Great Gatsby-sybolism Essay, Research Paper
Wants, Desires & Symbols
In The Great Gatsby, symbolism adds depth to the story without casting confusion.
The representations are presented and sometimes even explained through the characters.
Our own society too has many symbols which reflect who we are in a similar manner as
the symbols in the novel did.
Although there are many symbols in this book, perhaps one of the most striking is
the green light on the end of the Buchanan dock. This light represents hope and dreams to
Gatsby. It shows his love for Daisy and his need for a companion, or in Gatsby’s words,
"He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…Involuntarily, I
glanced seaward- and distinguished nothing except a single green light…that might have
been the end of a dock." The green light could be seen from the back of Gatsby’s house.
This represents all that is unobtainable in life. The one thing that is in sight, but not within
The green light is the vision of his goal: to have Daisy. In a world where Gatsby
could essentially obtain anything with his money, Daisy presented a challenge to him,
because even she could not be purchased. But when, at last, Gatsby believes that Daisy is
his, he no longer idolizes her. Now that he realizes he has her, she is no longer desirable.
We come to this presumption when Gatsby states, " Compared to the great distance that
had separated him from Daisy (the green light) had seemed very near to her, almost
touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green
light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one." Therefore the
green light has no more symbolic meaning to him, and neither does Daisy.
I don’t believe that in our world today that we have an object that universally
symbolizes the same meaning as the green light did. The green light was physically close
to him but he thought he could never actually have it, "it" meaning Daisy. Money could
be viewed in the same sense. In our society money is everywhere, but for most of us it is
difficult to acquire all that is wanted. It is like the saying, "So close but yet so far away."
There is money everywhere we go, but it’s hard to get it. We can’t just rob a bank, we
have to earn our own assets. And in the same context, Gatsby could not go kidnap Daisy,
he had to woo her and win her love.
The symbol of money doesn’t say much positive about our time. It shows that as a
country we are predominantly focused on wealth and possessions. This reminds me of a
story my grandfather once told me. He is a car sales consultant, and deals with many
people. Last year a customer came to him, from Korea. Although she was quite rich, she
decided to buy a Nissan Centra, a rather modest cheap car for a wealthy person like
herself. After about a year of owning the car she had to go pick her son up from school,
at Phillips Andover Academy. On the way home, her son made a comment that he was
embarrassed to be seen in her new Nissan because all his friends parents drove BMW’s and
Mercedes’. The next time that the woman talked to my grandfather she told him what her
son had said about the car. She went of further to explain that in Korea people do not like
to show off how much money they have by buying expensive cars, and you would be
looked down upon if you did so. She did not understand that in America, the car you
drive is often viewed as a reflection of how successful you are and how much money you
have. After learning this concept, she is currently in the market for a BMW.
Thus, money now, just as much as when The Great Gatsby was written, is a
reflection of success. Our country believes that the more successful you are, the more
money you possess. If wealth is considered success, then our society is saying that a
professional athlete is far more successful than a hard working single mother raising two
kids by her self. If this is the way that our time views success, then money is a negative
symbol to reflect who we are.