Great Gatsby: Symbols Representing The Ideas And Qualities Of The Characters

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Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist born in 1875 and the creator of the psychoanalytic theory, believed that the psychological state of mind contained the conscious and unconscious parts of a human being, which can be distinguished through symbolism. Symbolism is often used by authors to develop their writing. 

Analogies can give a literary work more abundance and colour, hence, delivering the essence of the work. Specifically, in the book called The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, symbols were used to represent the ideas and qualities of the characters in the roaring twenties. As a result, The Great Gatsby explores one’s psychological state of mind, leading to the obtainment of one’s hopes and dreams, wealth and the faith of God. A person’s hopes and dreams are known as aspirations and are desired to be accomplished in the future. In particular, Jay Gatsby, the protagonist of the book, had goals and visions about one day winning over his former lover named Daisy Buchanan. During World War I, Mr. Gatsby and Daisy met at her house and the two fell in love. Sadly, when the war was over, Jay had found out that Daisy was engaged to a rich gentleman named Tom Buchanan. Nevertheless, he decided that he would find a way to gain an immense amount of wealth, in order to attain his long-lost love back into his arms. The green light located at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock, which was slightly noticeable from Gatsby’s West Egg lawn represents positivity within his hopes and dreams and persistence of having Daisy with him. Evidentally, Nick Carraway explains that Gatsby’s unattainable dream was “a dream that must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.” (Fitzgerald 180) Most importantly, the green light represented action and money and that it was the time for Gatsby to go forth and take his prize, being Daisy. Also, the colour green symbolized envy and acted as a representation for how Gatsby envied Tom Buchanan’s marital status because he was married to Daisy, which was the ultimate woman he desired. 

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Once Mr. Gatsby gained enough wealth to buy a home across the East Egg, “he was eager to win Daisy back, and his gaining of great wealth and his plentiful weekly parties are all means to that ending.” (Keshmiri par. 10) Furthermore, Nick compared the green light to how America must have looked to early settlers of the new nation and “I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes, a fresh, green breast of the new world.” (Fitzgerald 180) The importance of Nick’s observation is that even settlers in the olden days had dreams and hopes of starting anew and colonizing the land that they had found. Money signified wealth and if you possessed a lot of it, whether old or new, you were at the top ranks of the social hierarchy. As a result, the high-class people were admired and envied throughout the citizens of New York City, which is the home of Wall Street. 

However, not everyone in the city of New York during the 1920s had an immense amount of assets. There was a place known as the Valley of Ashes, which represented the moral and social decay, resulting from the unrepressed quest towards wealth as the rich satisfy themselves with no respect of anyone or anything, except their own pleasure and happiness. Additionally, Nick had explained that the “Valley of Ashes, a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke. Finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” (Fitzgerald 23). It is a place that converted into an unpleasant hellish land consisting of gray ashes, which were produced from factories with the lingering soot in the air. Not to mention, the ash turned “everyday humans into ash-grey men who swarm like insects around the factories and freight trains.” (Wulick par. 13) Sadly, these are the people who are not able to enjoy the luxuries of life on Long Island or the faster-paced unknown fun that Nick discovers himself experiencing in Manhattan. In addition, the Valley of Ashes symbolized how disconnected the rich were from the source of their wealth. While Nick was on the train through the valley, the barges were transporting the building products of the factories. Also, Nick Carraway is a bond tradesman and bonds are basically loans people give to companies. 

In the 1920s, the bond market was fueling the development of skyscrapers, particularly in New York. In other words, “the same construction boom that is making Queens into the Valley of Ashes was also buying up the new elite class that populates the West Egg.” (Wulick par. 14) Thus, the American dream consumed the citizen’s minds and made them gain a false consciousness of what society should actually be like. Generally, people put their trust and faith into a higher power, whether it be God or another religious entity. Specifically, in The Great Gatsby, the eyes of Ekelburg symbolized the image of God to the citizens in the Valley of Ashes. To George Wilson’s grief-stricken mind, the eyes made it seem like God was watching and guiding over him. He said, ‘God is my witness.’ (Fitzgerald 105) when he had gone to kill Jay Gatsby since he thought that he was the culprit of the hit and run that killed his beloved wife Myrtle. Additionally, George had seen the billboard of the Eyes of Ekleburg as a sign of failure and disappointment since he had a streak of bad luck and his life was on a downward spiral. His business was failing, which eventually caused him to become borderline bankrupt. Also, his wife Myrtle was having an affair with Tom Buchanan, which caused him to lose his temper, thus abused her because she humiliated him and manhood. ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me but you can’t fool God!’ (Fitzgerald 105). 

Furthermore, the Eyes of Ekelburg may ‘signify God looking down upon and judging the American society as a moral wasteland.’ (Will par. 3) ‘Doctor T.J. Eckleberg is linked metonymically in the text to the trope of perception’ (Will par. 11) as the citizens perceive the eyes on the faded billboard in many different ways. The eyes also appear to express the essential meaninglessness of the world and the arbitrariness of the subconscious method by which people invest in objects with meaning. 


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