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The American Society Of The Great Gatsby English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 914 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock represents the pursuit of the American dream as well as Gatsby’s dream to be with Daisy. The green light is mentioned for the first time when Gatsby is standing in front of his mansion and his arms are stretched out looking towards “a single green light, minute and far away that might have been the end of dock.” [1] The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s distant hopes and dreams of one day reuniting with Daisy again and winning her heart back. Originally, the American Dream was about discovery, individualism, and pursuit of happiness, but the society of 1920s, as portrayed in the novel, is about easy money and relaxed social values leading to the corruption of this dream. Millions of Americans believed in this idea but few had the chance to make it come true for themselves. Throughout the novel it is shown that Gatsby believes in the green light as much as the American society who believes in the American dream but in the end the light becomes an illusion. The end of Gatsby’s life also represents the end of green light and essentially the American dream which was a big part of the 1920s in America.

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The valley of ashes is the poor part of New York used to represent the corruption of the morality in America during the 1920s. The valley of ashes is located halfway between West Egg and New York City. In the novel the valley of ashes is describes as, ” a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque; where ashes take forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” [2] The valley of ashes symbolizes poverty and the moral decay of 1920s hidden by the beauty of East Egg and West Egg. The people who live here have nothing to look forward in the future and have little going on in their lives. The death of Myrtle Wilson occurs in the valley of ashes which is caused by immoral acts. The valley represents modern society and the destruction that it causes. The ashes are a by product of the trains and represent a poisoning of the American landscape. The valley is essentially a dumping ground for modern, industrial, toxic waste.

The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg are a pair of fading eyes also located in the valley of ashes. The eyes are “blue and gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles” [3] It is seen high above on an old advertising billboard. The eyes look down at everything that takes place in the valley. They symbolize the eyes of God as thought by Wilson in the novel. To Wilson it is much more than an advertisement; he strongly believes that they are the eyes of God looking upon everyone and judging them and the American society as a moral decay of humanity and the meaningless garbage that their lives have become. Fitzgerald chose to represent God by a lifeless pair of eyes to show his belief that the American society no longer have a belief in God.

In the American Society the car is always seen as a symbol of status. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald uses cars to represent the wealth, as well as the lack of care and corruption that occurred during the 1920s. At the beginning of the novel, the car wrecks portrays the reckless beliefs of the society. Gatsby’s car which is “a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns” (Fitzgerald 68) symbolizes his improper materialism and conveys his new wealth. In addition, Gatsby’s car is yellow instead of the black of the era to show his obsession of showing off his wealth to get Daisy. Likewise the people in the 1920s spend a lot of money on their car to reflect a personal image of prosperity. The people were rich and they wanted to show it off. Gatsby’s yellow car also symbolizes corruption due to the careless driving of Daisy which causes Myrtle Wilson’s death which eventually leads to Gatsby’s own death. Myrtle, too, is reckless. Running in front of a moving vehicle, but she suffers the consequences of her irresponsibility. However, Daisy, as the driver of the automobile, does not suffer the consequences of her behaviour. She lets Gatsby takes the blame for her. The automobile was a dangerous weapon in the hands of carefree, irresponsible people.

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Symbolism is very important and effective in the novel The Great Gatsby. However some symbols have more significance then others. For example, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock symbols both Gatsby distant hopes of being with Daisy and the American Dream. Also the valley of ashes represents poverty in 1920’s and lives that have no future at all. Another important symbol is the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg which may be the eyes of God looking down at the moral decay of the 1920’s.


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