great gatsby - theme of success

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The Great Gatsby Success

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s detailed descriptions of the landscapes in The Great Gatsby, which use several rhetorical devices, emphasize the theme of success. The rhetorical devices reveal more about this theme as they add style, clarity, and effectiveness to the writing. Both the ideas of being successful as well as unsuccessful are conveyed by Fitzgerald through the different landscapes. The description of Louisville, Gatsby’s mansion, and Gatsby’s funeral highlight the success that Gatsby achieved.

Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby and Daisy in Louisville show Gatsby’s success early in his life. Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s fascination with Daisy in this Louisville setting through effective diction and imagery. The imagery used in the description Daisy’s mansion provides the reader with a better idea of what he wanted in his life. The mansion amazed Gatsby with its “ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms…and redolent of this years shining motor cars.” (155). This mansion symbolized the wealth Gatsby wanted in life. Fitzgerald also describes Daisy as being “excitingly desirable,” (155) to Gatsby. The words “excitingly desirable” show the priority Gatsby placed on being with Daisy. Gatsby first kisses Daisy on a moonlit evening in Louisville before the war. This kiss signified Gatsby’s accomplishment of his goals early in his life. During their time in Louisville, Gatsby and Daisy became very much in love, she “brushed silent lips against his coat’s shoulder,” (158) and he “touched the end of her fingers, gently, as though she were asleep.” (158). The imagery adds feeling to the writing and this helps to emphasize the theme of Gatsby’s success in this part of the novel.

Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s mansion more thoroughly than any other setting in the book. The mansion symbolized both the success in Gatsby’s life as well as the success he did not achieve. Fitzgerald uses imagery, diction, and figurative language to describe this setting. Imagery is used to describe Gatsby’s parties where “men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” (4). This popularity portrays Gatsby as a successful person. There is more imagery when Fitzgerald describes the inside of Gatsby’s mansion, which has “period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk poolrooms…and a toilet set of pure dull gold.” (6). The detailed portrayal of Gatsby’s home show his success from a materialistic point of view. While his mansion seems to represent the great success he achieved, Gatsby’s mansion is later described as a “huge incoherent failure of a house.” (188). The words “huge incoherent failure” used together emphasize the idea that Gatsby was actually not successful. Also, Fitzgerald writes that one guest did not realize the “party was over,” (188) and this metaphor contributes to the idea that Gatsby’s extravagant life was just a cover for his unsuccessful life. The description of this setting is used to show that Gatsby could be perceived as successful in some ways, but unsuccessful in other areas of his life.


The description of Gatsby’s funeral marks the final idea of Gatsby not achieving success in his life. Fitzgerald uses strong imagery and a depressed tone to describe this setting. The funeral is a pitiful affair that occurs on a gloomy, rainy day. Only a few of Gatsby’s servants, Nick, Gatsby’s father, and the man from Gatsby’s library show up. There was a “sad procession of cars,” (18) on the way to his burial led by a “motor hearse, horribly black and wet.” (18). This setting sums up Gatsby’s life, which turned out to be quite unsuccessful.

The settings that are emphasized by Fitzgerald add to the theme of success through detailed descriptions and the language and words used. The descriptive writing makes each setting impact the theme greatly. Gatsby looked successful on the outside, but he died without achieving happiness and the settings help to convey the this theme to the reader.

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