The Great Gatsby Literary Terms

Hey there! In this post, I would like to cover some of the literary terms that were used in the Great Gatsby novel. I hope you like it.

Hyperbole – the counterpart of understatement deliberately exaggerates conditions for emphasis or effect.
• “I’m p-paralyzed with happiness” (12)
• “The whole town is desolate. All the cars have the left wheel painted black as a mourning wreath, and there s a persistent wail all night along the north shore” (13) – Nick on the subject of people in Chicago missing Daisy.
Protagonist – The main character in a story, the one with whom the reader is meant to identify. The person is not necessarily “good” by any conventional moral standard, but he/she is the person in whose plight the reader is most invested.
• The protagonist in The Great Gatsby can be argued to either be Gatsby or Nick depending on whose plight the reader identifies with and invests in.
Allusion – a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of
• “He was a son of God…and he must be about His Father’s business” (73) Motif – a recurring important idea or image. A motif differs from a theme in that it can be expressed as a single word or fragmentary phrase, while a theme usually must be expressed as a complete sentence.
• Geography serves as an important motif in The Great Gatsby as location helps to shape the novel’s themes and characters. (East Egg as odd upper-class traditions, West Egg as new money, celebrities, and wild lifestyles, and The valley of ashes as desperate and desolate)

Foreshadow – where future events in a story, or perhaps the outcome, are suggested by the author before they happen.
• “So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight” (98) – This statement foreshadows Myrtle‟s death and the death of Gatsby’s dream.
Irony – where an event occurs which is unexpected, in the sense that it is somehow in absurd or mocking opposition to what would be expected or appropriate.
• Wolfshiem’s characterization as Jewish, yet the title of his office being “The Swastika Holding Company” (120)