Gatsby Essay - symbolism

Submitted By Anabelle-Shaw
Words: 1670
Pages: 7

"Explore the use of symbolism in 'The Great Gatsby' and the short stories of F Scott Fitzgerald".


Set in 1920's America , The Great Gatsby (TGG) , The Lees of Happiness (LOH) and The
Curious Case of Benjamin Button (BB) allowed F Scott Fitzgerald (FSF) to write a social commentary in the era known as the 'Roaring 20's'. In a time of the decline of the 'American
Dream', FSF criticises and commentates on social values such as status, wealth and gender roles. It can be argued that ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald produced a book that is an amalgam of realism and of romance.’ as stated by Julian Cowley ­ which analyses the use of realism by
FSF.

Firstly, FSF uses the eyes of TJ Eckleburg to allow him to explore themes such as the effect of capitalism. This can be seen when FSF describes the eyes as ' eternal blindness
'. This is unusual, as eyes usually represent sight and awareness, however FSF uses the eyes to show the 'blindness' of several characters in relation to their affairs ­ e.g. Tom and Myrtle's affair is hidden from Wilson for some time before he discovers the truth. In the 1920's, religion was replaced with extreme consumerism, which lead to large billboards advertising services. The eyes ' emerged...from the dissolving night' after Myrtle's death. The word ' emerged '' leads one to believe God only appears as a last resort, and when wrong has been done e.g. Myrtle's affair. In TGG FSF uses this to critique society, as consumerism did not work for everybody­ hence the people in the Valley Of Ashes (VoA). There is a sense of irony behind this symbol, as the people in VoA work long, hard lives, to only be subjected to an enormous billboard advertising something they could never afford. The colour of the billboard is also key­ blue and yellow. Blue usually has connotations of dreams and happiness, but yellow of disease and decay. This represents the hopelessness of the people surrounding the billboard, and while the American Dream could happen for them yellow suggests they are always plagued by death and loss. This is a continued symbol and appears again, when Wilson becomes aware of Myrtle's affair with Tom­ where he states '
God sees everything
'. This again, is reference to the replacement of religion with capitalism in the early 20's. The Valley of Ashes is a symbol which allows FSF to explore the relationships between characters and is utilised to drive the plot forward. Influenced by T.S Elliot's ' Waste Land', the
VoA is described as ' a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat
'. This statement likens the
VoA to a 'farm' which has connotations of freedom, hope and life. However, it is quite the opposite, nothing grows or survives in this environment ­ this includes people (Myrtle) and people who live her are 'stuck'. The word "farm' is contrasted by the term ' grotesque ' which has connotations of distortion and deformity and combined with the 'fantastic farm' creates an oxymoron describing the hopelessness and death. The 1920's followed a period just after

WW1, in which Harding turned to business to improve the economy. However, the effect of this was the spread of poverty throughout the lower classes e.g. People in the VoA.

People here cannot escape the poverty and despair of VoA and represent the despair and the split in social classes. In 1920's America, 'The American Dream' was in decline ­ as it was assumed that anyone could achieve The American Dream regardless of their background and the East was a haven for success. However, when Myrtle attempts to escape the VoA she is killed ­ an end to her dream of becoming upper class and leaving the VoA and death is inevitably her escape from the VoA. This is further emphasised when ' a line of grey car crawls along an invisible track
' ­ a track usually has connotations of travelling and normal leads out of somewhere. Nevertheless, the colour grey has connotations of lifelessness and a lack…