The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a love story about one man’s desire to climb the social ladder and to marry the girl of his dreams. In this novel, Fitzgerald uses imagery and many symbols to reveal significant aspects of the central character, Jay Gatsby’s, personality. The green light reveals hope in Gatsby’s future. His mansion is also a symbol, representing his wealth but also how he still wishes to be classed higher in society. The Eggs also represent the barriers between the upper and lower classes of Long Island.
First of all, the colour green that is displayed through the light that Gatsby notices “[Daisy] always [has on] that burns all night at the end of [her] dock” (91) represents Jay Gatsby’s jealousy towards Tom Buchanan as well as his hopes for his future, including the American Dream. Envy that Gatsby feels for Tom Buchanan is present because Gatsby loves Daisy and wanted to marry five years ago, but could not because of the difference in social class. At the time, Daisy was a rich girl and Jay, a poor boy. Daisy could not have possibly married someone as poor as Jay Gatsby and could not wait around for him either, so she married Tom Buchanan, which leads to Gatsby’s jealousy. When they are all in town, Gatsby tells Tom that “[Daisy has] never loved [him]” (124) and rather that she has loved Gatsby all along.
He tells Tom that “[Daisy] only married [him] because [he] was poor and she was tired of waiting for [him]” (124). When Gatsby “[stretches] out his arms out toward the dark water” (25) at the green light, this shows Gatsby reaching for his love, Daisy Buchanan, trying to grab the woman that he could never have, which seems so close but is farther than it appears. The green light represents Gatsby’s obsession with love and his hopes to reconcile with Daisy which leads to also representing the American Dream, a dream that anyone can live the life they wish for if they work hard. The green light represents money, wealth, power and love, which is everything Gatsby wishes he had to live the American Dream.
Secondly, another symbol used to reveal aspects of Jay Gatsby’s personality is his mansion. Although Gatsby lives in West Egg and lives next to Nick Carraway’s “small eyesore” (11) of a home, Nick describes Gatsby’s house as “a colossal affair by any standard” (11) and “a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy” (11). His mansion represents his wealth and even though Gatsby is extremely rich with the money he has earned, he will never obtain his goal to be ranked high enough in society to be a part of the East Egg community with Tom and Daisy Buchanan.
Gatsby’s mansion also symbolises his extravagance which is used to gain attention from people of Long Island to prove that he is just as worthy as they are. He throws big parties featuring “buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvres [and] spiced baked hams” (41) and an orchestra with “oboes, trombones and saxophones, and viols and cornets and piccolos” (42). All this to prove he was like them. Gatsby’s mansion, just like the green light, also represents the American Dream. A life he wish he had.
Finally, one other symbol that is exemplified throughout the book is Eggs. The division of the East and West Eggs “twenty miles from the city” (10) symbolises Gatsby’s obsession with increasing his social status. Gatsby lives in West Egg, the “less fashionable” (10) of the two Eggs. The East Egg is where all the old money is. This is a place where everyone is accustomed to their wealthy lifestyle, being born into rich families, refined and are all socially conscious. The West Egg is where the new money is and where everything is over the top and flashy. Despite the fact that Gatsby lives in West Egg, he aspires to be accepted into the East Egg Society by flaunting his wealth.
In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses many symbols in The Great Gatsby to reveal significant aspects of the central character, Jay Gatsby’s, personality. The green light signifies jealousy, envy, hope and the American Dream while Gatsby’s mansion demonstrates his want to be something he is not. The division between the Eggs are also important and symbolise Gatsby’s obsession in climbing the social ladder.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Penguin Books; London, England, 1950.
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