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Untitled Essay Research Paper Sybolism in the

Untitled Essay, Research Paper Sybolism in the Great Gastby By: Twyla Lomen F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is rich in symbolism, which is portrayed on several different levels in a variety of ways. One of the

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

Sybolism in the Great Gastby

By: Twyla Lomen

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is rich in symbolism, which is

portrayed on several different levels in a variety of ways. One of the

most important qualities of symbolism within this novel, is the way in

which it is so fully integrated into the plot and structure. Some of the

symbols are used mostly as tools for characterization such as

Wolfsheim’s cuff links, Gatsby’s huge library of uncut books, and

Tom’s repeated gesture of physically pushing other people around.

Other symbols such as Gatsby’s car, symbolizing material wealth in

America and its destructfulness, have a function in the plot as well as

a more abstract significance. However, the major symbols such as

the valley of ashes, the green light, and the east and west, are filled

with meanings that go beyond the plot, and truly capture Fitzgerald’s

theme of this novel; the corruption of the American dream.

The corruptive effect of wealth is shown by the conflict between

the established rich, represented by the East Eggers, and the newly

rich, represented by the West Eggers. West Egg is the home of the

nouveaux riche, of Gatsby and those like him who have made huge

fortunes, but lack the traditions associated with inherited wealth and

are therefore vulgar. The East Eggers, represented by the Buchanans

have the traditions and lack vulgarity, but they have been corrupted

by the purposelessness and the empty futures their money has

provided. The downfall of the American promise is also symbolized

by the reversal of east and west. When the settlers came to the “New

World” (America) to escape persecution and the corruption of their

countries, they traveled from east to west. However, since the ideal

has been corrupted, people travel from west to east attracted by the

wealth and a materialistic life, masking the true emptiness of their

goal of happiness. Daisy, Tom, Nick, Jordan, and Gatsby all were

westerners, and by moving east, they moved from a world of values

to a moral vacuum, represented by the “valley of ashes.”

The valley of ashes represent a modern world, which is like a

grotesque hell created by modern industry. Factories and trains,

produced in the manufacture of wealth, has polluted America with its

wastes. It is a physical desert that symbolizes the spiritual desolation,

that a society based on money creates. Overlooking the valley, are

the sightless eyes of T.J. Ecklburg, an advertisement on a billboard in

which a character actually confuses as God. It represents a God who

has been created by modern society to make money. It represents a

God who no longer sees nor cares. The whole valley symbolizes a

world whose inhabitants are so spiritually lost, that they worship

money and wealth. The promise of happiness, hope, and freedom

that America gave its first settlers, has been corrupted by the lies of

greed, and the emptiness of a dream based on wealth.

Green is the color of promise,of hope, renewal, and ultimately

the green light to which Gatsby stretches out his arms. The green

light symbolically corresponds to the “green breast of a new world,”

and at the end fuses Gatsby’s vision of Daisy with that of the

explorers who had discovered the promise of a new continent. What

ultimately preys on the vision, the goal, is that in America and by

Gatsby it can only be attained through the acquisition of material

possessions.

Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. The

corruption of his dream, by using materialism as its means and the

illusion of youth and beauty as its goal, is the corruption of American

idealism, which in turn becomes the empty promise. In the end

Gatsby is destroyed by his illusions of Daisy, just as the fresh

landscape of America has been converted into a depressing “valley of

ashes,” and the sacred green light becomes nothing but a bulb

burning at the end of Daisy’s dock.

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