Symbolism in "The Great Gatsby

Topics: The Great Gatsby, Symbol, Great American Novel Pages: 1 (403 words) Published: April 24, 2005
"The Great Gatsby" is a book full of symbolism. On a large, political scope the book itself is a symbol of the materialism of the twenties. Many of the symbols in the book are given their meaning by the characters - who are symbols in and of themselves. To make this last point, it is only necessary to look at Gatsby himself. Gatsby is, in a nutshell, the American Dream corrupted. He has worked hard to obtain everything he owns, often using illegal means to do so, but can enjoy none of it because he is so busy chasing something he will never be able to have. Daisy, the thing he is chasing, represents the American Dream as it to the lower classes of society during the twenties. She is chasable and appears to be obtainable, but is always just out of reach. The green light is a relatively straightforward symbol, though it has two different meanings depending on how you look at it. To the reader, it is yet another symbol for the American Dream. To Gatsby himself, as he "stretched out his arms toward the dark water," it symbolized everything he had been fighting to obtain, and everything (he thought) was close to being his. Nick compared it to how America must have looked to the settlers, rising up out of the water. Perhaps the most interesting symbol in the book is the valley of ashes. This valley symbolizes the result of the American Dream. The life of luxury and comfort enjoyed by the upper classes will have negative results on those required to support it with their labor. The ash represents the lower classes, and the valley the slums in which they are forced to live. Not the most interesting symbol, but perhaps the most meaningful, is the eyes. The eyes quite obviously symbolize the eyes of God, peering over the world as it was during the time this book was written (symbolized by the valley of ashes) and showing his contempt. He is forgotten by those who need him the most, but he is always there "[brooding over the solemn dumping ground."...
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