eventually achieve our goals. While this is best applicable to Gatsby, remember that none of the characters in this book achieve the life they truly want. Nick, for instance, returns disheartened to the Midwest while Daisy is destined to spend her life in a loveless marriage to Tom.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The literary device used in this passage is an extended metaphor in which all of humanity, Gatsby included, is heading towards the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. This light is a symbol not only of Gatsby's love for Daisy but also Americans' quest to achieve the proverbial American Dream of greater wealth and higher status. Later, in another metaphor, humanity is compared to boats that are constantly beaten back by the tides so that they never make any progress. 

The diction in this passage is elevated, in that it does not use much informal language. The syntax is fragmented, as there are parts of sentences such as "And one fine morning..." These thoughts are not completed, much as people's wishes are not completed and these syntactical choices contribute to the overall cynical tone of the passage. 

The significance of this passage is that it expresses our collective hopes for a better future, as well as expressing Gatsby's hopes to achieve the American Dream of climbing the social ladder and earning great wealth. Gatsby does not achieve these hopes by the end of the novel, and Fitzgerald expresses that we won't either, though we will keep trying. 

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The Great Gatsby

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