The Importance of the Automobile in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby was written about a time of gaiety for a certain set of people. One of the major thematic aspects of the book is driving and the automobile. At the time the book was written the car had begun its establishment as a national institution. This is apparent in one of the central events in the book. Tom's unfaithfulness first comes to light from a car accident in Santa Barbara. He misguides the car and the misdirection of his life is made glaringly evident. The automobile affected Fitzgerald and it influenced the writing in The Great Gatsby.
Driving is equated with living. Nick Carraway, describing their ill-fated trip from New York in Chapter Seven of The Great Gatsby says, "...we drove on toward death..."(143) This is both literal and metaphorical. They were driving toward the horrific scene of Myrtle's death. The entire novel deals with living, which is a movement toward death. Driving becomes a metaphor for living. Automotive transport becomes the rhetoric for describing everything. Even nature is related to automobiles. Nick describes the season in terms of elements associated with cars. "Already it was deep summer on roadhouse roofs and in front of wayside garages where new red gas-pumps sat in pools of light..."(25). For these people driving is about the new way of getting around quickly and living life fully. No one is exempt from being touched by the influence of cars. Fitzgerald incorporates the automotive metaphor into every aspect of his novel.
This is especially evident when Fitzgerald describes people. Often the basic terminology used is automotive related. Daisy describes Tom as a "great big hulking physical specimen"(17). We are drawn to the word hulking by Tom declaring his hatred of it. Hulking is reminiscent of machinery. Tom is hulking and has a definitive presence, much like a large car or bus. Tom drives a station wagon, extremely utilitarian. In the end, Tom becomes Daisy's choice because, like a station wagon, he is large, solid and the easiest way to go. On the other hand Gatsby's car is described as "a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraces with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns"(68). This description can be very accurately applied to Gatsby as well as his car. He is white, but does not resonate with the same WASP purity that the Buchanans do. Thus he can be construed as "cream" colored. He is very brightly rich but there is falseness to it, much like nickel instead of silver. He is "swollen here and there" with the rumors about who he is and where he is from. These rumors bolster his image and swell him up. He has many boxes, or occupations, and many different faces that line him and define him like the various boxes that define the car. The most accurate comparison of all is that of...