Prompt: Examine Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism in the novel. Be sure to define symbolism, examine at least 3 different symbols, and tell how each symbol is significant or important to the narrative. Finally, explain how each contributes to a theme in the novel. Be sure to directly state each theme in a complete general sentence. Use textual evidence (exact quotes from the novel).
“Possibly is had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it 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.”( pg. 93) The green light is one of the most predominant symbols F. Scott Fitzgerald uses in his novel The Great Gatsby. Symbolism is when a writer uses an object or idea to stand for something else; the bigger picture, or theme of the book. Three of the utmost crucial symbols in The Great Gatsby are the green light, the disintegrating letter, and the mantelpiece clock. First, The green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future. Gatsby affiliates the light with Daisy, and Fitzgerald first introduces the reader to this in Chapter One when Nick sees Gatsby reaching out towards it at the end of his dock, “-he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as a I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling.
In voluntarily I glanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a single green light…”(pg. 20-21) The green light is the idea that you should keep chasing your dreams no matter how far away they seem. Fitzgerald shows this through Gatsby chasing Daisy although she is married and has a child, he never gives up on his hopes to be with her. Fitzgerald additionally portrays this through Gatsby by showing that he was poor but did everything he could to become rich because that was his dream. Other characters such as Myrtle show this theme. Myrtle wants to be rich like Gatsby and Tom so she keeps pretending to be rich and tries to fit that stereotype in any way that she can because she dreams of being rich one day. In chapter five, Daisy and Gatsby are seeing each other again for the first time in years.
Their reconnecting occurs at Nicks house and this is when the reader is introduced to the mantelpiece clock. When Fitzgerald writes “Luckily the clock took this moment to tilt dangerously at the pressure of his head, whereupon he turned and caught it with trembling fingers and set it back into place…I think we all believed that for a moment that it had smashed in pieces on the floor.”(pg. 86-87) the reader sees that Gatsby wants to get back together with Daisy or “turn back time” in a sense. Fitzgerald is telling the reader that time is unstoppable and unrestrainable through Gatsby and Daisy’s actions because even though Gatsby does everything in his power to see her again and win her over he never does because time has moved on and so has Daisy. Next, the reader sees that time has moved on long before Gatsby had even come back from the army.
The reader sees Daisy’s actual moving on and marrying Tom in chapter four when Jordan tells about the night before Daisy’s wedding, “I came into her room half an hour before the bridal dinner, and found her…drunk as a monkey. She had a bottle of Sauterne in one hand and a letter in the other…we locked the door and got her in a cold baht. She wouldn’t let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet ball, and only let me leave it in the soap-dish when she saw it was coming to pieces like snow.”(pg.76) the reader assumes this letter in from Gatsby because Jordan earlier in this passage explained how Daisy and Gatsby were in love and how during Daisy’s drunken state she tells Jordan to give Tom back the pearls that he bought he because, “Daisy’s change’ her mine!” (Pg. 76)
Yet she still marries Tom the next day. This shows her realizing that she can’t wait forever and must marry Tom, therefore leaving behind her past with Gatsby and moving on. What Gatsby has yet to see it that all good things come to and end, and this is what Fitzgerald was portraying through the disintegrating letter and the end of Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. As many can see, F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the finest writers because he uses personal experiences to influence his writing. His use of symbolism is astounding and it makes people want to decipher his words.
In The Great Gatsby he shows the reader the meaning of life, time, and hope through a light, a letter, and a clock; but most importantly through his main character Gatsby, who is connected to all of the symbols in this novel. Fitzgerald also does a first-class job of connecting the overall theme of the novel, which is the decline of the American dream in the 1920’s; how little by little it started to disappear until nobody believed in it any more; to Gatsby and how his count of enchanted objects keep diminishing one by one until there is nothing left but lost and broken dreams.
Courtney from Study Moose
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