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Most Enthralling Figurative Language Examples in The Great Gatsby

Figurative Language Examples in The Great Gatsby
'The Great Gatsby', a book which received accolades, is the story of Gatsby, a man who is in pursuit of his former lady love. Sadly, the story has a tragic ending, symbolizing the fading of the American dream. We enlist some figurative language examples used in The Great Gatsby.
Neha B Deshpande
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
'The Great Gatsby' itself serves as a metaphor of the American dream. The hypocrite world of riches with fake emotions displays the ugly side of humans, who, in pursuit of wealth, do not refuse to resort to unfair means.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the story of Jay Gatsby, who is obsessed with Daisy Buchanan, with whom he fell in love five years back. On the other hand, Daisy is materialistic, and instead of waiting for Gatsby, chooses to marry the rich Tom Buchanan. Gatsby returns with all the riches and with the hope of winning her back, and makes every attempt to flaunt his riches. The story is narrated through Nick, who is Gatsby's neighbor, and Daisy's cousin.

There is judicious use of similes and metaphors in this book. Almost every sentence will exhibit figurative language. Figurative language is used to embellish language, and help the reader comprehend a deeper meaning that goes beyond the literal meaning. Following are some examples, along with figurative language quotes, in the 'The Great Gatsby'.
A 'simile' compares two things that are akin, with the help of connecting words such as 'like' and 'as'.
"In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars."

It describes Gatsby's lavish parties, where guests pour in large numbers.
"Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans"

The narrator describes the two beautiful women dressed up perfectly as idols.
"Then he kissed her. At his lips' touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete."

When Gatsby kisses Daisy, he compares her beauty to the blossoming of a flower.
"He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity. Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an over-wound clock."

Nick describes Gatsby's over excitement due to Daisy's presence, and compares him to an over wound clock.
"On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains."

Nick narrates the hustle-bustle of preparations at Gatsby's house, and describes the station wagon as a yellow bug.
In simple language, a hyperbole is an overstatement, a literary device that helps create more emphasis.
"I'm p-paralyzed with happiness."

This reaction by Daisy when she meets Nick, her cousin, is an overstatement.

"The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic - their irises are one yard high."

Description of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg's eyes, the irises being one yard high, is an overstatement.
Personification is a literary device that gives human attributes or qualities to a non-human entity.
"At the gray tea hour there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low, sweet fever, while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor."

To create a mystical effect, the rooms are personified. Also, the people who visit his home have been described as rose petals (use of simile).

"On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby's house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn."

The world is personified to be returning to Gatsby's house, against the background of Sunday church bells.
A metaphor is a symbol or representation used for a certain person/place/thing.
"A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up towards the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea."

While describing the room, the frosted wedding-cake is used as a metaphor for the ceiling. This also contains 'imagery', and helps the readers visualize the room.

My own house was an eyesore.

Nick states that his house is modest, and strikingly different than the lavish, beautiful houses around his house, thus making it an eyesore.

"It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people- with the single mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe."

The author compares the selfish nature of those who do not stop for a moment and think before defrauding others, similar to a burglar who loots money.

"Her voice is full of money."

Gatsby's comments show that Daisy's voice is so enchanting and captivating like money. The way people die for money, anyone would go crazy after her voice.
An imagery helps the readers visualize or create a 'mental image' of the scenario. In short, it aids your imagination, and builds a picture in your head, with an intricate description of the background, sound, etc.
"This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight."

The author has created a picture in the minds of the readers about the 'Valley of Ashes', which is completely different from the rich areas. This valley symbolizes the poor conditions in which the economically down people have to live, in contradiction to the lavish lifestyle of the neighboring areas.

"Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered "Listen," a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour."

The author tries to create a vivid picture of Daisy's beautiful face, an enthralling voice, and her irresistible looks, that could make men go all gaga over her.

There is ample use of figurative language here, and the characters in The Great Gatsby symbolize how emotionally and morally void humans have become. Daisy suppresses her real feelings and chooses wealth over real love. In fact, she even prays that her daughter grows up to be a fool. Her husband, on the other hand, is in an illicit relationship with another married woman. Gatsby, who is so smitten by Daisy, rises from his humble background to join the elite, hoping Daisy will return to him. The web of relationships is complicated and fake. The real essence of living is completely forgotten while pursuing this dream of being rich. Everyone shows that they're happy, when in reality no one is. Daisy masks her unhappiness with her beauty, not realizing what a big mistake she has done by spurning true love. In short, the characters are metaphors for being hypocrites, suppressing real emotions, and being self-centered.