The Symbolism in the Great GatsbyGet Your
Starting at Just $13.90 a page
1. About the novel: The Great Gatsby, the exemplary novel of the Jazz Age, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. T. S. Eliot read it three times and saw it as the “first step” American fiction had taken since Henry James; H. L. Mencken praised “the charm and beauty of the writing,” as well as Fitzgerald’s sharp social sense; and Thomas Wolfe hailed it as Fitzgerald’s “best work” thus far. The Great Gatsby was published in 1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. At first glance, the novel appears to be a simple love story, but further examination reveals Fitzgerald’s masterful scrutiny of American society during the 1920s and the corruption of the American dream.
2 About the Author F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and died in 1940. One of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century, Fitzgerald was the literary spokesman of the jazz age, having written about people whose lives resembled his own.
He and his wife, Zelda, lived a celebrated life, glittering and dissipated, in New York City and the French Riviera, but his later years were plagued by financial worries and his wife’s insanity. Fitzgerald’s novels include: This Side of Paradise (1920), The Beautiful and Damned (1922),The Great Gatsby (1922),Tender Is the Night (1934),The Last Tycoon (1941). He also published four short-story collections.
II. The Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald uses many symbolic devices to convey the thoughts and motifs of the 1920s in The Great Gatsby. The symbolism is seen in the green light on Daisy’s dock, the billboard on the side of the highway, the cars, the library in Gatsby’s house, and Daisy’s appearance, etc.
1. Different colors used by the author to develop this love story gradually in front of us:
A. Light and Dark: Light colors represent dreams or goals. Gatsby follows the pure light of the grail. Gatsby is reintroduced to Daisy on a dewy bright morning. Dark colors are the realities of Gatsby’s dream-like life. The Valley of Ashes is the stark opposition to East and West Egg. All of Gatsby’s parties are held at night and are bright with a false light.
B. Green: Green represents a promise. The crisp fresh grass Daisy crosses as she meets Gatsby offers a promise that turns out to be an illusion since she never commits herself to Gatsby. Daisy’s green light at the end of her dock is a goal Gatsby tries to reach but is never fully attainable.
C. Yellow: Yellow symbolizes the corruption and death in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby’s yellow car is the murder weapon used to kill Myrtle. The rich, flaky women at Gatsby’s party swing their yellow gowns wildly as the drink and flirt and cause problems. Dr. T. J. Eckleburg wears yellow spectacles to block America from seeing what the nation has actually become. Imprisoned by the cold clutches of money and materialism, Gatsby works diligently to be accepted within higher society. Yellow images are seen in numerous of Gatsby’s possessions: The image of “scampering like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains”, the corruption and superficiality of material goods is represented in the vehicle. Not only does Gatsby’s hunger for money consume him, but also the same general greed lures many other of the guests that are present at his parties. The vivid, carefree brightness of the color yellow naturally attracts the attention of many. Objects associated with Gatsby’s parties are for this reason illustrated in yellow.
D. White: White usually symbolizes purity. Gatsby lives in a great white mansion and wears white or pink suits, representing his innocence and pure heart. The color white is also used by Fitzgerald to describe Daisy’s superficiality. White is a symbol of purity and innocence, and Daisy first appears to be pure. Daisy itself has pure white petals but a center, or heart of yellow.
Daisy herself seems pure and innocent, but her heart is not as pure as her appearance. Her actions soon explain, however, that her innocence is only a facade. To make herself appear “white,” she drives a white car and even dresses in white. A similarity is seen in an ordinary egg. The outside shell is white, but the inside of the egg is yellow; these characteristics represent Daisy’s sin. As Nick Learns more about Daisy and Jordan, their dresses become creamy, then yellow or gold. As seen in the attire of both Daisy and Jordan, white is used to improve their pure appearances.
