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Dreams can have a convincing effect in people’s lives. They are what makes people want to push forward each day to achieve something better. The American Dream has been desired by millions all over the world for many years. This country was based on the belief that anyone can fulfill their dreams. However, in the 1920s these hopes, and ambitions began to disintegrate until they eventually fade away. In the story, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald is using symbolism, setting, and the theme to portray the unlikelihood of the American Dream.
Throughout the story, Fitzgerald’s use of symbolism helps to build an atmosphere of desire. He basically uses color to represent and communicate certain messages to the reader. These colors are intertwined so perfectly into the story that no one would not think very much of them. However, they are playing a huge role in shaping the story. Fitzgerald is using the color, yellow to represent money, and Gatsby’s willingness to be included in the elite “old money” social class.
His yearning appears through his yellow car and his yellow trouser suit. Although yellow is a major aspect of the story, the green light at the end of Daisy’s pier holds the single most importance. When Nick says, “Gatsby believed in the green light …” (Fitzgerald, 180), he means Gatsby’s American Dream and how he thought he would one day rejoin Daisy. Green conveys the same feelings when writing, “The green light at the end of
Daisy ‘s dock and the magic, how it shines over Gatsby as he tries to hinder the world into his own tale of the American Dream remains as a recognizable symbol of both hope and failure” (Green).
The green light stands for Gatsby’s hope, but also his failure because he is never going to have Daisy again. Fitzgerald’s use of symbols helps to strengthen the key elements of the story. The diversity of settings in the entire story help categorize between different social classes which existed in the 1920s. Fitzgerald’s use of various settings is exploring different kinds of people that lived in New York at the time. Among the most prominent are West Egg, East Egg, and the valley of ashes. Nick describes the Eggs when writing, “I lived at West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them … Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water” (Fitzgerald, 5). Here, he is voicing the differences between the two Eggs even though they were both home to the rich.
West Egg is home to the upstart, or “new money”, including Nick and Gatsby. These residents represent those who gained their fortunes as opposed to those who live in the East Egg, such as Tom and Daisy, who come from “old money”. The discrepancy between the two Eggs is helping to establish the top levels of the social ladder, meaning the East Egg residents feel as if they were above those who did not come from money and despised them. It also shows the negligence and vulgarity that comes with “new money”. “Fitzgerald compares the valley of ashes with the ‘Eggs,’ the two headlands explained by Nick that protrude out of Long Island ‘s north shore” (Tunc). The valley of ashes gives a harsh contrast between the first two settings as it is home to the impoverished, working class. The ashes stress the hopelessness and sadness that the people felt during this time. The assortment among the settings helps to divide the wealthy from the poor. The array of subjects that exist help Fitzgerald to deliver greater meanings throughout the text. One of the main subjects of the story is the impossibility of the American Dream, and its’ unavoidable failure. Fitzgerald reveals this when writing, “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass” (Fitzgerald, 161). Here, Gatsby signifies the sunlight in which he is trying everything in its’ power to get the grass to grow. The grass is symbolizing Daisy, however, has refused to grow. At this point, Gatsby finally realizes deep inside that he will never be able to achieve his dream because no matter how hard he tries to win Daisy back, he’s never going to have her. Fitzgerald illustrates this once again in the beginning of the story when Nick observers Gatsby reaching for Daisy’s dock, the green light which he will never be able to get despite his best efforts. Fitzgerald shows how peoples’ dreams are always just out of grasp. This repetitive theme helps create a relationship between the story and the characters with the outside world. Some people today, however, think that Gatsby did accomplish the American Dream. Coming from little to no money, he was able to change his life and establish great wealth and success for himself. This is shown when Fitzgerald writes, “… The vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man” (Fitzgerald,101), meaning that Gatsby was able to achieve the interpretation of himself that he had always dreamed of becoming. Although, Gatsby managed to turn his life from poverty to wealth and success, his goal frustrated him. While he was able to attain fame in most people’s eyes, he did not care about the money and did not believe in himself to have accomplished his own American Dream because what he wanted most than anything in the world was Daisy. Nick expresses Gatsby’s regret when writing, “I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn’t believe it would come, and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” (Fitzgerald, 161). He explains that Gatsby must have grasped that he had squandered his entire life on Daisy and had missed out on other relationships and life experiences. “In the end of the story, Gatsby becomes Daisy ‘s victim, and a victim of the ambiguous American Dream”. Even though Gatsby attained most people’s desires, he failed at his own. Fitzgerald’s selection of setting and lack of ethical values shown throughout makes this story a work of Modernism. After World War I, people began leaving normal, appropriate behavior and welcomed a new carefree attitude. This new way of thinking and acting, created a brand-new literary movement recognized today as Modernism. Fitzgerald illustrates these new social norms when describing partygoers at Gatsby’s house. He writes, “… They conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park” (Fitzgerald, 41). Here, he is voicing the lack of moral judgement that many people of the time displayed.
