Use of Metaphor and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby
Some novels have more of an impact in modern society than when they were originally written. This is especially true with Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Modern society can be termed corrupt, complete with tainted morals and an overemphasis on the acquisition of money and friends. Fitzgerald seeks the root of the problem and wants the reader to ponder whether he or she wants money and social status or fulfillment and truth. In his quest to enlighten the reader, Fitzgerald utilizes metaphor and symbols to clarify his message. The author wants to show what happens when the American dream (the pursuit of happiness) becomes warped into the American nightmare (the pursuit of money).
The first obvious symbol in The Great Gatsby is the color green. Green represents new life and hope for a better future – the hope that lives in the hearts of the commoners who strive eventually to live the American dream. Green is the color of money and is often used to purvey the concept of wealth, especially with reference to Gatsby. Whenever Gatsby's mansion is described there is always mention of the color green. His house is surrounded by "a large green lawn" or the "green ivy" which grows on his house. The interior of his car is described as "a sort of green leather conservatory" All of these items depict Gatsby's money.
Contrary to the message of hope and opportunity conveyed by the color green is the valley of ashes. The valley of ashes represents the byproduct of a nation obsessed with money. It is filled with the gray industrial ashes of the factories that helped to catapult dreamers to the top of the world. It also symbolizes the lower class. The people living in the towns nearby are described as gray and solemn. They are washed up because they were unable to accomplish their goals and fulfill the American dream. Wilson, for example, is described as someone with "an ashen, dust veiled suit" and "pale hair." The ash heap is described as a place "where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills." As those ashes pile up, they bury the hopes of people seeking the American dream.
The towns of East and West Egg are also symbolic. The people of East Egg represent those who already have wealth from inheritance. The people of West Egg represent those people who have gained their wealth through hard work and business. Gatsby has lots of money but he will always be "subtly incompatible" with the affluent society of East Egg. East Egg also represents old money and the east coast, whereas West Egg represents new money and the west coast. Throughout the novel, characters openly rebuke the west. For example, early in the novel Nick says, "Oh, I'll stay in the East, don't you worry."
The weather is another symbol that is used primarily for the purpose of setting the general mood of the book. Moments of death and despair are...