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The Great Gatsby -- symbolism

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Daniel Sullivan

on 3 February 2012

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby -- symbolism

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” (9, 180) The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock symbolizes Gatsby’s dream of attaining her. We can see also how this is more generally symbolic of the American dream, and how Gatsby’s unknown, and suspicious methods of gaining wealth are no way of obtaining what he truly seeks. Green can also be related to money, which, along with Daisy, is something that Gatsby wants to obtain. The Green Light The Rolls Royce “On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nice in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains.” (3,39) The Rolls-Royce in this passage is a symbol of extravagance and a display of wealth. Throughout the novel the automobiles used also can be seen to symbolize carelessness, as Gatsby’s car, extremely nice and expensive, can be seen as a careless waste of money. Later in the book however, an even greater relation between carelessness and cars can be found when Daisy slams into and kills Myrtle. The Airedale “The Airedale—undoubtedly there was an Airedale concerned in it somewhere, though its feet were startlingly white—changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson’s lap, where she fondled to weatherproof coat with rapture.” (2, 28) This dog, or the action of Tom purchasing the dog, can be seen as symbolic of Myrtle’s actions towards Tom. Dogs typically, are a strong symbol of loyalty and devotion. We can almost directly use this to say that Tom is buying Myrtle’s loyalty or devotion. Although we can see throughout the book that Myrtle and Tom do share feelings for each other, without a doubt during this time period money was a big factor, and Myrtle, as a middle class woman, was definitely using Tom as a gateway to an extravagant lifestyle. “A stout, middle-aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles, was sitting somewhat drum on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books.” (3, 45) Owl’s, traditionally, serve as symbols of death. Throughout the rest of the book this owl-eyed man appears sporadically. In this book, the owl-eyed man symbolizes death approaching or waiting for Gatsby. He constantly goes to the parties, and even he himself has more interest in Gatsby than the rest of the party member. When the car crashes outside of Gatsby’s house, and he gets out, saying he wasn’t the one driving. Later in the book even, The owl-eyed man, scarily enough, is one of the only people who appeared at Gatsby’s funeral to pay his respects. “But above the fray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high.” (2, 23) Eckleberg is described as solemnly and constantly watching over the valley of ashes. Although the valley of ashes is an area typically associated with the poor, here Eckleburg can symbolize the fact that during this time period the rich were in control of the lives of many, be it in factories or other popular lines of work of the day, and that many poor or laborers solemnly and sadly believed that there was no social mobility in America. The use of the color blue can also be seen to represent power, however that is a much smaller symbol than the over watching gaze of Eckleburg himself.
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