Symbols within The Great Gatsby play an important role in outlining major themes, conveying certain characters attributes and foreshadowing upcoming events. This allows readers to understand the overall meaning and message put forth by the novel in a deeper sense.
One of the first symbols mentioned in the book is the Valley of Ashes. This is an area between West
Egg and New York consisting of a large area of desolate land described as, “A fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take 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 is representative of something dark and lifeless. It is a gloomy and despairing wasteland which greatly juxtaposes with
Gatsby’s affluent and lavish parties. The Valley of Ashes is used to convey the lower class society as well as represent the moral and social decay that results from the reckless pursuit of wealth. The rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure, which, as we see through the novel leads to death and destruction, symbolised by the Valley of Ashes.
Another symbol found within the Great Gatsby are the Eyes of T.J. Eckleberg. They are a pair of fading, bespectacled eyes painted on an old advertising billboard over the valley of ashes. These eyes can be used to symbolise numerous different aspects of both American society during this time and the characters within the novel. The eyes can symbolise the eyes of God looking down upon and judging the people and society they live in. The 1920’s is a decade of wealth, greed, waste and corruption, therefore through placing the eyes of T.J Eckleberg within the Valley of Ashes,
Fitzgerald is conveying to readers how God is judging the negative aspects of this reckless society.
The eyes of T.J. Eckleberg can also symbolise how you cannot hide from the truth