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Analytical Essay on Symbolisms and Themes in Great Gatsby

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In the early 1900’s the American society was influenced with rapid and easy possession of wealth, as we can understand while reading the book The Great Gatsby. Money in our lives affects our behavior. F. Scott Fitzgerald has many characters in his novel; but the most important characters in this novel are Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and Myrtle. These characters portray the most important behaviors that shown with the power of money. They are driven by a powerful desire to climb the social ladder no matter what it takes, especially for Gatsby with a poor social background it is necessary for him to reinvent himself. The best way to for Gatsby to reinvent himself was by utilizing the golden opportunity, the American Dream in the early 1900’s. Also, there were many different types of researches done by professors at universities about the characters in this novel, the theme, symbolism, and imagery.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has a character named Jay Gatsby. Gatsby has a big dream of becoming rich since he lost his first love due to lack of money and power. Gatsby even lies about his past to get “rid” of his poor past makes his own:

His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about his father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. (Fitzgerald 91-92)

The quote explains Gatsby’s past and how he lied about attending Oxford to express his class which was not his true status. He was from a poor family and even lost his true love because he was poor, money was a must have to Gatsby without it he wouldn’t be able to “win” Daisy back (in his mind). Gatsby emphasizes that he attended Oxford in his past is to convey his illusion and his dream of belonging to a higher social class than the one he was born into. He lies about things that would influence his social status. When the money belongs to an “old family” generates a higher social status than self-earned money does, like Daisy and Tom’s wealth. This cannot connect Daisy and Gatsby since the class difference started since their birth. As said previously, “old family” money gives a higher social class than money earned by Gatsby. When Gatsby turns out to be a bootlegger (which is illegally smuggling alcohol to prohibited areas) it creates a even bigger gap between him and Daisy than the first time Gatsby met with Daisy in his military uniform. Even though Gatsby knows that bootlegging is illegal he cannot give up the money he is earning as well as the title he gave himself as a successful businessman. Other researches show a similar response. Bergen University College Norway states that Fitzgerald’s postwar darkness was merged with class distinctions, he himself struggled for prestige and was desperate for acceptance; which can explain Gatsby’s characteristics. Per Bjørnar Grande, the professor at Bergen University compares Gatsby as superman saying that, “Based on his outward performance; he is the master of water, earth, and air, represented by boat, car, and plane; however, fire, the fourth element, symbolized by love, cannot be conquered”(Grande). This was a different perspective of describing Gatsby’s conflict by using an allusion of superman that cannot conquer the power of “fire” equalling to “love”. Even though Gatsby has the money and luxury but cannot capture the heart of his lover.

Daisy, Gatsby’s first love is a character that shift towards money. Daisy’s actions and attitude represents her as being impolite, mocking, and critical towards the people who were from lower economic and financial status. In Daisy’s perspective money and security was everything, which makes her a very greedy character; she seeked high economic status to represent herself in the society. She later admits never sincerely loving Gatsby during the affair with him, she only “loved” Gatsby because of his luxurious life style led Gatsby to believe that she loved him again. She was only moved by money, since she came from a wealthy family she knows what money can do which influences her to have an affair with Gatsby. There are also different facts that the readers can infer that she is a different type of a mother figure than most of the mother figures in other novels, when in the beginning chapter she states:

I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl, and so I turned my head away and wept. ‘all right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. (Fitzgerald 30)

Daisy was telling Nick how bad her marriage was with Tom. When Daisy hoped her daughter to be a fool, Daisy’s reputation of being a well-mannered lady disappeared and seemed unprepared to become a mother. Along with her unpreparedness, her tendency to betray which gives a big foreshadow of what eventually gets Gatsby killed by never admitting to Tom that she was the one that killed Myrtle with the car. Daisy swayed between money and love and eventually took both in end by forgetting about Gatsby and going with her lover (Tom) who also possesses wealth. As time passes Daisy falls for Gatsby (actually his wealth) and starts an affair with him. She sees all of Gatsby’s fancy mansions and the valuables that came along with him, even cries after seeing all the expensive clothing Gatsby owned. Daisy moves closer to Gatsby after knowing his wealth.

