Essay, Research Paper
A symbol is defined as something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship , association, convention, or accidental resemblance. In the novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, he uses the green light, the East and West egg, and T.J Eckleburg to show how the American Dream is present and affects each of the characters.
The American Dream is different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Gatsby, the dream is that through wealth and power one can achieve happiness. The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s American Dream. Gatsby has spent his whole life looking for something better. “So he invented the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end (pg. 29).” Gatsby was so determined to make a better life for himself, that he invented up someone he would like to be. He did this all for money, success, acceptance, and Daisy. Yet, no matter how much he acquires he never feels complete. Even when he has his large house full of interesting people and all their attention, he still longs for Daisy. He created in his dreams for the future a place for her, and he will not be content to have that gaping hole. The green light suggests about the American Dream is that the American Dream is not material possessions, although it may seem that way. Gatsby only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true American Dream, Daisy. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther (pg.158)…” In this quote Nick is connecting the green light to all people. For everyone has something that they long and search for that is just off in the distance.
Fitzgerald uses the word careless a lot in describing most of the people and events in this book. There seems to be no fear of consequence, of judgment. So who is doing the judgment? That is, in part, what the eyes of T.J Eckleburg are there for. These eyes are from a billboard that looks over Wilson’s garage. The eyes are mentioned whenever Nick is there. They look over the situation, objectively, but offer a kind of judgment on the characters and their actions. They are placed near Wilson’s because that is where some of the most selfish acts take place: Myrtle’s death and Tom’s affair. All these crimes go unpunished. So the eyes look on and remind the characters of the guilt that they forget to have for what they have done. What the eyes suggest about the American Dream is that once people have achieved the American Dream or are in the process of achieving it, they lose all moral values. They don’t feel guilt or sorrow for anything they have done.
The Great Gatsby deals with moral issues in modern society. The issue that the characters deal with is the corruption of values and the decline of spiritual life. The novel deals with the early ideals of the first settlers. Fitzgerald relates Gatsby’s dream to that of the early Americans at the end of the novel, Nick recalls the former Dutch sailors and compare their sense of wonder with Gatsby’s hope. The book investigates how Americans lost their spiritual purpose as material success took power over their goals. The lives of the Buchanans were filled with material comforts and luxuries, and it lacked purpose. What the Buchanans suggest about the American Dream is that when people strive to accomplish their American Dream, they often lose their spiritual purpose. That achieving the American Dream may not be the best thing in life.
“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 (pg.102).” One of the most important themes in the novel is class and social standing in which East and West Egg acts as a symbol of this. Tom and Daisy live on the East, which is far more refined and well bred. Nick and Gatsby are on the West, which is for people who don’t have any real standing, even if they have money. The green light shines from the East Egg, drawing Gatsby towards what he always wanted. And Daisy, the woman that Gatsby has always wanted, but never gets, lives on East Egg. The barrier that the water creates between these worlds is symbolic of the barrier that keeps these people apart from one another and from much of what they want. What the East and West Egg suggest about the American Dream is that no matter how much Gatsby doesn’t rest until his American Dream is fulfilled, it will never come about, because he is on the opposite end of Daisy. The truth is that social discrimination still exists and the differences among the classes cannot be overcome.
F. Scott Fitzgerald uses these symbols to express the need for hope and dreams to give meaning and purpose in a person’s life. Striving towards some goal is the way a person can feel a sense of involvement and an understanding of his own identity. Gatsby has his gift of hope set against the empty existence of Tom and Daisy. Fitzgerald states that the failure of hopes and dreams, the failure of the American Dream, is unavoidable because the ideals are in any case usually too fantastic to be fulfilled Gatsby is obsessed with his goal of fulfilling his dream. It is which makes him attempt the impossible, to repeat the past and refuse to move on. The symbols helped to give me a clearer understanding of the novel because each symbol had a different meaning which gave a more in-depth understanding of the American Dream. It also let me know more about each character; their flaws, ambitions, and desires.