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Use Of Symbols And Symbolism In The Great Gatsby

1326 words - 5 pages

Symbolism plays an important role in any novel of literary merit. In his novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses symbols to portray events, feelings, personalities and time periods. Throughout the narrative, Fitzgerald uses strong contrasting symbols such as West Egg and East Egg. His superior use of other predominant symbols such as color and light are also evident throughout the novel.

The story begins as the narrator, Nick Carraway, describes his arrival to West Egg. One can immediately spot "new-money Gatsby and no-money Nick on one side of the bay and old-money Buchanans on the other" (Tanner x). The superiority of East Egg to West Egg is instantly apparent and has much meaning. East Egg represents the high class, the dignified and the elite. The people who live in East Egg come from wealthy family lines. In opposition to this, West Egg represents the newly rich or those with almost no money at all. There is much arrogance and disdain between these two groups as can be noted on page 16 of the novel when Jordan Baker "remarks contemptuously" on the fact that Nick lives in West Egg.

The symbolism of eggs can be further explained. During one of Gatsby's parties, Nick is offered an egg. He cracks it open and finds a beccafico, a delicacy, and a treasure. Tanner remarks on this striking parallel to the "New World". If one looks at America and what it has created, does one see a "disgusting, aborted, stunted and still-born thing, fit only to be thrown away? Or a treasure, something special (...) and marvelous and rare?" (x). The Eggs in the novel represent the two parts of America: one (East Egg), materialistic, superficial and self-indulgent and the other (West Egg), which is always awaiting the coming of something else to fill the gap that material possessions cannot. This anticipation is symbolized by the American dream of wealth, love and happiness that drives Gatsby.

Just as the American dream is examined, its failure is also addressed. By doing this, not only is another contrast created but a color, gray, is also introduced into the story. "The glittering palaces on Long Island Sound are set against the ash-heaps on the outskirts of New York" (Way 93). These gray ash-heaps are known as the Valley of Ashes. This valley signifies the death of the materialist dream. It demonstrates the fact that if people go through life with no values or morals, they leave great messes behind. An example of this occurs when Daisy hits Myrtle, kills her but does not care. This valley of "ash-gray men" where "occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along" (Fitzgerald 26), is used to symbolize not only the fall of the American dream but also the dullness of life in general.

Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald uses other symbolic colors, such as pink and white, as well. Pink is the color of dreamers. Thus, when Gatsby and Daisy are about to announce their love to Tom, Gatsby wears his pink suit. He is the "hopeful, hapless dreamer in the...

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