The Symbols in the Great Gatsby
In literature, symbols are used to add complexity and meaning to a story. In The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald uses many different symbols to represent the deceptiveness of dreams. Although the green light, the valley of ashes, and the books in Gatsby’s library all have their different meanings and representations in their own right, they all come together to form the single idea that some dreams are just never meant to be.
The green light symbolizes Jay Gatsby’s constant pursuit of his true love Daisy Buchanan. At the beginning of the story, narrator Nick Carraway sees his neighbor Gatsby for the first time. Gatsby stood alone on his lawn and inexplicably “stretched out his arms toward the dark water” (Fitzgerald 21). Nick scanned the water to find what Gatsby was looking at but could only make out “a single green light” (21) at the end of a dock. At this point of the story the light shines bright, but at the end, the view completely changes. After Gatsby’s death, Nick decides to move from New York to the Midwest. And as Nick made his way around Gatsby’s mansion and stood on his lawn for the final time, he notices “there were hardly any lights except for the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound” (180). Once impossible to miss, the green light had faded into nonexistence. The light represents Gatsby’s dream of getting together with Daisy and as he slowly fails to do so, the light slowly begins to burn out. Gatsby ultimately fails at achieving this goal, thus resulting in the death of light and himself.
In order to get from West Egg (where Gatsby and Nick lived) to New York, drivers had to go through the valley of ashes. Although it only ran a quarter of a mile, the valley was a cold and deserted place where ashes grew “like wheat into ridges and took the forms of houses and chimneys” (23). The valley of ashes represents the real world. Instead of living carefree lives filled with excessive...