The Use of Symbolism in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgeralds novel The Great Gatsby is about a man named Gatsby and his struggle to attain the American Dream in 1920s Long Island. He fights to get his dream woman and to do so, he must first become rich. Unfortunately, he doesnt really go about it the right way; he takes part in some illegal activities with some quite sinister characters, such as Meyer Wolfshiem. The corruption of Gatsbys dream and his struggle to attain his dream are shown by F. Scott Fitzgerald through the use of symbolism, such as Gatsbys car, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, and Gatsby stretching his arms out towards the green light across the bay.
Gatsby has a car that is an important symbol in this novel. Gatsbys car represents many problems in the society at that time. His car is very elaborate, It was a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns(Fitzgerald 68). It symbolizes the irresponsibility of society and the differences between the old rich and the classlessness of the new rich. It is also the car that Gatsby buys to impress Daisy and that hits Myrtle Wilson, eventually leading to Gatsbys death.
Another symbol in this book is the big billboard with the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on it:
Above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. They are blue and gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. They look from no face but, instead from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose(Fitzgerald 27).
This billboard represents the eyes of God looking out over the vast wasteland of moral corruption and dying hope. Some might have even said that since the doctor had long abandoned the area, God might have left, also.
Then, there are a few symbols all combined into one. This is the image of Gatsby with his arms stretched out towards the green light across the bay, which is repeated at the end of the novel, fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbors mansion. it was Mr. Gatsby himself. he stretched out his arms toward. a single green light, minute and far away (Fitzgerald 25-26). The green light represents hope, land, and money. Gatsby reaching out across the bay represents his desire for those things as well as Daisy, whose house is just behind the light.
The best example of symbolism in this book is the image of Gatsby at the end of chapter one, because it contains many symbols in one image, which illustrates my final point. There are many examples of symbolism used in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, ?1925