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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – The Up-Roaring Twenties

The Great Gatsby: The Up-Roaring Twenties

The 1920s in America were a decade of great social change. From

fashion to politics, forces clashed to produce a very ^Roaring^

decade. Jazz sounds dominated the music industry. It was the age of

prohibition, the age of prosperity, and the age of downfall. It was

the age of everything, and this can be witnessed through the novel by

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. The Roaring Twenties help

create Gatsby’s character. Gatsby’s participation in the bootlegging

business, the extravagant parties he throws, and the wealthy, careless

lifestyle the Buchanans represent are all vivid pictures of that time

frame. It turns out, although he was used and abused by all the people

whom he thought of as friends, Jay Gatsby ^turned out alright in the

end.^ (Fitzgerald 6) It almost seems as if he is better off dead,

according to the narrator, because all his so-called ^friends^ either

deserted him or used him for their own personal gain. There are signs

of this all! throughout the novel, but it is especially evident in the

final chapters. In chapter seven, when Myrtle Wilson is killed, Daisy

accepts no responsibility for Myrtle^s death. She just sits back and

lets Gatsby take all the blame for her actions. Gatsby is very willing

to do so, because of the love he has for Daisy. All Gatsby can think

about after the accident is what Daisy went through, it was as if

^Daisy^s reaction was the only thing that mattered.^ (Fitzgerald 151)

Gatsby stands outside of Daisy and Tom^s house for hours, waiting for a

sign from Daisy that things were alright. ^I want to wait here till

Daisy goes to bed.^ (Fitzgerald 153) Inside, as she talks with Tom,

Daisy shows no remorse, she just continues with her life as if it never

happened. In chapter eight, Gatsby recounts for Nick all the memories

he has of Daisy and him together. ^She was the first ^nice^ girl he

had ever known.^ (Fitzgerald 155) ^…Daisy, gleaming like silver…^

(Fitzgerald 157) This makes it especially hard for Nick to see Gatsby

still in love with Daisy. While around Gatsby, Daisy either pretends

to be, or is in love with Gatsby. This is evidenced when Daisy ^pulled

his (Gatsby^s) face down kissing him in the mouth.^ (Fitzgerald 122)

Then when she is in her kitchen with Tom after Myrtle^s death, ^there

was an unmistakable air of natural intimacy…they were conspiring

together.^ (Fitzgerald 152) In the final chapter, Gatsby^s funeral

takes place; however, no ^friends^ that had frequented his parties,

with the exception of owl-eyes, bother to come to his funeral.

Symbols and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Great Gatsby Essays

Symbolism in The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is rich in symbolism, which is portrayed on several different levels in a variety of ways. One of the most important qualities of symbolism within this novel, is the way in which it is so fully integrated into the plot and structure. Some of the symbols are used mostly as tools for characterization such as Wolfsheim’s cuff links, Gatsby’s huge library of uncut books, and Tom’s repeated gesture of physically pushing other people around. Other symbols such as Gatsby’s car, symbolizing material wealth in America and its destructfulness, have a function in the plot as well as a more abstract significance. However, the major symbols such as the valley of ashes, the green light, and the east and west, are filled with meanings that go beyond the plot, and truly capture Fitzgerald’s theme of this novel; the corruption of the American dream. The corruptive effect of wealth is shown by the conflict between the established rich, represented by the East Eggers, and the newly rich, represented by the West Eggers. West Egg is the home of the nouveaux riche, of Gatsby and those like him who have made huge fortunes, but lack the traditions associated with inherited wealth and are therefore vulgar. The East Eggers, represented by the Buchanans have the traditions and lack vulgarity, but they have been corrupted by the purposelessness and the empty futures their money has provided. The downfall of the American promise is also symbolized by the reversal of east and west. When the settlers came to the “New World” (America) to escape persecution and the corruption of their countries, they traveled from east to west. However, since the ideal has been corrupted, people travel from west to east attracted by the wealth and a materialistic life, masking the true emptiness of their goal of happiness. Daisy, Tom, Nick, Jordan, and Gatsby all were westerners, and by moving east, they moved from a world of values to a moral vacuum, represented by the “valley of ashes.” The valley of ashes represent a modern world, which is like a grotesque hell created by modern industry. Factories and trains, produced in the manufacture of wealth, has polluted America with its wastes. It is a physical desert that symbolizes the spiritual desolation, that a society based on money creates. Overlooking the valley, are the sightless eyes of T.J. Ecklburg, an advertisement on a billboard in which a character actually confuses as God. It represents a God who has been created by modern society to make money. It represents a God who no longer sees nor cares. The whole valley symbolizes a world whose inhabitants are so spiritually lost, that they worship money and wealth. The promise of happiness, hope, and freedom that America gave its first settlers, has been corrupted by the lies of greed, and the emptiness of a dream based on wealth. Green is the color of promise,of hope, renewal, and ultimately the green light to which Gatsby stretches out his arms. The green light symbolically corresponds to the “green breast of a new world,” and at the end fuses Gatsby’s vision of Daisy with that of the explorers who had discovered the promise of a new continent. What ultimately preys on the vision, the goal, is that in America and by Gatsby it can only be attained through the acquisition of material possessions. Gatsby is a symbol for the whole American experience. The corruption of his dream, by using materialism as its means and the illusion of youth and beauty as its goal, is the corruption of American idealism, which in turn becomes the empty promise. In the end Gatsby is destroyed by his illusions of Daisy, just as the fresh landscape of America has been converted into a depressing “valley of ashes,” and the sacred green light becomes nothing but a bulb burning at the end of Daisy’s dock.

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