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The Use of Symbolism to describe Moral Decay in The Great Gatsby

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The Use of Symbolism to describe Moral Decay in The Great Gatsby By Marco Vitali According to Merriam-Webster, symbolism is "the art or practice of using symbols by investing things with a symbolic meaning." Using symbolism you can express feelings, sensations and meanings without necessarily putting them in words, leaving the interpretation of these to the reader. In his classic novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses symbolism to avoid getting negative attention from the people of the upper class since his novel is very controversial, in the sense that he uses symbols such as colors and locations to condemn aspects of the American society including the recklessness and corruption of the upper class. Gatsby's gold tie and silver shirt symbolize his wealth and upper class belonging. He wears these to prove to Daisy that he is now wealthy and she can marry him as she had not done years before because he was too poor. "While it isn't clear how he made all his money it is obvious that it was through illegal dealings in organized crime." ...read more.


This metaphorically means that Gatsby's wealth and high social status is what "brings him down" and leads to his death, as it is the car, a symbol of his wealth, which causes the accident that killed Myrtle thus leading George Wilson to kill him. This is just an example that represents the idea that wealth and high social status makes people behaviour deteriorate and lead to their physical and metaphorical end. People from the upper class, though, are not willing to see and therefore to admit this idea. That is why F. Scott Fitzgerald has to use this symbol to express his idea. The Valley of Ashes is a vast area of desolate land, inbetween West Egg and New York, created by the dumping of industrial ashes. It is described on page 27 of The Great Gatsby as "a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air". ...read more.


These eyes could also symbolize the eyes of god that look over the valley of ashes, judging the American society. After Myrtle's death Wilson reveals that he had taken his wife to the window just before she died and told her, "God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me but you can't fool God!...God sees everything" (pg 167)(Hackly) . The valley of ashes also indirectly criticizes the American upper class by pointing out its moral emptiness and decay. Because The Great Gatsby is so controversial, since it criticizes several features of the American society, Fitzgerald tries to reduce the impact of this criticism by using symbolism. This way he is able to express his ideas more discretely with the result of a less contentious novel. To set forth his ideas he uses symbols such as colors and location, like the colors Gatsby's clothes and the Valley of Ashes. In conclusion, we can say that the purpose of all the symbols Fitzgerald uses is to express feelings, sensations and meanings without necessarily putting them in words. ...read more.

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