The Impact of Symbolism on The Great Gatsby
“The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby’s mansion” (Fitzgerald 9). Gatsby’s high lifestyle, loneliness, and unbound love for Daisy are represented by his mansion. The green light, symbolizes his hopes and dreams, everything that haunts him, and the gap between the past and the present. Most importantly the clock illustrates moments Gatsby wants back, all the time that has passed, and how Gatsby lives in the past. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses symbolism in The Great Gatsby as an accurate reflection of Gatsby’s life.
Gatsby’s mansion signifies how Gatsby lives. Without a doubt the mansion symbolizes his high lifestyle. His mansion cost approximately $7 million in the 1920’s, today Gatsby’s mansion would cost $85 million. Holding a luxurious party gives a house worth that much a purpose. “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived— no thin five-piece affair but a whole pit full of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos and low and high drums” (Fitzgerald 44). Gastby wanted to live his life to the highest standard achievable. Still, no matter the quantity of people packed into his mansion every week loneliness followed him. Gatsby tries justifying living alone, in a house that amplifies the emptiness in his life, by throwing enormous gatherings. Despite this, Gatsby never tries forming any friendships at these parties. “Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all…” (Fitzgerald 45). Gatsby’s unbound love for Daisy drove him to buy a mansion directly across from her causing himself loneliness. He hoped she would stumble into one of his parties and they would find happy ever after at last. Of course, she never did so Gatsby came up with a new plan to trick her into his house. Once he did, he still associated his house with his past love with Daisy. “He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand” (Fitzgerald 116-117). For these reasons Gatsby’s mansion represents a life sadder than one might imagine.
On the other hand, the green light symbolizes and focuses more on Gatsby’s psychological health. For instance, his hope and dream to reunite with Daisy. The green light made Gatsby feel closer to Daisy and magnified the thought they could meet again. “. . . he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and as far as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward—and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been at the end of a dock” (Fitzgerald 25-26). Even though the light represents how close Daisy is, Gatsby’s dream of reuniting with her feels minute and far away. Furthermore, the green light presents to readers everything that haunts him. The green light shows how physically close to her he is, but he still cannot bring himself to go over and reintroduce himself into her life. When Gatsby has Daisy back in his life he still feels emotionally unconnected from her. “‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock’ Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said” (Fitzgerald 98). So infatuated with the idea the green light has lost significance, Gatsby doesn’t realize Daisy linked her arm in his. Additionally, the green light illustrates the gap between the past and the present. The light shows physical evidence Daisy has a new life with another man. The green light also shows Gatsby, still longing to make up the time he lost with Daisy. In a conversation Nick has with Gatsby, Nick says “‘I wouldn’t ask too much of her. . . You can’t repeat the past’”, in which Gatsby replies “‘Can’t repeat the past. . .’ ‘Why of course you can!’” (Fitzgerald 116). The green light helps readers understand Gatsby’s emotional health by proving several examples that compare reality to the life in his head.
Most importantly the clock summarizes everything the novel has communicated to readers about Gatsby’s life. Throughout the entire book the clock tells readers the moments Gatsby attempts to relive. “‘He wants to know— ‘continued Jordan ‘—if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over’. . . He had waited five years . . . so that he could come over some afternoon to a stranger’s garden” (Fitzgerald 83). Everything he has done up to this point attempts to recapture his life from five years ago. Gatsby specifically hopes to recapture the first time he met Daisy by running into her, attempting to fake fate, rather than simply reaching out to her. Moreover, the clock signifies the time that has passed. “I think we all believed for a moment that it had smashed into pieces on the floor” (Fitzgerald 92). If the clock would have smashed the time between the past and the present wouldn’t matter and no time would have passed at all. The clock did not smash, because no one can have the past back, something Gatsby may have never learned. After Gatsby sets the clock back up he tells Daisy exactly how much time has passed since they last saw each other. Undoubtedly the clock reveals something else about Gatsby that readers have known most of the novel, Gatsby lives in the past and Daisy has moved on. “. . . I asked what I thought would be some sedative questions about her little girl. ‘We don’t know each other very well, Nick,’ she said suddenly. ‘Even if we are cousins. You didn’t come to my wedding’” (Fitzgerald 21). Daisy married Tom and has a kid, nothing says I’ve moved on more than that. Gatsby, however, has spent all his time obsessing about Daisy rather than progressing his life. The clock tells readers everything about Gatsby and his life that F. Scott Fitzgerald wants to tell readers the most.
The symbolism in The Great Gatsby depicts an accurate reflection of Gatsby’s life. Gatsby’s mansion symbolizes how he lives his physical life. The green light illustrates Gatsby psychological health and the life he has created in his head. Most importantly the clock shows us everything about Gatsby’s life portrayed throughout the whole book. All this teaches us something, everyday objects have more important meanings than we may believe.
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