The Great Gatsby 12 Essay, Research Paper
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, symbolism adds depth to the story, without introducing confusion. Fitzgerald’s symbols are large, concrete and obvious. Examples of this symbolism are the valley of ashes, T. J. Eckleburg’s huge blue eyes, and the green light on the Buchanan dock which Jay Gatsby idolizes.
The valley of ashes is “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the 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…”(23) The valley represents the moral disintegration of the roaring twenties by showing the barren wasteland which contains the byproducts of the pursuit of wealth and the American dream. “Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.” (23) This shows how one can get caught up all of a sudden in a cloud of confusion. They are just walking along, minding their own business, doing their day-to-day activities, and suddenly get caught up in an impenetrable mess. This happened to Nick. He was just minding his own business, and then he met Gatsby, who planned things for him without his approval or advice, and who basically used him to his advantage. Nick had no way out of this mess, but he did not really want one. He was the only person who cared enough to give Gatsby a proper burial.
Another symbol in this novel is T. J. Eckleburg’s huge blue eyes. “The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. they look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.” (23) The eyes of T. J. Eckleburg are said to represent the eyes of God at one point. His eyes make Wilson, the husband ofTom’s mistress, kill himself because he thinks that God is actually looking at him in shame for murdering Gatsby. When in the valley of ashes, the eyes of the doctor are also like the eyes of God, though it is not stated. T. J. stands on a hill looking over the occurrences in the valley. Like God, he is watching over the waste created by the spiritless society, and then later on his eyes represent God to a man who was wasted by society; a resident of the spiritless wasteland of society.
Yet another symbol in The Great Gatsby is the green light on the end of the Buchanan dock. This light represents hope and dreams to Gatsby. It represents his love for Daisy and his need for a companion, or in Nick’s words, “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way….Involuntarily, I glanced seaward- and distinguished nothing except a single green light…that might have been the end of a dock.” If Gatsby had lived in the nineties, he would have a telescope looking directly into Daisy’s bedroom, he would be considered a stalker, and Daisy would bring up sexual harrassment suits on him. But, in this time, Daisy did not know, and what Daisy did not know could not hurt her. “Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy [the green light] had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” When, at last, Gatsby believes that Daisy is his, he no longer idolizes her, and the green light has no more symbolic meaning to him. Is like the saying, “You always want what you can’t have.”
The symbolism in The Great Gatsby is a big part of what makes the novel so great. It is simply stated, so it does not confuse the reader as symbolism tends to do, but it merely adds depth to the story.