We have looked at several symbols in The Great Gatsby. Select 3 key symbols from the text and do the following for each symbol:
– Provide a description (using quotes) of the symbol from the text.
– Explain when and why the symbol appears throughout the text.
– Analyse what the symbol helps you to understand about an important character.
– Make a link between the symbol and the idea of illusion.
Dr T.J Eckleburg Eyes
Throughout this novel The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are used as a reference to god. We can see this by the the two following quotes.
‘Over the ashheaps the giant eyes of doctor T. J. Eckleburg kept their vigil.’ This quote shows us the symbol of god as the eyes of doctor T. J. Eckleburg are described to have “kept their vigil” this means that the eyes watched over The Valley Of Ashes.
Another quote that can show us a direct comparison of the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg to god, ‘”God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!” Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.’ This is a quote that is placed near the end of the book, by doing this we then learn that throughout the book when “The Eyes of T. J. Eckleburg” come Fitzgerald is talking about go watching over the characters in this novel, which then becomes relatable to most people during the time when this book was published as a lot of people believed in god during this time and for people now it is not believed as such. I think Fitzgerald used this as a symbol as it also shows illusion because they aren’t really the eyes of god watching over the people it is just a billboard in a place where people believed in god and they believed in the hope of god.
Hope – The green light
The Green Light is classed as a symbol of hope for Daisy and Gatsby to be together all throughout this novel. We fist see Gatsby’s hope in the green light after Nick comes home from dinner at Daisy’s house and he finds Gatsby standing on his dock, ‘He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way… Involuntarily I glanced seaward and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.’ The single green light for Gatsby may seem very close but Nick (our narrator) tells us it is “minute and far away” So for us as a reader we can see how small the hope for Daisy and Gatsby is but sadly for Gatsby he still keeps on hoping for something that was never going to happen.
Further on into the novel we keep hearing more and more things about the green light and how, ‘Gatsby believed in the green light’ but as we get further into the story Gatsby sees the illusion in the green light and how “minute and far away” it really is. We see this here in this quote, ‘Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy, it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.’ That was all the green light was something that eluded Gatsby to think the hope in being with Daisy was so close to really happening when all along it never could have happened.
Water is another symbol in this novel, it is a symbol of the time/the past, and it relates to Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy. the first time we see the water in this way is when Nick finds Gatsby staring out at the green light, ‘He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way…’ When you first read it you can’t notice that the dark water has a meaning behind it but as you get further on into the book there are more references towards the water and it is associated with Gatsby and Daisy’s past and normally goes alongside Gatsby’s hope for a future with Daisy. So in the text above the dark water can symbolise the dark past for Gatsby.
As we draw to the end of the book Gatsby is shot, and in this moment he is in the pool. Fitzgerald describes the scene in the following way, ‘There was a faint, barely perceptible movement of the water as the fresh flow from one end urged its way toward the drain at the other with little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves’ This can show how Gatsby got to caught up in his past and ended up dying because of it. We can see this as he describes the waters movements and throughout the rest of the book we got a sense that water was a symbol of Gatsby’s past.
At the very end of of the book the last line says, ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’ This quote can elude us to Gatsby as it it similar to how he fought so had to gain back the past which is similar to when it says, beat on boats against the current. Although Gatsby could never get his past back so he became borne back ceaselessly into the past. Water in this novel can be an illusion as it seems like it is nothing and it has no meaning when it does the real meaning of connects back to the main character of this novel and that is Gatsby.