Gatsby’s downfall was in thefact that he was unable to determine that concealed boundary between reality andillusion in his life. The Great Gatsby is a tightly structured, symbolicallycompressed novel whose predominant images and symbols reinforce the idea thatGatsby’s dream exists on borrowed time. Fitzgerald perfectly understood theinadequacy of Gatsby’s romantic view of wealth. At a young age he met and fellin love with Ginevra King, a Chicago girl who enjoyed the wealth and socialposition to which Fitzgerald was always drawn.
After being rejected by Ginevrabecause of his lower social standing, Fitzgerald came away with a sense ofsocial inadequacy, a deep hurt, and a longing for the girl beyond attainment. This disappointment grew into distrust and envy of the American rich and theirlifestyle. These personal feelings are expressed in Gatsby. The rich symbolizethe failure of a civilization and the way of life and this flaw becomes apparentin the characters of Tom and Daisy Buchanan. Nick Carraway, the narrator of thestory, quickly became disillusioned with the upper social class after havingdinner at their home on the fashionable East Egg Island. “Nick is forcedunwillingly to observe the violent contrast between their opportunities- what isimplied by the gracious surface of their existence- and the seamy undersidewhich is it’s reality” (Way 93).
In the Buchanans, and in Nick’s reactionto them, Fitzgerald shows us how completely the American upper class has failedto become an aristocracy. The Buchanans represent cowardice, corruption, and thedemise of Gatsby’s dream Gatsby, unlike Fitzgerald himself, never discovers howhe has been betrayed by the class he has idealized for so long. For Gatsby, thefailure of the rich has disastrous consequences. Gatsby’s desire to achieve hisdream leads him to West Egg Island. He purchased a mansion across the bay fromDaisy’s home.
There is a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock that is visibleat night from the windows and lawn of Gatsby’s house. This green light is one ofthe central symbols of the novel. In chapter one, Nick observes Gatsby in thedark as he looks longingly across the bay with arms stretched outward toward thegreen light. It becomes apparent, as the story progresses that “the wholebeing of Gatsby exists only in relation to what the green light symbolizes Thisfirst sight, that we have of Gatsby, is a ritualistic tableau that literallycontains the meaning of the completed book” (Bewley 41). A broaderdefinition of the green light’s significance is revealed in Chapter 5, as Gatsbyand Daisy stand at one of the windows in his mansion.
“If it wasn’t for themist we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You alwayshave 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 hehad just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance ofthat light had vanished forever.
Compared to the great distance that hadseparated him from Daisy it has seemed very near to her, almost touching her. Ithad seemed so close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on adock. His count of enchanted objects has diminished by one” (Fitzgerald94). Gatsby had believed in the green light, it made his dream seem attainable. Upon meeting Daisy again, after a five-year separation, Gatsby discovers thatsometimes attaining a desired object can bring a sense of loss rather thanfulfillment.
It is when Gatsby makes this discovery that the green light is nolonger the central image of a great dream, but only a green light at the end ofa dock. The most obvious symbol in The Great Gatsby is a waste land called theValley of Ashes, a dumping ground that lies between East and West Egg and NewYork City. Symbolically “the green breast of the new world”(Fitzgerald 182) becomes this Valley of Ashes. As the illusions of youth giveway to the disillusionment of the thirties, so green hopes give way to the dustof disappointment. Certainly Gatsby’s dreams turn to ashes; and it isdramatically appropriate that the custodian of the Valley of Ashes, GeorgeWilson, should be Gatsby’s murderer. That Wilson is the demise of Gatsby’sdream- and that the dream gives way to ashes- is made clear through descriptivedetail.
Over the desolate area, known as the Valley of Ashes, brood the eyes ofDr. T. J. Eckleburg. “Gatsby is a kind of T.
J. Eckleburg; he has created agod like image of himself, but the image is doomed- the dream will turn to dust-and like Eckleburg, Gatsby also has occasion to brood over the ashes of thepast, over the solemn dumping ground of worn out hopes” (Lehan 121). Thedeath of Gatsby comes ironically from George Wilson’s total misunderstanding ofthe world from which the Buchanans and Myrtle come. The eyes of Dr.
Eckleburg,brooding over the Valley of Ashes, become what is left of the Son of God Gatsbyhas imagined himself to be. As the novel closes, the experience of Gatsby andhis broken dream become the focus of that historic dream for which he stands. Inthe final thoughts of the novel, Fitzgerald would like the reader to see a muchbroader picture of the theme- a vision of America as the continent of lostinnocence and lost illusions. He compares Gatsby’s experience to that of theDutch Sailors who first came to Long Island and had an unspoiled continentbefore them. As Nick lies on the beach in front of Gatsby’s home, his last nightin the East, he contemplates this thought, “I became aware of the oldisland that flowered once for Dutch sailor’s eyes – a fresh green breast of thenew world. It’s vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house,had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; fora transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence ofthis continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understoodnor desired, face to face for the last time in history with somethingcommensurate to his capacity for wonder.
I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when hefirst picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a longway to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardlyfail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him”(Fitzgerald 182). Gatsby’s greatness was to have retained a sense of wonder asdeep as the sailor’s on that first landfall. Gatsby’s tragedy was to have had,not a continent to wonder at, but only a green light at the end of Daisy’s Dockand the triviality of Daisy herself. The evolution of such triviality wasGatsby’s particular tragedy and the tragedy of America.
Gatsby fades into thepast forever to take his place with the Dutch sailors who had chosen theirmoment in time so much more happily than he. By the close of the novel,Fitzgerald has completely convinced the reader that Gatsby’s capacity forillusion is touching and heroic, despite the worthlessness of the objects of hisdreams. It is through combining faultless artistry with symbolism thatFitzgerald paints a vivid picture of the dream destined to fail because it’sbasis was illusion. not reality The Great Gatsby Cary L. Pannell Eng. 206 Roughdraft of Final Word Count 1328 Thesis: The Great Gatsby is a tightly structured,symbolically compressed novel in which predominant images and symbols reinforcethe idea that Gatsby’s dream exists on borrowed time.
I. American Rich symbolizethe failure of a civilization. A. Fitzgerald’s feelings toward wealthy B.
Nick’sdisappointment with Buchanans C. Rich fail as aristocracy D. Gatsby betrayed byclass he idealized II. Green light symbolizes hope.
A. Gatsby’s beingsignificant to symbolism of green light. B. Green light ceases to be anenchanted object. III. Most obvious symbol is Valley of Ashes.
A. Hope gives wayto dust of disappointment. B. Death and destruction of dreams lie among ashes. C. T.
J. Eckelberg’s eyes are God-like symbol. IV. America the continent of lostinnocence and illusions.
A. Gatsby’s experience compared to Dutch sailors. B. Gatsby’s tragedy was triviality of Daisy. Conclusion: Symbolism and artistrypaint a vivid picture of a dream destined to fail.
BibliographyBewley, Marius. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Collapse of the AmericanDream. ” Modern Critical Views F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Chelsea HousePublishers. 1985.
p. 41. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York:Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1925 Lehan, Richard D. “The Great Gatsby. ” F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Craft of Fiction.
Chicago: Southern Illinois UniversityPress. 1966. p. 121. Way, Brian. “The Great Gatsby.
” Modern CriticalInterpretations F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. New York: Chelsea HousePublishers. 1986. p.