Symbols in The Great Gatsby – Gatsby Symbol Overview

Great Gatsby Symbols Introduction

The story takes place in New York with action occurring in the city and in the fictional Long Island suburbs of East Egg and West Egg. East Egg represents old wealth and aristocracy while West Egg represents new wealth.

Between the city and these wealthy suburbs is the Valley of Ashes which is where the working-class reside. This corridor between the city and the suburbs contains the full range of social and economic classes which is central to the major symbolism found in the novel. The geography of this region is a notable motif in this novel, which is a commentary on wealth and social class as much as it is a story about unrequited love.

In addition to geographical significance, a prominent motif is the weather. Throughout the novel, the weather corresponds to the prominent emotional states of the characters.

For example, Gatsby and Daisy begin their affair during rainy weather, which matches their awkward melancholy. As the sun starts to reemerge, their love begins to rekindle. The climax of the novel occurs on the hottest day of the summer. On the first day of autumn, there is a noticeable chill in the air when Gatsby is killed.

Symbolism in the Great Gatsby

Here’s a list of the major symbols in The Great Gatsby.

  • The Green Light
  • The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg
  • The Valley of Ashes

Gatsby Green Light Meaning

the great gatsby green light symbolismWhat does the green light symbolize in The Great Gatsby? At the end of Tom and Daisy’s dock in East Egg is a green light. Gatsby can see this from his West Egg home.

To Gatsby, this light represents his bright future with Daisy, and he imagines that everything he has worked for will bring him back to her—he has already come so far that his house can just make out the dock at her house. He feels hopeful when he looks at this light, but there is a certain element of wistful longing to it as well.

There is a hint that perhaps deep down Gatsby knows that what he has been working so hard to achieve may not properly manifest, but he is not able to admit this to himself.

Nick, on the other hand, sees the green light as a representation of the American Dream. He compares the green light to the metaphorical glimmer (of hope) that the early settlers must have detected as they approached the American coast.

The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Meaning

the great gatsby valley of ashes symbolismWhat do Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes symbolize? In the Valley of Ashes, there is a billboard advertising Dr. T. J. Eckleburg’s practice.

These eyes are faded on an old abandoned advertising billboard. They represent the judgmental eyes of God over American society, as connected by the grief-stricken George Wilson.

The eyes take on different meaning depending on which character is looking at them. Nick explores the idea that the eyes represent the meaninglessness of the world and the futility with which people attribute meaning to material things. Gatsby sees them as a representation of empty dreams.

The eyes’ lack of explicit meaning makes them creepy and uncomfortable to the reader.

What is the Valley of Ashes?

great gatsby green light quoteWhat does the Valley of Ashes symbolize? The midway point between East Egg and West Egg, and a stop between these wealthy locations and New York City, this is where the working-class reside. The area is described as the precise geographical location where the ashes from New York City fall.

The Valley of Ashes represents decay as a result of the greedy pursuit of wealth. It also represents the struggles of the lower-class citizens as the rich consume thoughtlessly and live in decadent indulgence all around them.