These portrayals are not completely stainless, for colors of destructive characteristics are frequently evident. Irony plays off of the fact that neither of the women proves to be immune to this circulation of corruption. Daisy, of course, is guilty of superficiality and desires nothing less than self-satisfaction. Jordan, on the other hand, possesses dishonest traits and is known for cheating. E. Blue: Blue symbolizes romance and illusions. Gatsby’s dream-like parties are filled with blue music. Blue possesses a showy attraction that appears promising and glamorous while distorting the actual image.
Myrtle is introduced in a “spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine”, but it is confirmed that she displays no exceptional qualities of beauty. Her dress, however, adds a more promising illusion to the scene. The blue illustrated in Myrtle’s dress represents a romantic fulfillment desired by her lover, Tom Buchanan.
2. The symbolic meaning of the Green Light: Green is the symbol of the “orgiastic future” – the limitless promise of the dream. From a distance, Gatsby sees a green light on Daisy’s dock. This light represents the pursuit of the American Dream as well as a symbol of new wealth and life.
In the end, this dream becomes a bitter illusion. As Nick recalls Gatsby gazing intently at the flickering green glow in the distance, it is obvious that Gatsby himself views more than the mere light. His intense look of concentration and his trembling reveal a strong longing and desire to reach what seems unreachable from his point of standing. Literally, the light on the end of the dock stands on Daisy’s property. Gatsby is physically fettered by land and distance, thus to actually be able to grasp Daisy’s undivided attention and love is nothing more than a goal or dream. The color green is attractive and appears to somewhat mock the impossibility of his expectations for a rekindled flame of love.
3. The symbolic meaning of the Valley of Ashes and the Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg: The Valley of Ashes symbolizes all the immorality of the age. The billboard is practically ignored and the eyes of “God” are faded, symbolizing the departure of the civilization from religion to materialistic gain. Religion in the 1920s did not play as important a role as it did in the years before.
People who moved into the cities were looking for easy living and amenities–like cars, lights, and inexpensive factory produced products–which were available only in the cities. The middle class social groups in the 1920s did not care about the past or future; they were aware only of living life to the fullest in the present. The people ignored God as they enjoyed the new wonders of city life. [pic] Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watches over the train riders as they travel to and from New York. At the end of the novel, we finally realize that God is dead, and He has been for quite some time.
Everything that happens during the summer adds to this realization. The lack of inhibitions that the people display encourages this theory. [pic] The lack of inhibitions in society of the 1920s is displayed by one of the visitors to one of Gatsby’s many parties. This man becomes intoxicated and decides to drive his car home. He runs the car right into the ditch at the end of the driveway. The passenger climbs out and proceeds to tell the crowd that he was not driving. When the crowd finally believes him, they find out that the intoxicated driver has been killed in the accident.
No one really seems to care all that much. This instance further adds to the lack of inhibitions and compassion in the society in the 1920s. [pic] Another aspect that adds to the concept that God is dead would be the death of the American Dream. We can look at it by way of Gatsby’s fortune, his dealings with organized crime, and the immoral people who have all the money. Gatsby acquired his fortune supposedly by bootlegging. He became attached to organized crime through his bootlegging of whiskey during Prohibition. The wealthy immoral would be Tom and Daisy Buchanan, for instance.
The two of them run around as though they own the world. They do anything and everything against morality. Daisy kills Tom’s mistress and thinks nothing of it. She just continues on with her life after slamming right into the woman. The American Dream is dead by this time in their lives.
4. The symbolic meaning of The Flowers: Throughout The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald consistently uses floral references as a way to describe characters and/or events, or as a method of imagery.
A. “Daisy surprised me by opening up… in a flower-like way”. Interestingly, Fitzgerald chose the name Daisy for the love nterest of Gatsby. He reinforces the notion of Daisy’s being similar to her namesake by comparing her to flowers. Like the flower, Daisy is also often noted as wearing white, which symbolizes purity.
B. “of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered”. “Flowers scarcely withered” compares the vitality of flowers to indicate enthusiasm. (Flowers represent the lush energy of nature. )
C. “their last names were… the melodious names of flowers” – In this line, Fitzgerald uses flowers as an analogy for beauty.
