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Symbolism in the Great Gatsby

By lacrossestar24 Nov 09, 2010 1680 Words
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays the theme of corruption and deception throughout the novel. Not only in Fitzgerald’s characters but also corruption of the American Dream. He illustrates how the rich society of which Daisy and Tom belong will soon be destroyed by cheating. Although in the past people have turned the other cheek to this sort of disturbance, Fitzgerald shows that will no longer be the case. The foreshadowing becomes truth when Gatsby and Daisy’s affair is acknowledged by Tom, Daisy’s husband. This theme of corruption continues in a passage about Gatsby’s death. Daisy is also another major symbol in the novel. She is very important to Gatsby, which makes her important to the novel. She is seen as a symbol of wealth, a broken dream, and also as the perfect woman. She has a charm about her that make men dream about her. There is also the use of the colors blue, green, white and yellow. These colors are seen frequently throughout the novel and are used to symbolize many different things.

By using a depressed tone, Fitzgerald changes the reader’s perspective of objects that were once held beautiful. How miserable is Gatsby when he, “Found what a grotesque thing a rose is” (Fitzgerald 169)? A rose is ordinarily shown as a sacred, beautiful, and perfect object, but Fitzgerald illustrates it as “grotesque”. The author expresses the horrible way in which his character is viewing the world. Gatsby realizes, “How raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass,” which is not an effect sunlight customarily reflects (Fitzgerald 169). When the reader reads those pessimistic lines, they understand that it is the last moments of Gatsby’s life. Since his thoughts are so miserable, it creates a scene where he has no one left to live for.

Fitzgerald’s use of imagery creates an understanding of how Gatsby’s affair with Daisy played out. Gatsby was always, “Breathing dreams like air,” when it came to Daisy (Fitzgerald 169). He was never willing to move on and start again. Gatsby truly, “Paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (Fitzgerald 169). Gatsby would never give up Daisy, and he died for her, even though she wasn’t really worth it. Fitzgerald’s line, “A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden,” was expressing Gatsby’s affair with Daisy in Tom’s eyes (Fitzgerald 170). Gatsby was the “small gust of wind” that disturbed Daisy and Tom’s marriage for just a moment. Gatsby and Daisy’s affair was the “accidental burden” in Tom and Daisy’s relationship. This affair was a, “Faint, barely perceptible,” (Fitzgerald 170) part of their lives that they would recover from shortly.

Corruption of the American Dream can be seen in the character of Jay Gatsby. He appears to be a self-made wealthy man, but it was in unfair ways that he made his money. He was a bootlegger and that was how he finally became wealthy. One of the main reasons that Gatsby is so concentrated on achieving material wealth is so that he can rekindle the love that he once shared with Daisy. Daisy is very materialistic; in fact her whole relationship with her husband Tom is about money and not happiness. Gatsby’s interpretation of the American Dream is that he will become a charming man who is extremely successful and prosperous and wins the love back of the “beautiful damsel in distress.” Gatsby throws excessive parties to try to impress Daisy. He tries to live out his dream of being reunited with her, and reliving the past relationship that they shared.

Although Gatsby reached his goal of becoming affluent and influential, he still felt that there was something missing. Gatsby had everything that he wanted, except for love. He tried everything in his power to rekindle the past and bring back Daisy’s love, but he failed to do so. His dreams were crushed when he asked Daisy to admit that she had never loved Tom, and she rejected it-“I did love him once-but I loved you too” (Fitzgerald 140). This was the turning point in their relationship, and the start of the end of their love affair. Gatsby tried pursuing her once again and tried to use him wealth to get her back, but it didn’t work.

Daisy Bunchanan is a symbol of the perfect woman, wealth and a broken dream. Fitzgerald portrays Daisy as the girl that every man is trying to be with. Gatsby talks about how even her voice is soothing yet formal. He discusses it with Nick who describes it as the kind of voice “the the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again” (Fitzgerald 9). She is seen wearing white and driving around in a white roadster. She attends elegant parties and is clearly a representation of wealth. Gatsby sees her as “enchanted” and also the first nice girl he has met (Person 254). This enchantment leads him to think of her as the Golden girl who is “gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor” (Fitzgerald 150).

This enchantment gives Daisy power over Gatsby. The enchantment is what lures him to her. He sees her as the perfect woman and begins to build her up as such. Since Gatsby has built her up so much in his mind, the relationship that they will have in actuality can only be a lesser form of his dream, leaving him unsatisfied and discontent. In this way she is a broken dream. Gatsby and Nick start to realize the enchantment that she has and when realizing this they start to see her as just a symbol of money (Person 255). Another interesti

Colors are another very important symbol in the book. They are used to describe people, places and things to relay a certain meaning. The first time Nick Carraway meets his cousin Daisy Buchanan at her and Tom’s (her husband) home, she was dressed completely in white. The house and its furnishings were also decorated in all types of light shades. The white and shades of light color may be taken to mean: cleanliness, beauty, innocence, wealth, and perhaps laziness. Daisy’s main color is white; she always wears white dresses and remembers her “white girlhood”. The use of white helps her to characterize her as the unachievable “enchanted princess” who becomes alive in Gatsby’s dream (Fitzgerald 21).

The green light at the end of a landing stage to signal a romantic reunion, is interestingly alike the green light at the end of Daisy’s Buchanan’s dock, which becomes a vital image in “The Great Gatsby”. The original appearance of the green light occurs when Nick sees Gatsby for the first time, standing in front of his mansion and stretching out his arms to a single green light, at the end of dock (Fitzgerald 22). The light has become, for Gatsby, the symbol of a meeting with Daisy his longing for her. Green is very significantly associated with both the green light and the “green breast of the new world”, joining the hope and promise of Gatsby’s dream with that of America itself. The color green is most often associated with spring, hope and youth.

Hope for the future in The Great Gatsby is represented by the color blue. It stands for lost time, a pure color that is excessively displayed, and a pure color in the Valley of Ashes. T.J. Eckleburg's eyes are blue, possibly signifying a higher world from which God looks down upon the scene. Tom's car is also blue which may symbolize the relationship between Tom and Daisy, as unhappy and based on money not love. Blue can also correspond with fantasy, and is a symbol of a different world. When people want to get away from reality they usually go to Gatsby’s house, which is on a blue lawn. His parties are “out of this world” and in a time of dreams and illusions.

Silver and gold (or yellow), which are the colors of wealth, appear over and oveagain and again, and are connected mainly with vulgar displays of wealth. One of the most re-occurring and well-known symbols is the colors yellow and white, especially in Daisy, East- and West Egg. An egg is white on the outside, but yellow on the inside. The white may represent purity and innocence and the yellow representing corruption, so Daisy looks innocent on the outside but is corrupt on the inside. It also shows that although there is a lot of wealth in the towns, there are still people that are corrupt in them. This includes Gatsby, because he made himself rich by becoming a bootlegger. Also he became rich so that he could get Daisy, which shows how he has been corrupted by her.

The Great Gatsby is a novel filled with symbolism. It is all about the corruption of the American Dream and the characters that represent that. Each character is representative of a different aspect of the American Dream. Many of the characters are described using colors such as blue, green, white, and yellow. There are many images that are very well known such as the billboard of T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes, the Valley of Ashes, and both East and West Egg. The billboard is representative of God because it looks over everything. The Valley of Ashes is where the poor live and East and West egg are where the wealthy live. This novel has many different symbolic pieces in it that come together to show how the American Dream was being corrupted at that time.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. London: Wordsworth Editions, Limited, 1992.

Person Jr., Leland S. ""Herstory" and Daisy Buchanan." American Literature 50 (1978): 250-58.

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