The Power of Descriptive Words

by Laura Baliman, Age 13, UK


F. Scott Fitzgerald built The Great Gatsby upon descriptive words and phrases which create a world around the twisted plot. The main ideas of the book are intensified with the power of Fitzgerald’s descriptive language: Gatsby describes Daisy’s voice as “full of money,” and there being a “pale gold odour of kiss-me-at-the-gate.” He describes voices as money and scents as colours. This is a great technique – separating them from what they physically are and turning them into something totally new. The use of original imagery enhances the ideas within the story.

One of my favourite descriptions from the book is “what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams.” It provokes the image of foul, grey dust just hanging nonchalantly behind his dreams as if they could never be noticed. I also like “a single green light” because it is simple; it is a green light and only a green light, yet it has so much power.

Fitzgerald also uses metaphors to paint pictures in our heads. My favourite of these is the last line of the book, which sums up so well the idea of strife behind the story and styles it into such a powerful image: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” As well as being a perfect metaphor, it also ends the book in a calm manner, with the calm yet solemn sound of oars beating against water. I also like this ending because it calms down the hysteria of the parties and madness. Descriptions can really enhance an idea and its effect, so never underestimate the power of descriptive words!


Laura Baliman is a 13 year old writer from the UK. Laura says, “My dream is to be a writer so I’m always looking to work towards that as well, and I also spend a lot of time on English assignments because they force me to actually complete and edit a story. I struggle to think of anything but writing!”


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