D. “We went… through… bedrooms… ivid with new flowers” Gatsby’s tour of his house to Daisy gives him a new hope for his romantic dreams. Again, this is an example of the use of nature to represent a new hope, a new beginning, and possibly, a new life.
E. “Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white-plum tree” – Another instance of flowers as beautiful. Again, the white symbolizes purity, which is a recurring theme in The Great Gatsby.
F. “her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery… ” – use of orchids as a wonderful, calming nectar of sorts.
The sentence evokes a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, one of many the many times Fitzgerald’s flowing, descriptive writing style does.
G. “an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed” (151) – The dying orchids reinforced the concept of a dream lost.
H. “her hair was the color of an autumn leaf” – This is one of the few allusions that are not directed at Daisy. (The quotation describes Jordon Baker. )
5. The symbolism of main character’s name meanings: Nick Caraway-(Nicholas), victory of the people Jay Gatsby – A bird in the crow family (James Gatz); one who supplants Daisy Buchanan- day’s eye, flower name
Tom Buchanan – (Thomas) a twin Jordan Baker- descending, descendant Myrtle Wilson – the tree, victory George Wilson – tiller of soil farmer From the meanings of the names of the main characters, there seem to be two themes; victory and workers. For example, George Wilson works hard for his money but has little. Meyer Wolfshiem who is well off is a different kind of worker. He is Gatsby’s connection to organized crime. So he sells alcohol and recruits others to sell. The names that Fitzgerald uses for the members attending Gatsby’s parties are symbolic of the class of people as a whole.
The general mood of the names tells us how Fitzgerald feels about each class and gives a look at the type of personalities that are portrayed in that class. The names also provide a window into the characters’ personalities. Fitzgerald uses juxtaposition, which is placing two scenes, or in this case names, together for comparison. For example, on pages Nick Carraway, the narrator, lists all of the names from both parties that he can remember. The East Eggers are generally rich while the West Eggers are generally new wealth although there are some middle class mixed in with the West Eggers, like Nick, in bungalows.
Gatsby changed his name from James Gatz to Jay Gatsby when he moved away from home at the ripe age of seventeen to fulfill his disillusioned, romantic dreams of becoming rich. To do this, however, he felt that he needed to cut ties with his poor family roots.
6. The symbolic meaning of The Geographical Areas: East Egg consists of people such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan who have inherited their great wealth. Representing the upper class of society, most of the inhabitants of this island seem to lead immoral lives.
Living in West Egg are people such as Gatsby who have procured their great wealth status over their lifetime. Known as the nouveaux riches, the residents of West Egg are often looked down upon by the people of East Egg since the “West Eggers” do not hold the traditional values of high-class people. These two islands signify the separation of Gatsby and Daisy. Although Gatsby has attained great wealth, he will never be able to capture Daisy’s heart because of the invisible barrier of social class that severs them, similar to the body of water that separates the East Egg from the “less fashionable” West Egg.
Nick Carraway relocates from the West, a place where moral values are upheld, to the East, a place of meretricious values of wealth and social affairs. Moving to New York City, Nick lands a small job in the stocks and bonds business. After living in New York, people sacrifice their moral standards and turn to corruption. For example, Nick becomes more dishonest than he was when he first left for the big city. Furthermore, Nick, Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan all migrated from the west to the east, and in doing so, they desert most of the moral values that they had acquired while living in the west.
Making a permanent move to the East symbolizes the complete loss of moral esteem in Tom, Daisy, and Jordan; however, Nick, who will regain the moral standard that he had once lost while living in the East, moves back to the Midwest after Gatsby’s death. As the sultry days of summer produce discomfort and irritation to many, the concern of a love affair between Gatsby and Daisy arises in Tom. Hoping to find refuge from the blistering heat, Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan flee to the Plaza Hotel. The hotel suite that they occupy provides an neutral war ground for the battle over Daisy’s love between Tom and Gatsby. Towards the end of Tom’s confrontation, Gatsby discovers that Daisy was at some point in love with Tom. Finally, Gatsby realizes that he has lost the war.
