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Rhetorical Devices in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:00 Sending a Message
  • 0:43 Alliteration/Allusion
  • 1:59 Epizeuxis/Imagery
  • 2:58 Metaphor & Simile
  • 4:15 Oxymoron/Personification
  • 5:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

How do authors use language to make their writing vivid and meaningful to the reader? F. Scott Fitzgerald used many different rhetorical devices to make his novel 'The Great Gatsby' jump off of the page.

Sending a Message

Why do authors write what they write? In general, there are three purposes for writing: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain. These three purposes seem pretty basic, but how exactly do authors go about meeting these goals? One way is to use rhetorical devices, or special ways of writing that create meaning or feeling for the readers. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby overflows with rhetorical devices, including:

  • Alliteration
  • Allusion
  • Epizeuxis
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor and simile
  • Oxymoron
  • Personification

Alliteration

One of the most basic rhetorical devices is alliteration, or two or more words next to or near each other that repeat the same consonant sound, such as in the line, 'each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.' In this example, 'Mr. Mumble' repeats the 'm' sound at the beginning of each word.

Allusion

Authors use allusion when they reference a person, historical event, or another piece of literature in their story. These references are indirect; allusions are mentioned in passing and do not include much (if any) explanation. The Great Gatsby includes many allusions, especially to historical people, such as the line, 'I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities, and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Mæcenas knew.' In this quote, narrator Nick Carraway references three different men:

  • Midas, the fabled king who turned everything he touched into gold
  • J.P. Morgan, an American industrialist and banker known for his immense wealth
  • Mæcenas, a Roman statesman and political ally to Caesar Augustus

Epizeuxis

You may not be familiar with the term 'epizeuxis,' but you've probably used it before when you speak out loud. Epizeuxis is repeating the same word multiple times to emphasize a point. Myrtle Wilson employs this rhetorical device while arguing with her lover, Tom Buchanan, about his wife: ' 'Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!' shouted Mrs. Wilson. 'I'll say it whenever I want to!' ' It's pretty clear to everyone around her that she's upset about Daisy!

Imagery

Imagery is one of the most common rhetorical devices. It's used to vividly describe characters, actions, and settings in a way that engages the reader's five senses. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby draws the reader in and makes them feel like they're a part of the novel: 'The wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life.'

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