What are the three main literary elements present in "The Great Gatsby"?F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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Fitzgerald's artisitic triumph, The Great Gatsby, exhibits a literary beauty that sets it apart as the author makes great use of symboism, imagery, and figurative language.


1.  The green light on the end of Daisy's pier represents Jay Gatsby's American dreams of "winning the girl" and achieving monetary success.  It also symbolizes Daisy's being far away and unreachable, perhaps, even illusionary.

2. The disembodied eyes of Doctor T. J. Ecklesberg on the billboard that stands in the corrupt Valley of Ashes symbolize the blindness to their corruption that those of the Jazz Age have, as well as brooding presence over the slum area where George Wilson declares "God sees everything" after his wife Myrtle dies.

3. The colors yellow and white have great significance.  Daisy, whose car is white when Jay meets her, who dresses in white, and whose name suggests a white flower suggests innocence, naivete, and purity.  However, the center of the daisy flower is yellow, the color of corruption and greed.  Like the flower, Daisy appears innocent, but at her core is corruption and love of money.  (Nick describes her voice as sounding like money.)

4. Flowers - Besides Daisy, Myrtle Wilson also has a flower name.

5. The Valley of Ashes - Like the "Wasteland" of T. S. Eliot, which suggests corruption, loneliness and despair, and gloom.


The mythological imagery of Gatsby's car that has fenders like wings  possesses a rich cream color, "bright with nickel," is described as Nick states that it is

terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.  Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town

The human molars that Myron Wolfscheim has as cuff-links bespeaks much of his cruel character.  And, there is much color imagery:

sidewalks of "white with moonlight"; Gatsby gulps down "the incomparable mile of wonder"; the producer at the party who has "a blue nose'; Daisy's "gold pencil"; the guests at Gatsby's parties who are "the same many-colred, may-keyed"; the greyness of the Valley of Ashes, "a grey florid man with a hard empty face," Dan Cody.

Daisy weeps with the joy of materialism and buries her face in the many-colored shirts that Gatsby brings out for her perusal when she visits his house.

Light and dark imagery is also employed in novel.


Perhaps the greatest beauty in Fitzgerald's novel is his use of figurative language, the execution of which is an absolute triumph.  The novel abounds in simile, metaphor, euphemism, and other figurative devices.  Critic Charles Thomas Samuels states that The Great Gatsby has "the precision and splendor of a lyric poem" and is a novel that has made language "celebrate itself."  (See the link below to read his essay)

1.  Simile - In Chapter Two, Fitzgerald writes, "I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson's mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall."

2. Metaphor - West Egg and East Egg are metaphors for the sections of New York which are part of the novel's setting.  The West, Midwest represents decency and basic principles of honesty, while the East represents moral decay, materialism, and deceit.

3.  Euphemisms - Gatsby speaks of his "advantages" as a young man meaning his introduction to Dan Cody.  A "businessman" is Meyer Wolfscheim and "yatching" is used in reference to rumrunning.  Wolfscheim asks Nick if he is looking for a "business gonnegtion" [business connection] referring to entry into bootlegging.  Jordan Baker refers to Mrytle Wilson as "some woman" rather than Tom's mistress.

When Gatsby relates his "involvement" with the struggle of the Montenegro populace, he says he sympathized with the "brave struggles" which were, in reality, a deadly battle.

Of course, Nick uses euphemisms often saying that he is "casually sorry" for Jordan Baker who is "incurably dishonest."


Critic Charles Thomas Samuels praises The Great Gatsby as having "the precision and splendor of a lyric poem" while possessing a distinctive language that "celebrates itself."  (See the link below to read his essay.)

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The Great Gatsby

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