7. The symbolic meaning of The Changing Seasons: The Great Gastby covers a course of approximately half a year from spring to autumn. Nick first arrives at West Egg in the spring. Later, as the dog-days of summer become unbearably hot, so does the tension between Tom and Gatsby. In fact, the climax occurs the day when Tom confronts Gatsby in the Plaza Hotel and when Daisy hits Myrtle with Gatsby’s car which is during the most scorching, most irritable day of the year. In the end, the descending leaves and the changing of seasons from summer to autumn signify the termination of Gatsby’s dream of marrying Daisy and inevitably the fall of Gatsby’s life.
8. The symbolism of Gatsby’s Car: Gatsby’s car represents his egotism; in essence the car is a representation of himself. “It was rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns”. The cream color symbolizes great wealth; together with the bright nickel, the car has a sense of purity and richness.
The “swollen boxes” which are blatantly displayed represent his extreme pride, like the saying “a swollen head” or one who has an inflated sense of importance. The labyrinth of windshields reflects Gatsby’s dream, metaphorically displayed as the sun, with the pure light that Gatsby has committed himself to follow. At first, Gatsby’s car is a cream color, but it soon evolves into a yellow instrument of death. Yellow symbolizes money and materialism that eventually leads to the destruction of the American Dream.
9. The symbolism of Gatsby’s Library: The library represents the superficiality of the people during the 1920s. The man with the owl-eye spectacles describes the books in the library as “a bona fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop too–didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect? ” The man is describing how Gatsby’s library is filled with genuine books, but these books are for display only. When “owl-eyes” mention that Gatsby had not cut the pages, basically it means that Gatsby has not even read these books.
Gatsby never went through any of his books because none of the pages had been trimmed. “Owl-eyes” also relates Gatsby to Belasco (1854-1931), who was a Broadway producer known for the realism of his sets. Gatsby’s library is just an expensive and realistic set, but it is nonetheless just a set. Gatsby’s library displays the materialism present in the 1920s. When Nick looks at the books on the wall, he notices that the edges of the books have not been cut yet and therefore have not been read. The library is a symbol of Gatsby’s status, showing that he is able to afford and own a large collection of books.
10. The Symbolism of Water; An important aspect of Fitzgerald’s complex symbolism is his use of water imagery. Water can be interpreted in many different ways but it is usually seen as representing hopelessness and despair. Water is used sparingly in this book but it portrays an important message when incorporated. There are three instances when water is mentioned. It is used when Gatsby and Daisy meet alone for the first time, when Gatsby is murdered by the angry Wilson, and at Gatsby’s poorly attended funeral.
A. The rain during the Tea Party Gatsby forces Nick to set up a meeting between him and Daisy so they can catch up on old times. The day they decide to meet happens to be overcast. The rain pours down all morning and is predicted by The Journal to stop around four o’clock. The early downpour creates a false sense of security and forewarns them that their happiness will be short lived. At three thirty, the rain settles into a damp mist to welcome the arrival of Daisy. It continues to rain during the entire visit and when Daisy prepares to leave, the rain stops.
Despite the happy mood formed on the surface of the chapter, the persistent feeling of death and despair prevails. The rain hinders the blossoming love of Daisy and Gatsby while foretelling the gloomy abandonment they will soon face. This is the first appearance of water in The Great Gatsby and sets up the next two aquatic scenes.
B. The Watery Death: At two o’clock Gatsby puts on his bathing suit and starts the march to his death. He stops by the garage to pick up his pneumatic mattress but refuses help from a kind chauffeur. This mimics the march of Jesus Christ’s carrying His cross of burden up to Golgotha. He carries the plastic burden of his friend’s sin down to his death. Gatsby, floating in his sea of despair, finally realizes his efforts to win Daisy are in vain. He is so distraught by being abandoned that he does not notice Mr. Wilson creeping through the woods ready to attack. Gatsby is murdered around four o’clock in the afternoon, the same time he met Daisy for the first time. Wilson represents the accumulation of people’s jealousy and hate for Gatsby and takes Gatsby’s life as well as his own.
