The Use Of Symbolism To Portray Immorality In The Great Gatsby

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How does immense wealth affect one’s morality? Is it the higher class or the carelessness that comes as a result? During times of great wealth, the world faces social inequality loss of spiritualism and greed. So, what does that men for the wealthy as a whole?

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Authors use symbols to attribute meaning to an object as well as highlighting underlying themes. In the novel The Great Gatsby, written by F Scout Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald uses symbolism to highlight the significance of immorality during a time of great wealth. To do this Fitzgerald uses various places, objects, and colors as symbols to portray the lack of moral and spiritual values of the people in the 1920s.

Fitzgerald uses places such as the valley of ashes to represent moral decay in society. The Valley of Ashes is located between West Egg and New York and serves as the dumping ground for the industrial ashes of the city. Fitzgerald describes, “a fantastic farm where ashes grew like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powder air.” The valley of ashes symbolizes inequality and poses as a direct reference to the effect of industrial wealth on the poor. It’s parallel representation being the social decay that results from wealth. Including the hardships of the poor, like George Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose their willpower as a result. An equally important factor is what occurs in the valley of ashes. George and Myrtle Wilson our representation of life in the valley undergo many hardships. Such as infidelity, murder and mental breakdown at the hands of their wealthy counterparts. Signifying the ease at which the wealthy reach into the lives of the poor and take to suit their needs.

Fitzgerald uses objects such as the opticians´ billboard to symbolize the loss of spiritualism in society. Looking over the valley of ashes is the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. First introduced by Nick caraway ¨above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.¨ They may just be a pair of fading eyes painted on an old billboard over the valley of ashes. However, the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg represents many things such as the presence of God. In this interpretation, the eyes of god look over the valley of ashes judging the immoral aspects of society. But why in the valley of ashes? Fitzgerald’s use of the eyes gains further meaning in the interpretations of his characters. George Wilson is the first to make the direct connection of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes to that of an angry God. Wilson states in looking at the billboard ¨God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you have been doing. You may fool me but you can’t fool God.¨. Yet the connection between the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg and God exists solely in George Wilson’s mind. Thus, the eyes also come to represent the essential brokenness of the world that George is forced to live in, so tormented he finds a transcendent meaning in the eyes that stare at him in the valley of ashes. A stark contrast to the spiritual values of the wealthy, whom although is struck by the image do not connect the billboard to that of judgment.

The meaning of Dr. TJ Eckleburgs eyes is furthered by the significance of color. Fitzgerald describes the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg as ¨blue and gigantic…they look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles.” The color yellow representing the golden gates perhaps and the big and ¨blue¨ the significance of an endless sky. He also connects the color yellow, on Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s glasses, with the greed and wealth of the characters. Explaining once more the importance of the valley of ashes as a symbol of corporate greed.

Another symbol of greed is the presence of the ¨green light. Not Merely a dock light, the ¨green light¨ has important developmental and thematic value. First mentioned in the novel when Nick witnessed Gatsby standing on his veranda one night as “he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way,…I glanced seaward – and I distinguished nothing except a single green light .” Nick now privy to Gatsby’s late-night ritual soon realizes that the green light rests at the end of his cousin Daisy’s dock. This strange almost transcendent light’s significance proves more symbolic than literal. Starting with the location Daisy’s dock helps the reader understand that Gatsby is still holding on to the vestige of an old relationship. The water between him and the light represents the impenetrable force of social class that has separated him from Daisy for so long and the strange color of the light “green” is warped by the author to symbolize money. Notably, the role of Daisy’s wealth in Gatsby’s image of her is revealed. Gatsby the lead character in the novel is enthralled with Daisy’s beauty and class but perhaps does not recognize the role that her wealth plays in his being drawn to her. Throughout the novel, it is manifested that love and relationships are intrinsically tied to wealth and class. Becoming a mere transaction in which the characters gain a level of class and like that of George and myrtles relationship characters are unhappy without.

Through the words of F Scout Fitzgerald, wealth does affect morality. Fitzgerald’s use of places, objects, and colors as symbols helps emphasize this statement about the 1920s. Bringing to light the social inequality, loss of spiritualism and greed as a result of immense wealth. 

16 August 2021

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