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Scott Fitzgerald’s play The Great Gatsby highlights the futility of re-conquering the past by depicting Gatsby’s tragic love for the elusive Daisy, regarded as a seminal work of the 20th century that serves as social criticism by exposing the failure of the American dream and failed romantic relationships. The piece features various literal styles, the significance of which symbolism is elaborated through several colors, objects, and places, including the green light, Dr Eckleburg’s Eyes, Gatsby’s mansion, and an area known as the Valley of Ashes.
The Green Light
The novel frequently mentions green lights in the first chapter (Ming, 2018). Gatsby reaches out for a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, “he stretched out his arms toward the dark water and a single green light,” which means he’s reaching for his goals, which we know are great. It illustrates how long he holds onto his dreams, especially his woman, Daisy. Later, green symbolizes Gatsby’s envy. In Chapter 7, Daisy states that she can’t say she never loved Tom (Haziri, 2020). After hearing this, Gatsby knows Daisy may no longer love him and decides he must compete with Daisy’s husband to get her, which demonstrates that Gatsby would never be content if Daisy told him she loved another man. Besides, the green light on Daisy Buchanan’s East Egg dock symbolizes the unreachable. It represents the main character’s desire for what’s out of reach, including class, social prestige, and power. The green color also has symbolic value in The Great Gatsby as it is a green light color that tells the reader that Jay expects some “new money.”
Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s Eyes
People who have abandoned their values sometimes try to console themselves by imagining God watching them and passing judgment on their actions. As a result, they have a condescending attitude about people and how they live. Wilson believes there may be some connection between God and the eyes. However, they can also signify that there is no purpose for living. For these reasons, Maxwell Perkins has to share with Fitzgerald his opinion that Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes contribute to the book meaningfully, even though they do not blink or display any emotion. It is curious what cause or the effect these eyes have on those who gaze into them. The correct response is that these eyes see the behaviors of individuals and how their morality is deteriorating. On the road leading West Egg to Manhattan, Fitzgerald places these eyeballs in a fascinating location close to George Wilson’s garage. It is the first-time readers encounter these eyes in Chapter 2 (Ming, 2021). They stare out of nothing but a gigantic pair of yellow glasses that pass over a nose that doesn’t exist.
The Valley of Ashes
Valley of Ashes represents capitalism’s repercussions, showing that the American dream is unattainable (Yongping, 2019). The Valley of Ashes is a symbol of a place where people’s dreams and lives go to die. Myrtle wants to get out of it after being locked up in it. It seems like this place has taken away many people’s dreams. The play indicates that to reach NYC, West and East Egg residents must go through the Valley of Ashes, the gloomy land full of dust spasms, empty and uninteresting. The route to New York shows the residents of Eggs that the world isn’t ideal. (Horro, 2021). Nevertheless, George is glad to meet Tom and Nick since he has business with Tom, highlighting the novel’s theme of hope. Furthermore, it indicates George’s ignorance about Tom’s affair with his wife, Myrtle.
It is significant regarding two of the book’s overarching themes. To begin, it embodies the pomp, circumstance, and emptiness of the 1920s boom. Gatsby justifies his presence by throwing parties weekly in his mansion for high-class people. Gatsby’s love for Daisy is also represented through the home physically. He believed the house he had purchased with the old money, which was later taken away from him, was comparable to the splendid mansion he bought with the new money. Gatsby’s enormous and extravagant estate is a metaphor for his privileged way of life (Min, 2021). In addition, it reveals Gatsby’s inner turmoil and hints at the loneliness under the surface of his luxurious mansion.
Additionally, it is a representation of his boundless love for Daisy. Gatsby puts his newfound wealth to use. Although he makes significant advancements in life, the irony is that his lavish way of living does not provide him fulfillment. It resembles a delusional dream as he is having difficulty reaching this position to get Daisy back.
Fitzgerald’s brilliant use of symbolism depicts Americans’ life events, including pursuing the American dream. For example, the green light symbolizes people’s optimism and desire for a stable romantic relationship. But this can’t happen because many factors, including seeking enormous wealth to entice women such as Daisy, hinder individuals from pursuing the American dream. To Dr T.J. Eckleburg, his eyes stood for the all-seeing God, who passed judgment on the people involved in demolishing society’s moral virtues. Therefore, the excellent use of symbolism throughout the play represents the unprecedented implications of capitalism, which helps readers realize the dire ramifications of the character’s actions.
- Haziri, L. (2020). Colors and Symbolism in “The Great Gatsby” by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Journal of World Englishes and Educational Practices, 2(1), 13-16.
- Horro Varela, J. (2021). Death, Nature, and Society in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
- Min, Y. U. (2021). Clothing and Body Narrative Strategies in The Great Gatsby. Studies in Literature and Language, 23(2), 17-22.
- Ming, J. (2018). Symbolic Meanings of Green in The Great Gatsby.
- Yongping, C. (2019). American Dream: The Concrete Embodiment of Symbolism in” The Great Gatsby.