Analysis of Symbolism in The Great Gatsby


What reason could F. Scott Fitzgerald have for incorporating symbolism into his novel, The Great Gatsby? Fitzgerald includes symbolism in his story to express the mood and how he feels about the behavior of his characters. The most prominent examples that Fitzgerald included are the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, the weather throughout the novel, and the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg as he judged the actions of all that acknowledged him. Each example of symbolism helps to convey Fitzgerald’s perspective on particular aspects of the American dream. 

Fitzgerald uses the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock to symbolize the sum of Gatsby’s hopes and dreams. Gatsby is seen reaching out for the green light one night in chapter one (Fitzgerald 24). This ultimately says that he was striving to reach everything he had ever dreamed of. Although, the importance of the green light disappears when Gatsby obtains everything it once meant to him. Nick says, “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon” (Fitzgerald 100). Gatsby had Daisy in his grip, just to lose everything in the end. Nick states, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night” (Fitzgerald 193). Gatsby got what he wanted, but in the process became blindly fixated on one fantasy. This fantasy destination defined him and he made decisions based on whether or not they could get him closer to his endgame. He could no longer make choices for what he thought was right because Gatsby convinced himself that his dream was the dictator of his entire life. Fitzgerald included this example of symbolism to show the reader that having a one-track mind can be dangerous. It is easy to become so obsessed on one topic that you miss what is going on around you and can quickly become trapped. 

Another example of symbolism found in the novel is the weather. The weather represents the current or upcoming mood of the story. Nick says, “The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest, of the summer” (Fitzgerald 121). On this hot day Gatsby tells Tom that his wife doesn’t love him. “Your wife doesn’t love you,” declares Gatsby (Fitzgerald 139). The truth comes out and emotions are at an all time high. The temperature was boiling over, just like the emotions of the characters as they realize that their worlds are falling apart. Fitzgerald incorporated the symbolism of weather because it shows the reader that there are many contributors to emotions and that it is important to be aware of these factors so that you can control them. 

Sometimes people blame the weather for their mood. They say the rain depresses them or that sunshine and warmth put them in a happy mood, but actions shouldn't be determined by such a trivial factor. Actions are not justified by emotions and frivolous reasons cannot be the backbone of what emotions are built on. Fitzgerald was trying to say that if you are not stable you may find yourself making bad decisions because of the condition that your dream is in.  

The final example of symbolism are the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Dr. Eckleburg symbolize the eyes of God. They cast judgement over all that acknowledge their presence. “Standing behind him Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg which had just emerged pale and enormous from the dissolving night. ‘God sees everything,’ repeated Wilson” (Fitzgerald 170). If you do wrong in order to achieve your dream, is that dream really worth fighting for? When you finally achieve your dream will your past actions make you feel guilt and shame or will you be able to look back on your decisions and be proud? The reason Fitzgerald included this symbolism was to tell the reader that some dreams aren’t worth the loss of a person's integrity.

Fitzgerald used symbolism to add to the overall theme of his novel. He incorporated the green light, the weather, and eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg as symbols to convey a larger meaning. Some examples of symbolism are harder to relate to the theme than others, but they can all trace back to it. All it takes is a little thought and inquiry.

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