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Symbolism in the Great Gatsby Case

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Symbolism in The Great Gatsby


The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald that follows a cast of characters living in the fictional town of West Egg on prosperous Long Island in the summer of 1922. The story primarily concerns the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his quixotic passion and obsession for the beautiful former debutante Daisy Buchanan. Considered to be Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby explores themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, social upheaval, and excess, creating a portrait of the Jazz Age or the Roaring Twenties that has been described as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his most famous), and Tender Is the Night. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with age and despair.


2.1 Green Light

In The Great Gatsby, the most noticeable image is the Green Light. Green is traditionally represents spring, hope and renewal. And the green light in this story is a symbol for Gatsby's dream and the hope for the future. For example, at the end of the first chapter, Fitzgerald wrote:

"I decided to call to him. Miss Baker had mentioned him at dinner, and that would do for an introduction. But I didn't call to him for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone—he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness."

The green light is only a green light, but to Gatsby it becomes the embodiment of his dream for the future, and it beckons to him in the night like a vision of the fulfillment of his desires. Gatsby has made Daisy a symbol of everything he values, and makes the green light on her dock a symbol of his destiny with her. Gatsby’s love for Daisy is the source of his romantic hopefulness and the meaning of his yearning for the green light in Chapter One: the object of his hope, the green light toward which he reaches.

2.2 White

White is another color which appears many times throughout the novel. White usually represent pure and innocence. The white color in this novel mostly is used to describe the heroine, Daisy. It is how the girls, Daisy and Jordan, are dressed in the beginning before their true characteristics are revealed. Jordan Baker talks about Daisy,

"She was just eighteen, two years older than me, and by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville. She dressed in white, and had a little white roadster and all day long the telephone rang in her house and excited young officers from Camp Taylor demanded the privilege of monopolizing her that night."

As the heroine, Daisy is a high-born rich girl, and in people's eyes she is beautiful and innocent, at least in appearance.

2.3 Gatsby's Car

In American society the car is always sen as a symbol of status and wealth. Gatsby's car is an embodiment of his wealth.

The author described Gatsby's car that "a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and here in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terrace with a labyrinth of wind shields that mirrored, a dozen suns".

2.4 Valley of Ashes

Fitzgerald described the valley of ashes: "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."

The valley of ashes represents a modern world, which is like a grotesque hell created by modern industry. Factory and train produced in the manufacture of wealth has polluted symbolizes the spiritual desolation, that a society based on money creates. The whole valley symbolized a world whose inhabitants are so spiritually lost, that they worship money and wealth. In the end of the novel, Gatsby is destroyed by his illusion of Daisy, just as the fresh landscape of America has been converted into a depressing "valley of ashes".



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