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.
The green light: At the end of Daisy’s dock and barely visible from Gatsby’s lawn, the green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future. Gatsby associates it with Daisy. Gatsby had a dream to be with Daisy and that is what the green light is representing. “he stretched out his arms toward 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.” This is the first moment we see gatsby looking out to the green light. This was at the start of the book and it uses the word minute, meaning that the light and the hope to be with daisy was little, but it was still there. Gatsby whole life was now revolving about getting her. He believed with all his heart in the green light, in his future with Daisy. “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now 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.” The light was now a ‘colossal significance’ to Gatsby rather than just his hopes and dreams. Gatsby released that it was an illusion, something he had wished would happen but is not going to. It used the word vanish and for something to ‘vanish’ it had to been fake in the first place, so not even there. He also says “it had seemed as close as a star to the moon.” From where we are the moon and the stars look very close together but in reality they are miles away from each other. You could say that Gatsby and Daisy are the stars and moon from the earth’s point of view. That Gatsby and daisy will always be separated by the 5 years that stands between them. This green light was a symbol that Gatsby had believed in right until the last moment of life. He now new that the green light was just the illusion and nothing more. The green light starts as a symbol of hope and a future to be with daisy but then the vanishes becoming just an unreachable dream.
Water: The water is a vital symbol in The Great Gatsby. The water is a symbol of time. The time that stands between Daisy and Gatsby and the things that have happened in the past. “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!” Gatsby believed that he could repeat the past and have a do over with Daisy. He thought he could make Daisy fall back in love with him, and expect them to be a happy couple even though Daisy was now married to Tom. Gatsby thought that Daisy could just forget what had happened 5 years ago when he had left her, and fall back into the routine they had. Rain seemed to fall sometimes when gatsby and Daisy were together. The rain would also symbolise the past. It would be sunny when they were having their good times together but all of a sudden the rain would come in just to remind them, that the past still stood there between them. Another way this was presented in the book is how East egg and West Egg were separated by water. That water in between was again the past. While Gatsby lived on one side of the water and Daisy on the other. Gatsby and Daisy would always be separated by the water, they weren’t getting any closer together. Daisy was on that side of the water because of her money, she was brought up rich which meant she was brought up in that part of the social circle, while gatsby, well gatsby was never rich, he was the poor man that waist fell for. Because of the past, Gatsby could never be apart of that social circle because he had to work for his money. “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” This is one of the most famous quotes of all time. In the fact of water, it has a great meaning. currents are water moving only one way and that is forward, a current never goes backwards, But Gatsby is fighting the current, trying to go back in time to redo the past but in reality we can’t do this, it is just not possible. Gatsby fights again the past between Daisy and him but as the water in the current in moving forward each day, this will never happen. This quote sets the illusion of the idea that we can change and control time and the past, when in reality we can only ever be obsessed with the past.
Colour: The colour Yellow and gold plus white is used in the book to symbolise things. Starting with yellow and gold. The colour yellow was used throughout the whole book. “Orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music” this was used to describe gatsby’s parties. The music was ‘yellow’ while yellow is used to signalise the fake meaning of gold. Gatsby’s party were all fake, they were thrown for one reason only, and that was to see if Daisy would show. The rest of the people that came had no relation to Gatsby at all. Gatsby didn’t show his face throughout the parties so when someone asked who he was, no one knew. yellow was used to describe everything that was fake usually used with Gatsby as his whole persona was fake. Meanwhile Gold was used with people who had real money like Daisy. “here’s my little gold pencil.” Anything Daisy had was associated with the colour gold. Showing that Daisy and anyone else on West egg were the real deal being gold while if you were described with yellow you were just a wanna be. Daisy was described with gold but also with white as well, Daisy was rich but being rich didn’t mean she was full of life. Daisy was also ‘white’. white being boring and empty. “Aunt Jordan’s got on a white dress too.” there the word is again white’, but this time it was describe someone else. Jordan was in the same social circle as Daisy, this just shows that the rich life isn’t always the best one.