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Symbolism in the Great Gatsby

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Symbolism in The "Great Gatsby" The critic Harold Bloom once wrote, "Never has symbolism played such a crucial part in the very foundation of a novel as it does in Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, The Great Gatsby." Essentially the great gatsby appears to be a novel depicting the doomed romance between a man and a woman. However, the main theme of the novel is a completely un-romantic one. Although the novel only takes place over several months, and only in New York, it serves as a microcosm for the 'Jazz Age' of America, and of the famous American Dream. Fitzgerald illustrates this time as being one of moral deprivation ( Tom Buchanan's racism), as well as a decay in social values, as the characters actions are powered by greed, and the empty pursuit of pleasure ( the promiscuity of Tom, Daisy and Myrtle). This sort of behaviour was typical of the 1920's and because of this behaviour ,parties- not dissimiliar to the opulent parties hosted by none other than 'The Great Gatsby'- were in abundance in this time. ...read more.


Gatsby's dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American dream in the 1920s is ruined by the unworthiness of its object-money and pleasure. Like 1920s Americans in general, fruitlessly seeking a bygone era in which their dreams had value, Gatsby longs to re-create a vanished past-his time in Louisville with Daisy-but is incapable of doing so. When his dream crumbles, all that is left for Gatsby to do is die; all Nick can do is move back to Minnesota, where American values have not decayed. 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. ...read more.


They may represent God staring down upon and judging American society as a moral wasteland, though the novel never makes this point plainly. Instead, throughout the novel, Fitzgerald suggests that symbols only have meaning because characters fill them with meaning. The connection between the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg and God exists only in George Wilson's grief-stricken mind; Wilson later points to this saying, 'God sees everything' before going on his murderous rampage. The lack of solid meaning contributes to the disturbing nature of the image. And so, the eyes also come to represent the meaninglessness of the world and the uncertainty of people. 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 bulbburning at the end of Daisy's dock. ?? ?? ?? ?? Alex Warner ...read more.

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Response to the question

This essay responds to the question extremely well. It begins with a powerful opening statement which helms the essay and also displays incentive to conduct external contextual research. It's a very good opener and an interesting variation from the norm ...

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Response to the question

This essay responds to the question extremely well. It begins with a powerful opening statement which helms the essay and also displays incentive to conduct external contextual research. It's a very good opener and an interesting variation from the norm for essays like these (little things like this tell the examiner you really care about writing a thoroughly interesting and insightful essay, rather than picking a fairly standard opening statement). Following on from that, there are a number of symbols tackled, and each with well-expressed analysis of how they come to represent what Fitzgerald intended, plus insightful and well-developed ideas about the ambiguity of symbols like the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. All in all this is a very strong essay.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis shown here is indicative of a candidate working towards a low/middle A grade. There is evidence of very strong analytical skills in the ability to present more than one sufficiently supported interpretation of a symbol (such as the interpretations of how the American Dream is symbolised, and what the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg come to represent), and each point is made clearly and precisely. The candidate regularly references the text if not by use of explicit quotation then reference to events and themes from the novel - this is effective because is helps the flow of the essay. Quite often essays are prescriptive and follow a very formulaic PEE/C (Point, Evidence & Explanation/Comment) structure, but this variation makes it a far more engaging read that delves to an appropriate level of depth to satisfy the question.

I would encourage however, that the candidate not mention themes/motifs/symbols that are not going to be fully analysed as there are no points for simply listing anything of symbolic value (which can be hard, seeing as the novel itself - as the candidate must be fully aware having quoted Harold Bloom - the novel's symbolic resonance is very complex). Listing "the ash heap, Gatsby's silk shirts, the green light, The Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, and Gatsby's library" and then going on to only interpret the green light and Dr. Eckleburg's eyes will not win any extra marks. In fact, where this candidate missed a trick is not commenting explicitly on The Valley of Ashes enough - it's a huge symbol and is a primary element of Fitzgerald's inventory to portray the segregation of the classes. Though the candidate will not lose marks here, is may have contributed to a more cohesive essay, which appears to change tack quite obviously in the middle. Again, this is not a huge issue seeing as the quality of the analysis is very good.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is sound. There are no glaring errors in spelling and the use of grammar is consistently accurate enough, though some moments see possible typos trickle through an otherwise sound essay. To sort this, it is imperative all candidates check and re-check for any grammatical errors that may not instantly be identified by a spell-checker.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 25/06/2012

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