Great Gatsby Symbolism
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel about one man's
disenchantment with the American dream. In the story we get a glimpse into the
life of Jay Gatsby, a man who aspired to achieve a position among the American
rich to win the heart of his true love, Daisy Fay. Gatsby's downfall was in the
fact that he was unable to determine that concealed boundary between reality and
illusion in his life. The Great Gatsby is a tightly structured, symbolically
compressed novel whose predominant images and symbols reinforce the idea that

Gatsby's dream exists on borrowed time. Fitzgerald perfectly understood the
inadequacy of Gatsby's romantic view of wealth. At a young age he met and fell
in love with Ginevra King, a Chicago girl who enjoyed the wealth and social
position to which Fitzgerald was always drawn. After being rejected by Ginevra
because of his lower social standing, Fitzgerald came away with a sense of
social inadequacy, a deep hurt, and a longing for the girl beyond attainment.

This disappointment grew into distrust and envy of the American rich and their
lifestyle. These personal feelings are expressed in Gatsby. The rich symbolize
the failure of a civilization and the way of life and this flaw becomes apparent
in the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the
story, quickly became disillusioned with the upper social class after having
dinner at their home on the fashionable East Egg Island. "Nick is forced
unwillingly to observe the violent contrast between their opportunities- what is
implied by the gracious surface of their existence- and the seamy underside
which is it's reality" (Way 93). In the Buchanans, and in Nick's reaction
to them, Fitzgerald shows us how completely the American upper class has failed
to become an aristocracy. The Buchanans represent cowardice, corruption, and the
demise of Gatsby's dream Gatsby, unlike Fitzgerald himself, never discovers how
he has been betrayed by the class he has idealized for so long. For Gatsby, the
failure of the rich has disastrous consequences. Gatsby's desire to achieve his
dream leads him to West Egg Island. He purchased a mansion across the bay from

Daisy's home. There is a green light at the end of Daisy's dock that is visible
at night from the windows and lawn of Gatsby's house. This green light is one of
the central symbols of the novel. In chapter one, Nick observes Gatsby in the
dark as he looks longingly across the bay with arms stretched outward toward the
green light. It becomes apparent, as the story progresses that "the whole
being of Gatsby exists only in relation to what the green light symbolizes This
first sight, that we have of Gatsby, is a ritualistic tableau that literally
contains the meaning of the completed book" (Bewley 41). A broader
definition of the green light's significance is revealed in Chapter 5, as Gatsby
and Daisy stand at one of the windows in his mansion. "If it wasn't for the
mist we could see your home across the bay," said Gatsby. "You always
have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock."
"Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he
had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of
that light had vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had
separated him from Daisy it has seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It
had seemed so close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a
dock. His count of enchanted objects has diminished by one" (Fitzgerald

94). Gatsby had believed in the green light, it made his dream seem attainable.

Upon meeting Daisy again, after a five-year separation, Gatsby discovers that
sometimes attaining a desired object can bring a sense of loss rather than
fulfillment. It is when Gatsby makes this discovery that the green light is no
longer the central image of a great dream, but only a green light at the end of
a dock. The most obvious symbol in The Great Gatsby is a waste land called the

Valley of Ashes, a dumping ground that lies between East and West Egg and New

York City. Symbolically "the green breast of the new world"
(Fitzgerald 182) becomes this Valley of Ashes. As the illusions of youth give
way to the disillusionment of the thirties, so green hopes give way to the dust
of disappointment. Certainly Gatsby's dreams turn to ashes; and it is
dramatically appropriate that the