Symbolism in Fitzgerald's the Great Thesis

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Family and Marriage
  • Type: Thesis
  • Paper: #8122251

Excerpt from Thesis :

It also has a "Merton College Library" (93) inside along with period bedrooms were "swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers" (93). Nick tells us that the house has "bathrooms with sunken baths" (93) and Gatsby a private apartment in the house complete with a "bedroom and a bath, and an Adam study" (93). The bathroom even has a toilet seat of "pure dull gold" (94). Gatsby's tailor lives in England and "sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season, spring and fall" (94). All of this extravagance symbolizes a total lack of regard for anything but the here and now. Gatsby, a single man, lives in a home too large for him and he still has his own apartment in the home. He has a staff that waits on him and he goes to great lengths to keep his home beautiful and desirable. Of course, he is doing this for Daisy but it is important to realize the depth of this excessiveness. On the same level of lavishness, the Buchanan's home is worth mentioning. Nick states that their home is "more elaborate" (7) than he could ever dream. The home is a "cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens" (7). Here we see the extent of Daisy's life. Her home is on the beach. Her yard is filled with gardens and sundials; she is living in a very nice, materialistic world. She seems to have it all. How these people live is not as important as how they are perceived to live. Clearly, Daisy and Tom have serious issues but, as long as they appear to be a happy couple, that is all that matters. A nice home with all of the amenities can cover a world of pain.

The Valley of Ashes symbolizes the decay of this society. We read it is a "fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air" (23). This image is significant because it represents just how deeply everyone is affected by immorality. It does not simply sit above the people in this novel; it grows into ridges and takes form of the chimneys and houses, filling the air and lungs of those who breathe it in. It is inescapable. Ash is the remainder of something that once was; it is what we see after something has burned. This symbol represents the morality of these people. They have burned their lives; they have wasted them and all that remains is ash. There is nothing strong and stable on which these people can lean. They are surrounded by this gray, powdery ash that represents death and their own decay. The most amazing thing is how they carry on among the ashes as if there were nothing wrong. They have burned, or wasted, their lives.

Doctor T.J. Eckleburg's eyes symbolize something more than the ash-covered world. While these people seem to live in a bubble, unaware of anything but their own lives, the eyes are a reminder that there is something more. The doctor's eyes rest above the "grey land and the spasms of bleak dust . . . his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground" (23). These eyes represent God, or a higher power, watching as these people wreck havoc on this dumping ground. The eyes are faded, an indication of neglect. They are not, however, blind and they see everything going on. George emphasizes this when he says, "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me but you can't fool God! (163). This statement falls on deaf ears but it is more true than anyone realizes. George is emotionally wrecked but so is just about everyone else by this point on the novel. The point of George's estimation is that the universe has a way of working things out in its own way. It may be karma or the vengeance of God but there seems to be reckoning at work. While it may seem that the Buchanan's escape unscathed, we must remember that they are stuck with each other. Gatsby does lose his life but Daisy and Tom must live out the remainder of their days with one another knowing the truth, which is its own purgatory. The eyes remind us of these forces in the universe.

The East and West Eggs symbolize social class. The East Egg symbolizes the old wealth we see in the Buchanans. Those like Daisy and Tom have inherited their wealth and, most likely, never worked a day in their lives. They do not appreciate the value of a dollar and never will. The West Egg represents those that work for a living and very much understand the value of a dollar. Gatsby comes from this stratum and has earned his own money. Gatsby may be rich but it is a different kind of rich because it is relatively new. To the Buchanans, this kind of wealth represents a lower class of people. Nick tells us the West Egg is "less fashionable" (5) than its counterpart. This may seem like a fine line but it is important to Gatsby because it is the line that Gatsby must cross in order to have Daisy. The chasm is great and Daisy is aware of that fact. Everyone else becomes aware of it at the Buchanan's dinner party when Tom humiliates Gatsby. While everyone else realizes what Tom has done, Gatsby still clings to his foolish hope that Daisy will still love him. Gatsby believes he can cross this line and it is painfully difficult for him to finally realize that he can never have what Daisy and Tom have regardless of how hard he works or how much he tries. Deep down, Daisy must have known that she would never have left Tom's wealth even after feelings for Gatsby were rekindled. She, in her East Egg fashion, lead Gatsby on and he, is his romantic fashion, let her. While a fling might have been possible, anything more was not because rich girls do not fall in love with poor boys.

The Great Gatsby tells a story of what might have been. Through powerful symbolism, Fitzgerald demonstrates the depth of wickedness the human heart will reach when bent on its on pleasure. Almost every desire is materialistic and nothing is spiritual in this world. That makes for light and carefree living as nobody ever stops to consider the consequences of their actions. Gatsby, Daisy and Tom symbolize the power of corruption. They are literally rotten to the core though we like to give Gatsby a little bit more lenience because he does not seem to be as contaminated as Tom and Daisy are. Gatsby's salvation lies in his love for Daisy but that is what kills him. Had he no drive to please and win her love, he might not have succeeded. Without the hope of her approval, he might have drifted into nothingness. He becomes a symbol of greatness in that he illustrates that success can be achieved. However, he is not immune to the corruption of wealth and lets his love for Daisy allow himself to be corrupted. He, more then the Buchanans, should realize the consequences for living such a life but he refuses to recognize them as thy would force him to admit his inability to reach Daisy. The green light that can never be touched, the ashes that surround the area, and the ever-watchful eyes symbolize that there is more going on that anyone would choose to admit. Nick understands but stands powerless in the face of love and wealth. He distances himself from the corruption that seduces his friends and, as a result, walks away with very few scars. He lives to tell the story of the great Gatsby and the power of his love. The love story that had no happy ending because the generation in which it lives is tainted by the spoils of excess and the lust for more. Nick, then, is a symbol…

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