When Gatsby’s body is discovered, there is barely any movement in the water. The pool of water continues its everlasting drifting from the fountain to the drain and then back again. A cluster of leaves from a tree periodically dips into the water creating red, circular ripples. Both the flow of water and the bloody ripples in the pool exhibit Fitzgerald’s belief of eternal life and explain how Gatsby is perceived as an innocent individual who, like Jesus Christ, voluntarily gives up his life so the sins of others may be forgiven.
C. The rain during the Gatsby’s Funeral: The poorly attended funeral of Jay Gatsby is set in a dreary downpour. Everyone attending the funeral is soaked to the skin and splashing through the deep water. Gatsby is almost entirely abandoned. He only has a priest, Nick, Owl Eyes and his remaining servants. The rain continues to fall on the loyal visitors while they contemplate why they are the only attendees. Someone is heard to murmur “blessed are the dead that the rain falls on. ” The bleak downpour creates an abandoned feeling throughout the funeral description.
The only other rain scene described in the book is during the lunch meeting between Gatsby and Daisy. This is a symbol for the inevitable abandonment of companionship between Daisy and Gatsby as is the funeral scene is a symbol for the abandonment of friendship between Gatsby and his partying acquaintances. Although this scene is Gatsby’s funeral, the actual burial and service are not described. Most of the chapter is centered around the dreary rain and the strong sense of desertion. Water is used several times to create certain moods and suggest ideas.
Do you like
this material?Get help to write a similar one
Rain at Daisy and Gatsby’s reunion creates a feeling of despair and foretells the perilous fate of their relationship. The final hours of Gatsby’s life are spent in his unused swimming pool. The endless flow of water and water ripples instill the thought of eternal life for Gatsby. The pure downpour during his funeral displays the abandonment and despair during his entire life. Colors and objects display the message of Fitzgerald, but water imagery is an equally essential tool in the development of the book’s mood and theme.
Author: Wallace Hartsell
The Symbolism in the Great Gatsby
We have so large base of authors that we can prepare a unique summary of any book. Don't believe? Check it!
How fast would you like to get it?
Jazz Music in the Great Gatsby Essay
953 WordsJan 15th, 20134 Pages
Jazz Music in The Great Gatsby In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby, the reader sees a common theme of corruption of the American Dream. In the 1920’s, the times are changing in America and morals are becoming looser and the lifestyle of the wealthy is more careless. New fashion, attitude, and music is what nicknamed this era the “Jazz Age,” greatly influencing Fitzgerald’s writing. He created similarities between many things in pop culture and the journey his characters Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and Myrtle are taking to achieve the American dream. Through the use of the lively, yet scandalous, jazz music from the 1920’s, Fitzgerald reflects the attitudes of the characters in The Great Gatsby at the end of innocence and prevalence of…show more content…
The jazz music of the 1920’s is one example of the scandalous lives of the elite and their elaborate parties that broke barriers for the innovation of American culture. The lyrics of jazz music also reflected the time of the care free lifestyle. Fitzgerald like to use these lyrics in certain moments of the novel to emphasize a moment. When Gatsby was showing Daisy around his house, he had Klipspringer play the piano. The song chosen was called Ain’t We Got Fun. Lyrics Fitzgerald included in his novel were “One thing’s sure and nothing’s surer, The rich get richer and the poor get- children” (Fitzgerald 95). These lyrics are describing how the rich are free to live happily in their wealth without much concern for anybody else around them, while the lower classes have the responsibility of raising a family and not going out to party at night. It also shows the struggle of the middle and lower class. The wealthy are already established as so, and their wealth only continues to grow as time passes while the common man is faced with many obstacles that consume large amounts of his money such as a mortgage or their child’s education. The lyrics of jazz can emphasis Fitzgerald’s point of the corrupted American Dream. Even though Jay Gatsby seemed to have everything in the American Dream such as a large house, an elaborate car, and a high social standing, he still didn’t have everything he wanted. His American Dream was to get the love of his life, Daisy to fall back in love