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The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, portrays the Jazz Age and the people living during the time. The reader watches the unfortunate story of the mysterious Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan through the eyes of Nick Carraway. His semi-involved character witnesses the events unfold right in front of his eyes as he lives next door to Gatsby. Critics often regard this tale of love, betrayal, and immoral living an essential classic for all high-school students.
The cover provides an excellent source of symbolism and insight into meaning of the novel.
The sad, hypnotic eyes of a woman shine through the night sky like two headlights. Inside the eyes, the irises appear as lounging nude women. A green tear streams down from the one eye and vivid red lips complete the face. No nose or other recognizable facial forms appear on this figure, but a few dark streaks behind the title suggest hairlines. Other dark lines resemble the outline of a street.
Brightly colored lights glow on the ground beneath the visage.
The cover art applies to many aspects of the story, specifically symbols and characters. The eyes represent a direct reference to those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg on the billboard in the city. Both sets of eyes seem eerily ominous, yet they also have a mystical quality about them, almost god-like in their appearance. The irises symbolize Gatsby’s sexuality and his views about Daisy. He watches Daisy with lustful eyes and the inner eye could signify his dreams about his future with her.
Emerging from the center of the cover, the bright red lips suggest the sensuality of Daisy.
Dripping down the cheek of the face, a green tear stands out from the dark background. This tear represents several things. First, it stands for the sadness in the heart of characters in the novel, especially Gatsby and Daisy. A quote at the end of Chapter 1 best describes the alternate meaning for the tear. Nick finds Gatsby, trembling and staring at “a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been on the end of a dock.” The reader later finds that the green illumination sits on Daisy’s dock and Gatsby often returns to view this glow of light.
Moving to the bottom of the cover, the various flashes of light look almost like a carnival or amusement park. Nick refers to these lights when he approaches his home at the beginning of Chapter 5. He sees “the whole peninsula”¦blazing with light.” The light comes from Gatsby’s house that appeared “lit from tower to cellar.” Upon remarking about the house, Nick receives an offer from Gatsby to “go to Coney Island.” These lights pictured on the cover resemble that of this New York amusement park.
Towards the bottom left edge, the drawing looks vaguely like a car, materializing out of the cluster of lights. Combining this with the street-like markings near the face, another symbol in this picture becomes evident. Gatsby’s car plays a large role in the symbolism of the novel. The car epitomizes the flamboyant nature of Gatsby and other rich people during this time period. After hitting and killing Myrtle Wilson, the car also typifies the arrogance of the wealthy towards the less fortunate. The accident destroys the car’s embodiment of wealth and happiness. This also parallels Gatsby’s life and the revelation of the corrupt nature of his character.
The book cover succeeds in depicting many symbols of important elements in the story. The mysteriousness of the picture plays on the reader’s mind while going through the book. Adding to the effectiveness of the symbols, it contributes to the quality of the novel in a way that most covers do not. It represents an unusual and unique collaboration between author and artist; one that needs to establish itself more frequently in order to maintain this extraordinary level of literature.
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