A symbol is an object or place used to represent an abstract idea or quality. In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald there are many such symbols. F. Scott Fitzgerald incorporates each symbol into the plot and structure of the novel. His use of symbolism helps give the reader a better meaning and understanding of the story. The themes of The Great Gatsby are revealed through its use of symbols. Among the most important of the many symbols used in the novel are the green light, the contrast between East Egg and the West Egg, the valley of ashes, and the giant oculist sign.
The green light lights up across the bay from Gatsby’s place. This light burned at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock. For Gatsby, this green light symbolized the “go-ahead” sign. Green was the symbol for promise, hope, and renewal. Gatsby’s dream in life was to be with Daisy. The green light on the other side of the bay that Gatsby saw gave him an unyielding hope that his dream would be realized. At the end of the first chapter Gatsby was seen stretching his arms toward the green light appearing as to be worshipping it. Gatsby saw his dream or goal and never gave up.
He remained loyal to his quest until death at the end of the novel. Gatsby moved into the mansion across the bay to be near Daisy. The green light symbolized that Gatsby had a hope of winning Daisy. Gatsby asked Daisy to tell Tom that she loved him, but this was too much to ask of her. Daisy told Gatsby that he asked too much and she could not leave Tom. At the end of the novel the green light was no longer a sacred symbol of hope or promise but just a light at the end of the Buchanan’s dock. The contrast between East Egg and West Egg are represented through the dissimilarities of the lifestyles and attitudes of society.
The west represents the idealistic viewpoints and the simplicity of life. The east represents the corruption of the wealth and the extravagant wastefulness of society. Tom, Daisy, and Jordan all live in East Egg. They represent the established rich. Gatsby, and Nick live in West Egg. They represent the nouveaux rich. The established rich spend their money without caring about a thing. An example of this is when Tom Buchanan rented out a hotel room just so he could drink on a hot day with his friends in the city.
Another example of their lack of morals or lack of caring is when Jordan is driving with Nick and Jordan said that everyone should watch out for her. The West Egg represents the vulgarity of society. An example of this is Gatsby’s enormous parties that he throws every two weeks. Most people that lived in the west had to work for a living. Tom Buchanan saw them as socially inferior to himself. He believed that he is better than everyone else is. Gatsby was not born rich so he had live in West Egg. He was looked down upon by Tom.
This is why Tom saw Gatsby as no threat to him and Daisy. The valley of ashes symbolized the desolation of life. This area is where all the business failures ended up. The valley of ashes was located at the crossroads of Long Island and New York City. It represented the modern world and the barren wasteland created by industry. George Wilson’s garage is located here. He receives little business and is always covered in dust from the ash heaps. The valley of ashes is important because it helps distinguish between the classes in the novel.
There are the established rich that live in East Egg, the newly rich that live in West Egg, and the poor that live in the valley of ashes. The valley of ashes symbolizes the poor and unfortunate part of society. The giant oculist sign of T. J. Eckleburg is located in the valley of ashes. The eyes of the oculist sign are symbolic in that they overlook nothing. The unblinking eyes see everything that happens. George Wilson identifies these eyes as god. When Wilson finally realizes Myrtle is having an affair he says that he may not see everything, but god does.
When he says god he means the eyes of T. J. Eckleburg. God also sees who killed his wife. In the end not even Gatsby is unable to outrun them. The eyes of T. J. Eckleburg are symbolic in that they represent an all knowing power. Each of the symbols are significant to all the elements of the story. They each are appropriate and aid in the story as a whole. The symbols allow greater significance to the novel. They also allow greater meaning and understanding of the story. All of these symbols play an important role in the plot and structure of the novel.