"I didn't call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone - he stretched out his arms towards 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." (16)
So ends the first chapter of The Great Gatsby and brings to our attention the first symbol in this book - that mysterious green light. In our first acquaintance with the light, we see Gatsby reaching out for it, almost, in a way, worshipping it. We find out later that this green light is at the end of Daisy's dock, and is a symbol for Gatsby's dream and the hope for the future. Green is the color of promise, hope, and renewal - so it is fitting that Gatsby's dream of a future with Daisy be represented physically in the novel by this green light. Later, in the final chapter of this novel, Fitzgerald compares Gatsby's green light to the "green breast of the new world" (115), comparing Gatsby's dream of rediscovering Daisy to the explorer's discovery of America and the promise of a new continent. However, Gatsby's dream is tarnished by his material possessions, much like America is now with our obsession with wealth. The means corrupt the end, and Gatsby's dream dies because of Daisy, Gatsby, and Tom's carelessness and superficiality, as does Gatsby for the same reasons.
At the end of the first chapter we are given the green light, a symbol for the hope and promise of the future. At the beginning of the second chapter, however, we are introduced to the "foul wasteland" of the present. Fitzgerald calls it a "valley of ashes" (16), where only the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg look over it from a billboard nearby. This section of the novel can be interpreted as the foul, material-driven world that the main characters live in, and which helps to destroy Gatsby's dream. The eyes of Dr. Eckleburg symbolize in this chapter advertising and materialism gone mad, one of the central themes of the plot. Later in the book, right before the climax, Daisy tells Gatsby that he reminds her of an advertisement. This statement confirms that Daisy does not like Gatsby for himself, but for the superficial illusion he represents. On a larger scale, it is through advertising that the material aspects of the American Dream are revealed. Hence, it only makes sense that Fitzgerald would use references to advertising throughout the course of his novel. Also in advertising, eternal youth, wealth, and beauty are constantly emphasized, which goes along with Gatsby's youthful dream of Daisy and explains why Fitzgerald never has to develop his characters. Fitzgerald's novel is only one big advertisement, with all the characters involved living with eternal youth, wealth, and beauty that never develop in part because advertisements never develop.
Later on in The Great Gatsby, George Wilson,...