Essay, Research Paper
Symbols in The Great Gatsby This celebrated novel had so many symbols it made the best seller’s list. In the novel The Great Gatsby there are many symbols that the reader needs to be aware of: the Valley of Ashes, the green light and the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. With this essay the reader should gain a better understanding as to what these symbols represent. The symbols in the novel The Great Gatsby must be understood to enjoy this novel on the plateau it was originally written to achieve. The Valley of Ashes has a major effect on the tone of the novel and is one of the major settings where many of the main actions take place. The Valley of Ashes is shown as an industrial area with a lot of factories. It is shown as a place where people step over each other to get to the top because no one wants to b on the bottom. It is also shown as a stepping stone to a better, wealthier way of life as it is the road to either the West Egg or to New York where the rich people live and where the money-making businesses are located. “Occasionally a line of gray car’s crawls along an invisible track”(23). This shows the reader that people only drive through the Valley of Ashes to get either to their homes or to work. This allows us to understand the nature of the Valley of Ashes as a poor place. The Valley of Ashes is represented in this novel as hell. “Then the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us” (68). This shows the reader that the Valley of Ashes just opens up and swallows people. It shows the reader that it is a place where some people have to go no matter what happens and it just comes at people without even recognizing it. This symbol has a major effect on the novel because of the different meanings it provides to people and it is where the major events of the novel took place. The second major symbol in the novel is the green light. This had a major effect on the intense pursuit that Jay Gatsby had towards Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby wants to pursue the green light, which is situated at the end of Daisy and Tom Buchanan’s dock. “Involuntarily I glanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been a dock”(21-22). Gatsby wants to be with Daisy because he loves her. The light is a symbol of the pursuit he wants to make towards Daisy. Gatsby pursues Daisy by buying a house across the bay from hers, showing us that he looks at the green light often and wants what is at the end of the dock. The light also shows the reader why Gatsby throws as many parties as he does. He feels that if he can see the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock then certainly Daisy will see all the lights at one of his parties, bringing her to him. Gatsby is also envious of what Tom has. It also shows us that the green light has passed by Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever” (94). This quote shows the reader that Gatsby is no longer envious of Tom because he had finally gotten together with Daisy and the green light is no longer something that Gatsby needs to pursue. The green light is a very important symbol in the novel because it shows the drive that Gatsby has to get what he wants.
The third dominant symbol in the novel is the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. The sign with his eyes on it sees everything that goes on in the Valley of Ashes. “The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic-their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face” (23). The eyes resemble God looking down on the characters in the novel and watches what is going on. The eyes also look down over the Valley of Ashes, which has been depicted as hell, showing all the immorality and garbage of the times. The eyes also show judgement and wealth towards the characters in the novel. The eyes judge Tom and Myrtle because they are having an affair on their respected spouses. The eyes also judge Gatsby and Daisy for killing Myrtle. The eyes show wealth because the sign is on a road leading into the city where are the wealth and prosperity is. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are important because it shows the reader that no matter what people do someone is there watching what goes on. These symbols presented in the novel The Great Gatsby must be understood to enjoy this novel on the plateau it was originally written to achieve. The main points mentioned in the essay proved that there are many different meanings of the symbols that give the novel a unique twist in whatever way, the reader sees the symbol as. The Valley of Ashes shows the reader what hell on earth would be like, a dirty place where there is only work going on and no play. The green light shows the reader that people need to pursue their dreams no matter what the circumstances are. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are important because they show the reader that someone is always watching what is going on and that the reader will not be able to get out of the things they do. This novel has many symbols that have an unequal amount of meaning so the reader will come away from this essay with a better understanding of the three symbols presented to them.