The Great Gatsby is more effective as a symbolic novel than as a realist novel. With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel, and relevant external contextual information on symbolic novels and realist novels, give your response to the above view.
In literature a symbolic novel can be defined as a novel with meaning to the writing beyond what is actually being described. The plot and action that take place in a story can be thought of as one level, while the symbolism of certain things in the writing act on another level to enhance the story. On the other hand, a realist novel can be defined as an approach that attempts to describe life without idealisation or romantic subjectivity. It is undeniable the The Great Gatsby contains elements of both, but it is more effective as a symbolic novel than a realist novel due to the amount of symbolism and representation contained in its characters and plot. In examining this view, a good place to start is how Gatsby symbolises the American Dream.
Gatsby as a character is highly symbolic and his life epitomises the American Dream, the idea that with a bit of hard work anyone can become affluent and fulfilled. Gatsby’s extravagant lifestyle is used to symbolise the dream, such as the description of his house, “a colossal affair by any standard… spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.” Even though we find out differently in subsequent chapters, you would be forgiven for initially thinking that Gatsby was a perfectly fulfilled man, wealthy and happy as a result of his hard work and endeavour. Gatsby has certainly worked hard to acquire all that he has. According to Thomas Wolfe, every man in America has the right to become, “whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him." This certainly applies to Gatsby. He represents the American Dream of self-made wealth and happiness, the spirit of youth and resourcefulness, and the ability to defy his past and make something of himself. It could even be argued that Gatsby is symbolic of America itself, and how the country rose from nothing to being one of the world’s greatest superpowers in a relatively short period of time. This clear use of symbolism on Fitzgerald’s part is evidence that The Great Gatsby is more effective as a symbolic novel than as a realist novel.