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The Great Gatsby: Symbolism

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Alexandra Grant

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby: Symbolism

West Egg
East Egg
Valley of Ashes
New York
Flowers
Gatsby (Ch. 3) – Gatsby is a symbol for the “American Dream”. He possesses a set of values that align with the idea of the “American Dream”: become successful and live a happy life. He believes that his money and big house with the parties that he throws will get Daisy to love him and leave her husband Tom.
Pearls (pgs. 76, 179) -the pearls symbolize Tom’s wealth. Tom gave these to Daisy to night before their wedding. Daisy had gotten really drunk, held the pearls in one hand and a letter, which the reader can only assume is from Gatsby in the other. By choosing the pearls over the letter, Daisy chose a life of money and fortune over what Gatsby could give her. At the end of the novel, Tom returns to a jewelry store to buy another pearl necklace. This could show that Tom is trying to prove that he is still the rich man who was able to keep Daisy.
Valley of Ashes (pgs. 23-24) -this is located between West Egg and New York City. It represents the moral decay that is associated with the desire for wealth. It symbolizes societal decay and the plight of the poor, victims of greed and corruption. It could also be linked to WWI battlefields, where a no man’s land existed between opposing trenches. This was a big influence on modernist writers at the time.
Tom Buchanan (pg 37) -he symbolizes the demise
of the “American Man” and social values that people
used to be held to. His social attitudes are laced
with racism and sexism, and he never considers
trying to live up to the moral standard he demands
from those around him.
Daisy Buchanan (pgs. 130 – 132) -Daisy symbolizes the end of the traditional “American Woman”. She chooses money of true happiness and stays with her husband even though she is aware of his cheating on her. She behaves superficially to hide the pain of Tom’s infidelity.
Text to Text: Gatsby
Themes in Gatsby: success, money, love, the “American Dream”, dominance in society, power
Text to Text: Beauty Essays
Virginia Postrel, The Truth About Beauty
“Like the rest of the genetic lottery, beauty is unfair. Everyone falls short of perfection, but some are luckier than others” (85).
This quote connects because it can be taken into very broad terms. Some could interpret this to fit the ideas of Gatsby, and say that everyone in society will not have the opportunity to be like Gatsby with all of the money and parties, or say that they could never find “love” like Tom and Daisy. These two texts relate because like the idea that beauty will never be “fair” and no one will ever be the same, people in society will never be equal and the levels of success that people reach will never be the same.
Flowers are significant throughout the novel, especially when Daisy is invited to Nick’s house at Gatsby’s behest. Flowers usually signify youth, beauty, and nature, depending on the type of flower. Daisies usually symbolize youth and beauty, but mostly innocence. According to the internet, daisies also symbolize loyal love, which is ironic, considering Daisy's relationship with Gatsby. Orchids are also prevalent in the novel. They symbolize exotic beauty and refinement, which is significant because they're used to describe Daisy’s life before either Gatsby or Tom entered it.
Colors
Colors are the most discussed symbols in the novel. The most common color in Gatsby is yellow. Several things are described as being yellow; Gatsby's car, the cocktail music at Gatsby's party, Daisy's daughter's hair, flowers in Gatsby's garden, etc. The color yellow symbolizes wealth and money worship, because of its association with gold. Ex. Jordan's "slender golden arm" and the proceeding two girls in yellow dresses, trying to mimic the connotations of gold.
The green light on Daisy's dock symbolizes the unreachable dream that Gatsby has in regards to Daisy. He believes that if he reaches her level of wealth and social status, he will be able to obtain her. The color of the light (green) symbolizes wealth and money and envy, regarding Daisy and Gatsby.
The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg symbolize the eyes of God (in Wilson’s mind) and the blindness of the characters overall, and since the Doctor’s business never actually opened, it is a blindness that can never be remedied. The advertisement carries a false promise, like so much else in the novel, with a beautiful engaging façade that has no actual substance ( like Daisy).
The Bay between Jay Gatsby's house and the Buchanans symbolizes the rift between Gatsby and Daisy, and generally the rift between "new money" and "old money."
Text to Text Connection: The Bluest Eye
Both novels deal with classism, the sense that one class is better than another. The Bluest Eye shows us what the lower class is like, especially through the eyes of Pecola, whereas Gatsby does just the opposite, detailing the carelessness and overabundance of those in the upper class.
Both novels show the dangers of either side of the class spectrum, and warn us of the negative aspects of too much wealth, and the negative effects of too little.
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