Characterization and Symbolism in the Novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Theodore Roethek once wrote “In a dark time, the eye begins to see…” This means that in times of great trials and tribulations, when all seems lost; an inner sense of motivation kicks in. You get a new sense of direction and something is keeping you guided. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby illustrates this quote perfectly.

In this novel, the characters, the conflicts, and everything in between are all intertwined through characterazation and symbolism. Jay Gatz made something of himself from starting with nothing, and in a time when he met so many new people and reunited with the love of his life, there seemed to be a tremendous “heat wave”. From humble beginnings a man was able to elevate himself into the upper echelons of society and take back the only thing he ever loved, just to have it torn from him again; this is the life of The Great Gatsby

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Could you imagine a wonderful, rich, and famous life from a poor and wretched boyhood? If you could, Jason Gatz would be the man. Growing up, he was not “well off”, not even able to make ends meet. He however, had all the tools for success, he was bright, skilled, and perhaps a little to motivated. He enlisted in the army and even became a gentleman, much different than a poor country boy. He found a girl and fell in love…he was almost threatening with his love; he loved her perhaps a bit too much. He was a terrible liar too, he lied even to her to make her think he was rich, and when he came back home, he found out that she was gone and married. Jason Gatz was a man of commitment. He got a real job, changed his name to the more fashionable Jay Gatsby, and made millions.

The house he bought was “coincidentally right across the Bay from Daisy (his ex-love) and her husband Tom Buchannon. He was a desperate romantic, he threw tons of parties just hoping that she would show up at one, but she never did. All Gatsby could do, was stare out into the sound, looking at the green light on Daisy’s house. Go! He thought, now is the time to start things fresh, if only him and Nick could go get some lunch, then go get coffee, then they would go home and Gatsby would make his proposal. It was quite modest, after all the planning and parties, and millions spent on his house, he wanted to see Daisy at Nick’s house.

The green light is a symbol for new starts, and as a signal that “now is the time.” Gatsby started again after he had changed his name and established himself as a counterfeiter. To him, the green light meant that he had to do whatever he had to do, now. From that point on, he confessed his love to Daisy, tired to get her away from Tom, but in the process, a woman, Tom’s mistress was killed and Daisy never fell for Gatsby again. Gatsby’s life ended in the pool he never swam in.

The other characters in this book do not have such a definite and descriptive personality. The narrarator Nick Carraway, is somewhat of a liar and the story is told through his lens. Nick is also either apathetic or a real jerk. He doesn’t even tell his cousin, Daisy, that Tom is cheating on her. Daisy is no better, she ran over Tom’s mistress, not knowing it was his mistress, but not confessing to him that it was her. Instead she let Gatsby take the blame, and he wound up dead. Tom is a big hulking force, he is a terrible husband. He cheats on Daisy, and cares more for his mistress than he does for her. Throw all of these people together, and it is sure to heat up.

Sure enough, the heat is a key symbol in this novel. As the conflicts in the story get more complex and tangled, the temperature is rising. The day that they all took a trip to the city, it was very hot, and that’s the same day that Gatsby confessed his love for Daisy and Tom became infuriated, and even though he thought he would loose his wife, he sent her home with Gatsby. The hottest day however, was when Myrtle (Tom’s mistress) was run over and killed by Gatsby an Daisy. The temperature and conflict are related because as tempers heat up, so does the temperature.

Gatsby turned his whole life around when it was in its darkest time. All he needed was some motivation and it came in the form of a girl. Gatsby shows us what can happen if we really put our minds to something, but he also shows how terrible wrong it can turn. His worst crime, aside from everything he had ever earned, was for loving Daisy to much. He became obsessed with her, and in the end it killed him.

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Characterization and Symbolism in the Novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (2022, Dec 24). Retrieved from

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