Tom, Daisy’s husband and Gatsby’s “role model”. Tom is not a person that is moved by money but rather the mover of people with his class and money. When Daisy was marrying Tom she was still in love with Gatsby, this is obvious because of her behavior during the wedding:

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She wouldn’t let go of the letter. She took it into the tub with her and squeezed it up into a wet ball, and only let me leave it in the soap-dish when she saw that it was coming to pieces like snow… we walked out of the room, the pearls were around her neck and the incident was over. Next day at five o’clock she married Tom Buchanan without so much as a shiver, and started off on a three months’ trip to the South Seas. (Fitzgerald 74)

She cried over Gatsby’s letter of confessing his promise but came out of the bathroom wearing the “three hundred and fifty thousand dollars” pearl necklace and continued on with the marriage without “so much as a shiver”. The readers can view Tom as a well mannered man that would not be comparable to a lower class Gatsby. Tom moved Daisy from her true love to him by using the fortunes to capture Daisy’s heart. Along with acquiring Daisy’s heart Tom steals Myrtle from George since Myrtle is sick of living in her poor house at her husband’s gas station and to Tom money isn’t a problem:

The Airedale — undoubtedly there was an Airedale concerned in it somewhere, though its feet were startlingly white — changed hands and settled down into Mrs. Wilson’s lap, where she fondled the weather-proof coat with rapture. “Is it a boy or a girl?” she asked delicately. “That dog? That dog’s a boy.” “It’s a bitch,” said Tom decisively. “Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it”. (Fitzgerald 38)

Tom stops to buy Myrtle a dog and gives money to her ten times more than than the actual price of the dog. Tom is insensitive, since he solves everything with his wealth, he breaks Myrtle’s nose without hesitance and does not feel the guilt since he already gave her enough money to take care of her injury before. This is an example of Tom’s perks of being a high class which gives him the power to do whatever he pleases, he has a high status and therefore allows him to get away after beating a woman.

Last character of importance is Myrtle. She is one of the character who is strongly convinced by money. Similar to Daisy, Myrtle has an affair with Tom because she is not satisfied with her own marriage with George. She is in a working class that does not get the satisfaction of belonging in a higher class so she has an affair with Tom. The readers know that she is in love with Tom’s wealth and they can tell when Tom breaks her nose and still wants to continue the affair with Tom and ends up dying thinking that the yellow car was Tom coming to get her. Myrtle is hopeless, she tries hard to fit in where she does not belong, she states “‘I like your dress,’ remarked Mrs. McKee, ‘I think it’s adorable.’… ‘It’s just a crazy old thing,’ she said. ‘I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like.’”( Fitzgerald 40-41). Myrtle puts on a dress (probably the most expensive one she owns) to show off to the people that she matches Tom’s social class (but obviously can tell that she is not). This is one of the reason why Tom broke her nose since he doesn’t want a lower social class person talking about Tom’s wife who is from a high class society. The class difference in The Great Gatsby society sways people’s thoughts about themselves. For Daisy and Gatsby they were both from a lower class, they are determined to wash away the past and start a new life (Gatsby already did). These characters were all influenced by the class system of the society as well as money that follows along with the people’s class.

In the novel of The Great Gatsby there were many usage of symbolisms and themes throughout Fitzgerald’s story. One of the most evident theme all over the novel was the American Dream. In 1920s, described in the novel, dirty money and unbalanced social values have corrupted this dream. Gatsby symbolizes both the corrupted dream and the pure American Dream

There were many researches done by other people on The Great Gatsby. One research done by Peter Hays by comparing The Great Gatsby with The Great Expectations. Hays describes these two novels as the male Cinderella story, the boys from a non wealthy families coming out from nothing to riches. These boys from the poor class are climbing up the ladders by acquiring money. The key point was how these boys gain money and wanting to leave the lower class to achieve a higher status in their life. For Gatsby Hays states that:

The same is true, of course, for Gatsby. Gatsby strives to make a fortune so that he can be worthy of Daisy, so that he can ask her to marry him, unaware that his sudden wealth cannot compare to Tom’s old money and social standing, and unconcerned that his money has been gained through crime. Both characters strive to be their Platonic conceptions of themselves. (Hays)

Hays also argues that Gatsby is moved by money since he finds a girl of a higher class and wants to win her heart by getting rich.

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Analytical Essay on Symbolisms and Themes in Great Gatsby. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2023, from
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