This time era is also known as the Jazz Age, as this type of music was born at the same time. Fitzgerald blends this into the novel by having the band at Gatsby’s party play jazz music.
Fitzgerald’s use of characters does not have moral values and the incorporation of jazz music makes this story a work of Modernization. In the beginning of Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby Nick remembers a saying that his father mentioned to him. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (Fitzgerald, 1). We begin the story with this little fatherly advice, which hints to us that Nick will try to tell the story without criticizing the characters. But after Gatsby’s death, Nick determines that Tom and Daisy are downright horrible people. If their treachery is so deep as to have stunned Nick’s belief in his father’s advice, they must be truly evil individuals indeed. But even that may well be going too far. Tom and Daisy hardly seem to be deliberately immoral. Their actions are evil, but aside from Tom telling Wilson about Gatsby and thereby lead to Gatsby’s death – it’s hard to disagree that Tom and Daisy are selfish and vile. Although Fitzgerald tries to make Daisy’s character worthy of Gatsby’s great love, in the end she uncovers herself for what she really is. Despite her beauty and charisma, Daisy is simply a selfish, ugly, and a hurtful, woman.
Daisy’s character realizes that she has no ability to be independent, as she is a woman, and makes this obvious when talking about her daughter saying, “All right… I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” (Fitzgerald, 17). Daisy is clearly upset and is voicing her frustration when she expresses this emotion. Daisy’s remark reflects what she thinks a woman should be like since she realizes that she had been made a fool of. Tom has had frequent affairs and has not given her the care and love she believes she deserved. It would have been better if she were foolish enough not to care about what her husband did. As far as being beautiful, Daisy is indicating that a woman who is beautiful would be able to catch any man, as she obviously did when she got Tom’s interest and married him. Daisy later told Nick about her suffering when she said: “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything.” (Fitzgerald, 16). F. Scott Fitzgerald depicts Daisy as a weak-willed mother character.
George Wilson is a major figure in the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “The Great Gatsby”. He was a poor man who was an exhausted owner of an auto garage by the end of the valley of ashes, he was led into madness when he thought that Jay Gatsby murdered his unfaithful wife Myrtle, when in fact she had been killed by Gatsby’s lover, Daisy. The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg represented the eyes of God by George Wilson and before Myrtle’s death, he confronted her affair and told her ‘God knows what you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’ (Fitzgerald, 159). He determines that the eyes meant a moral standard and that God wants vengeance for the sin that Myrtle had done, being unfaithful. George is so adamant on finding out who killed Myrtle. His fixation with finding out his wife’s killer shows how loving and devoted he was to Myrtle and how he is starting to go crazy. George Wilson kills Gatsby out of vengeance for murdering his wife. He thinks the person to blame for hitting her with the car was her lover and Tom Buchanan tells him that it was Gatsby who was driving the car. George then goes to Gatsby’s house and fatally shoots him. Soon after he turns the gun on himself.
Nick Carraway is a newly Yale graduate who travels to Long Island after securing a job as a bond salesman. He is relatively harmless and well mannered, particularly when compared to the self-indulgent elite among whom he lives. Over time, however, he becomes smarter, more watchful, and even disappointed, but never heartless or greedy. Nick is the story’s narrator, but he has some characteristics of a good guy, as he is the character who endures the biggest change in the story.
Nick has direct relationships to some of the story characters. He is Daisy’s cousin, Tom’s schoolmate, and Gatsby’s new next-door neighbor and friend. Nick is fascinated by Gatsby’s parties and earns an invite into the inner circle. He helps to organize Gatsby and Daisy’s reunion and enables their growing affair. Later, Nick is a witness to the sad entanglements of the other characters, and eventually is shown to be the only person who sincerely cared for Gatsby.
After Gatsby’s death, Nick goes to his funeral, assuming that all the people who took advantage of Gatsby’s extravagant parties to show up. However, he and Gatsby’s father wait, and no one comes… I began to look involuntarily out the windows for other cars. So did Gatsby’s father. And as the time passed and the servants came in and stood waiting in the hall, his eyes began to blink anxiously, and he spoke of the rain in a certain way. The minister glanced several times at his watch, so I took him aside and asked him to wait for half an hour. But it wasn’t any use. Nobody came. (Fitzgerald, 174).
Eventually, the only people at the funeral are Nick, Gatsby’s father, and ‘Owl Eyes,’ who comments on the hypocrisy of other people. Owl Eyes was a gentleman who noticed that all the books in Gatsby’s library were actual real books with complete pages; that is, they had real value, but had never been read. Nick recognizes that the guests only cared about being seen at the latest in-fashion trends, instead of look after Gatsby himself; he also grasps that Gatsby wasted years learning how to live and fit in as a rich man, all in the quest of Daisy. In the end, even Daisy will ignore the funeral, instead she goes away with Tom, and Nick finds his opinion of the East Egg soiled by these dreadful recollections.
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