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Josh Rogan

Mr. Evans

English Honors

5 May 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald employs a masterful use of symbolism throughout The Great Gatsby

that adds to the depth and the overall essence of the novel. Fitzgerald symbolizes many different

people, objects, characters, actions, gestures, ideas and more. In the very first chapter we are

introduced to this use of symbolism when Nick sees Gatsby reaching out towards the water and

sees a distant green light. This green light becomes one of the most important symbols

throughout the novel. Fitzgerald also uses locations such as the valley of ashes and weather as

symbols to add to the overall depth of the novel. In the valley of ashes there is another very

important symbol, the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. Many of the characters names themselves are

symbolic such as Myrtle¶s and Daisy¶s name that give the characters deeper meanings. Many

actions throughout the novel also have other meanings such as when Tom smashes Myrtle¶s


One of the most important symbols in the novel is introduced in the very first chapter of

the novel, the green light. The green light that Gatsby is reaching out to continues to be a symbol

throughout the novel. Specifically to Gatsby, the green light symbolizes his hopes and dreams of

his future with Daisy, ³Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year

recedes before us´(180). The symbol could also be taken as the dream of becoming rich and

prosperous in corrupt ways because the color of greed and envy is green. Universally this is a

symbol of the American dream which is sometimes ruined by the corruption and greed of people.

Near the end of the novel Nick stated that ³[I]t eluded us then, but that's no matter- tomorrow we

will run faster, stretch our arms out farther..."(180)thisconnects this symbol to all people because

we all have dreams and hopes that we are attempting to our best ability to succeed, but we often

try to re-create the past and in doing so fail to move beyond it.

Fitzgerald¶s use of symbolisms is also employed in both the locations and the weather

conditions in this novel. In the second chapter, we are introduced to the valley of ashes between

West Egg and New York City. The valley of ashes is a long stretch of desolate land that is filled

with mounds of ashes, ³a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and

grotesque gardens.´(23) On the surface the valley of ashes seems like it is the opposite of the rich

and luxurious lifestyle that takes place in the East and West Eggs. But underneath the Eggs is the

same moral decay that occurred in the valley of ashes. When the thunder and the rain begin to

pick up in chapter five is symbol of the Jay and Daisy¶s relationship and how things will end up.

Thunder and rain are often used as symbols of bad omens in many literary works including The

Great Gatsby.

Some of the characters in The Great Gatsby have names that are symbols. Myrtle¶s name

for example, is a symbol of the Greek god of love. A myrtle bush is an evergreen, which is a

symbol of Myrtle¶s vitality or energy because an evergreen is always in bloom. Evidence of this

symbol is when Nick states that ³[T]he intense vitality had been so remarkable«´ (30)

duringone of the parties. Daisy¶s name is an even deeper symbol than Myrtle¶s. Daisy is a

symbol of a fragile flower, she is usually dressed in white and her maiden name, Fay, suggests

that she is a very delicate creature similar to that of a fairy. This is evident in the novel when she

said ³I did love him once²but I loved you too´ (132) as she was crying, shows her fragile

emotional state between Gatsby and Tom.


There are many actions and objects that have deeper meanings in this novel. The valley

of ashes is the billboard with the Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. These eyes are described as ³blue

and gigantic ± their retinas are one yard high´ (23). The eyes are a symbol that god is always

watching and is judging the actions of everything that you do. This meaning is directly given

when the non-religious Wilson, after seeing his wife die, states that ³god sees everything´ (160)

when looking at the billboard. Wilson also said to Myrtle that, ³[Y]ou may fool me, but you

can¶t fool God!´ (159); this enforces the symbol that god is always watching and judging the

actions of the characters. When Tom struck Myrtle in chapter two for chanting Daisy¶s name is

one of the actions in the novel that has a deeper meaning. It¶s symbolic that Tom smashed her

noise in because she was acting stuck up and he had to knock her down. Myrtle was acting like

she was part of the upper class she said ³I just slip it on sometimes when I don¶t care what I look

like,´ (31) when she really is living poor with George. Tom in reaction to this and the repeating

of his wife¶s name became angry and smashed Myrtle which broke her nose.

In conclusion, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs his use of symbolism throughout the novel in

many different ways. He symbolizes objects such as the green light, places such as the valley of

ashes, people such as Myrtle, and actions such as when Tom hit Myrtle in the nose. The use of

these symbols throughout the novel greatly adds to the depth and quality of the novel itself.

Fitzgerald provides us with many moral lessons about love, greed, envy, and power by using

symbols in these everyday objects, places and characters.

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