Symbolism in the Great Gatsby English Literature

Symbolism entails the use of symbols by the author towards signification of the ideas and some of the essential qualities through their provision of symbolic meanings that vary from their literal meanings. Symbolism tends to take many forms. Authors, thus, use objects to represent the other, thus giving them a completely different meaning, combined with depth and significance. F. Scott Fitzgerald in authoring the book The Great Gatsby aimed at representing the progress of the American Dream that had importance in the 1920s (Parkinson 69). Thus, the author focuses on placing flamboyant and seemingly healthy lifestyles on high pedestals, while providing a proper indication of the dramatic consequences associated with the characters’ moral and social decline. As each turning point unfolds, the American dream crumbles in the seemingly greedy hands of ignorant people. The various symbolic elements adopted by the author of the novel play a critical role in revealing the themes underlying the American Dream, which entails an ongoing conflict between wealth, love, moral and social destruction. The article is intended to discuss the author’s intentional use of symbols to provide a vivid illustration of key ideas.

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The first symbol evident from the novel entails The Green Light. The colors adopted in The Great Gatsby intend to highlight the worshiped notion of the American Dream besides focusing on the presentation of the important thematic aspects amongst the protagonists and the disparaging lives that they live. In the novel, the adoption of color symbolisms plays a crucial role in revealing additional details regarding the personality of the characters and important themes of the American Dream. The green color as portrayed by the green light tends to symbolize desperations of the future (Keshmiri 1295). The desperations highlight the general attitude of the American Dream. The Green Light as used by the author plays a crucial role in illustrating Gatsby’s hope, dreams, and rebirth. It is clear from the first chapter that Gatsby’s view of Daisy Buchanan’s wharf is focused on securing his reunion with Daisy’s seemingly unattainable desires for symbolic objects. Plus, the Green Light plays a critical role in demonstrating the physical and emotional distance Jay feels between himself and Daisy. The water at the dock tends to represent the existing boundaries and barriers that keep Gatsby from Daisy, thereby inducing a sense of abandonment. The Green Light also represents the color of money.

Another important symbolic feature of the novel is the Eyes. The author uses a symbolic element to facilitate the illustration of the meaning of observance, judgment, and vigilance. Accidental and tragic events in Ash Valley through the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, on a tarnished-eyed billboard that the author intends to use to symbolize God’s judgment on American society as social and moral devastation. The eyes also play a crucial role in illustrating the waste of the past, which is evident in Nick’s situation.

The Valley of Ashes adopted by the author in the novel tends to represent a society characterized by moral decay and materialistic nature, which the characters call home. Dr. T.J. Eckleburg observes the community with pietistic eyes that are contributing to the destruction of the American Dream. The billboard also symbolizes the extreme view of the materialistic views of people in the 1920s. The billboard symbolism plays a crucial role in underlining the theme of the novel, which is intended to highlight the material nature of the inhabitants of American society.

In addition, the symbolism of T.J. Ekeleburg and the existing connection between the main themes become apparent in the book when Daisy eventually discovers Gatsby as an advertisement. Symbolism then plays a crucial role in revealing the fact that Daisy finds Gatsby as someone who is attracted by the materialistic disguise he portrays. The author goes on to provide proper mention of the use of advertising throughout the novel to emphasize the disclosure of the materialistic views of the American Dream.

In addition, the author focuses on the illustration of symbolism using characters. Gatsby’s youthful imaginative belief in her Daisy’s perfection tends to arise from the projection of his fantasies about her rather than the actual character. The novel’s setting is critical to depicting the destruction of the American Dream.

An element of symbolism is also evident in the author’s use of the Valley of Ashes, which seemingly represents a small city that exists between New York and West Egg, to symbolize the social and moral decay that results from the desire of people to become rich. Valley of Ashes tends to symbolize a place without morality that serves as a residence for seeming materialists and aspirants. Unexpected events in Ash Valley, including the death of Gatsby, the beginning of a romance between Myrtle and Tom, and Myrtle’s untimely death, tend to be serious consequences that result from failed attempts to achieve the American Dream.

As seen in the novel, the characters’ attempts to move from one place to another force them to belittle themselves to a seemingly lower social status. Obviously, the belittling is evident in Tom and Myrtle’s engagement, which comes from a low-income family, but helps Tom to comfort him. Thus, the Valley of Ashes symbolizes the moral and social destruction evident in society. It also expresses a fortune that seemingly poor American society coped with in the 1920s. The author’s discussion of Ash Valley, evident in the color symbology, plays a critical role in creating the melancholy atmosphere necessary to facilitate the connection between the meaning of a desolate patch of land and adverse personality changes.

Elements of symbolism are even more evident in the representation of flowers in the novel. The author provides a symbolic borrowing of various colors. The color symbology in the book is critical to revealing additional details regarding the personalities of the characters and the meaning of various themes of the American Dream. White and bright hues play a crucial role in creating a connection between innocence and purity, as evident in Nick’s description of Tom’s house as alive with windows inviting against the backdrop of grass. The particular colors depicted by the author play a crucial role in creating a bond with childhood, especially with regard to purity, which is evident in the author’s description of Jordan’s girlhood as white and beautiful.

On the other hand, yellow plays a decisive role in depicting the deceit, evident in the author’s use of images in the novel. The book begins with a description of the white dresses that Jordan and Daisy wear, giving an impression of cleanliness. However, as the story progresses, the colors of their clothes turn yellow, which symbolizes the disclosure of their moral flaws and impure states.

The East Egg tends to represent the existing connection between the old money, family, and class. The West Egg, on the other hand, represents the new money. The description of the towns as white on the outside plays a crucial role in illustrating their innocence.

In conclusion, we note that the distinctive characters adopted by the author in The Great Gatsby are critical in creating a connection between the current themes of the 1920s, as is evident throughout the novel. The author uses symbols to facilitate the illustration of the degree of social and moral destruction in society, leading to the creation of new internal and external destruction as the novel progresses. The author’s use of symbolism is critical in resolving the story of different views of money and the chances of finding love in America’s seemingly unique culture (Meehan 76). The hidden importance of the novel’s many symbolic dimensions is vital to uncovering the themes of the American Dream, in addition to highlighting the ongoing conflict between various elements such as love, wealth, social and moral destruction.


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Keshmiri, Fahimeh. “The Disillusionment. In the Great Gatsby.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies, vol.6, no.6, June 2016, pp. 1295-1299, EBSCO.

Meehan, Adam. “Repetition, Race, and Desire in The Great Gatsby.” Journal of Modern Literature, vol.37, no.2, 2014, p. 76.

Parkinson, Kathleen. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin Books, 1998.