Themes in The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby – Final Essay Symbols are supposed to be something concrete, something solid and unchanging, based on common knowledge and stereotypes; but F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of symbols in The Great Gatsby is an oddball one. It may just be odd compared to what we are used to reading in class, but each symbol is ONLY a symbol because of certain characters’ speculations on them in the book. Leaving setting out of the picture (West Egg, East Egg, the Valley of Ashes, etc.), the most important symbols in the book are Dr. T. J. Eckleburg’s Eyes and the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are a perfect example of the fluidity of symbols in The Great Gatsby. The first few times that they show up, they just seem like an eerie pair of eyes on a crummy, old billboard, and for much of the book, that is JUST what they are. It’s not until the last couple of chapters that the eyes get their real symbolism, making sense of the places they are mentioned early in the book. “ ‘I spoke to her,’ he muttered, after a long silence. ‘I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window’ –with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it – ‘and I said, “’God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!”’ Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg…” (Fitzgerald 159). When George Wilson finds out about the murder of his wife, he attributes the eyes to God, implying that since God see’s everything they do that the eyes command justice be upheld for the sins of these rich snobs who otherwise live completely without consequence. In this light, you can make sense of the earlier mentioning of the eyes: they were there all along to remind the characters of
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