Characters as Symbols in The Great Gatsby
People hold different things to be symbolic. Dove and peace, a rose and love; they are simple things yet widely symbolic. Symbolism is commonly used in literature to change or deepen meanings or instill a different meaning to the mind of the readers. The reader is forced to think, make connections, and succeed in adding a new meaning to the novel. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald uses symbolism in the form of his characters and to develop the theme, the corruption of the American Dream.
All of the characters are symbolic of different classes in American society, from the richest to the poorest. Through the characters, Fitzgerald characterizes all the hopes and dreams of people living during the Jazz Age. As is typical of humans, none of the characters are satisfied with what they have. Each character wants more than what they are getting out of life. Tom and Daisy Buchanan represent "old money"; they seem to have it all: wealth, place in high society, a family, and all the advantages that come with being wealthy. On the surface they appear to be what the American Dream is all about; however, they are both dissatisfied with their lives, themselves, and each other. They are a classic example of the Dream's corruption because in spite of all they have, they are still seeking the true luxuries that each person wants from life: love, peace, and true happiness. Both Tom and Daisy are indifferent to the suffering hopes and dreams of all those around them. "They were careless people....they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money...and let other people clean up their mess" (Fitzgerald 188). A clear example of their carelessness is the fact that Daisy lets Gatsby take the blame for killing Myrtle. She conveniently forgets her "love" for Gatsby and leaves with a seemingly clear conscious. For an average person such as Nick Carraway, it would appear Tom and Daisy have everything; but they have nothing more than wealth and status. Perhaps Tom and Daisy realize money is not enough to live a fulfilling life but they are just too set in their ways to change. Their thoughts and actions expose the American Dream for what it has become, superficial and meaningless.
On the other hand, Myrtle and George Wilson strive for what Tom and Daisy already have: wealth and a place in high society. Myrtle and George represent the "poor" class. They symbolize the lowest rung of the social ladder and those who must actually labor for their money. Their lives are filled with what they believed...