Seasonal Symbolism

Seasons Matter
Letitia Hughes
AP Language
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
(1925), “If modern American literature
consisted of only one novel, and if that novel
were Gatsby, it might be enough.
 What does the green light mean? What does
Gatsby’s dream represent? And what about
the ash heaps and the eyes on the billboard?”
 Shakespeare’s
sonnet 73
That time of year thou mayest in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold:
Bare, ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
Page 175
 The
Speaker is seriously feeling his age here
and making us feel it, too, with those boughs
shaking in the cold winds, those last faded
leaves still hanging, if barely, in the canopy,
those empty limbs that formerly were so full
of life and song.
 His
leaves, his hair, have mostly departed,
we can surmise, and his appendages are less
resolute than formerly, and of course, he’s
entered a quieter period than his youth had
 November
in the bones; it makes my joints
ache just to think about it.
 This
fall/middle-age cliché was pretty creaky
in the knees long before the Bard got a hold
of it.
 What he does with the metaphor is to invest
it with a specificity and a continuity that
force us to really see not only the thing he
describes- the end of autumn and the coming
of winter- but the speaker’s standing on the
edge of old age.
 “Shall
I compare thee to a summer’s day?
 Thou art more lovely and more temperate”
 King
Lear is raging in his old man’s madness
in a winter storm.
 Midsummer
night is the time when young
lovers escape to the woods to sort out their
romantic difficulties and take their place in
the adult world.
 More
Bard Examples as titles…
 A Winter’s Tale
 Twelfth Night (the last of the twelve days of
 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
 Henry
James employed this metaphor in his
novel Daisy Miller, rather than writing
directly about geopolitical conflicts, he lets
his characters serve as metaphors for the
new American republic and the rule-bound
 Daisy is a young, fresh, direct, open
American girl. She’s all spring and sunshine.
 Frederic
Winterborne is an American man but
a long-time resident in Europe, slightly older,
jaded, worldly, emotionally closed, indirect
and totally dependent on the good opinion of
 If you pay attention to the name game, you
can tell things will end badly – daisies can’t
flourish in winter.
 Classic
 Mamas and Papas express dissatisfaction with
winter, gray skies, and brown leaves and do
some “California Dreamin’.”
 Simon & Garfunkel cover the same unhappy
ground in “A Hazy Shade of Winter.”
 Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” says he’s waiting
around too long wasting his time on an older
woman in September. Why that month?
 Guns n’ Roses “November Rain”
Can you name any contemporary examples of
seasonal symbolism in song lyrics?
Kenny Chesney
 Spring
is childhood and youth.
 Summer
is adulthood and romance and
fulfillment and passion.
 Autumn
is decline, middle age and tiredness
but also harvest.
 Winter
is old age, resentment and death.
 W.H.
Auden’s elegy “In Memory of W.
B. Yeats” (1940)
 Annotate the poem for diction related
to winter / coldness.
Excerpt from Section I
 He
disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
 Robert
Frost did not specify a season in his
poem “After Apple Picking” but the
metaphor exists.
 Annotate the poem for this metaphor
 Analyze the time of day, tone, mood and
point of view.
 Author’s
make conscious choices regarding
 Will summer be warm, rich and liberating or
hot, dusty and stifling?
 Will autumn find us toting up our
accomplishments or winding down, arriving
at wisdom and peace or being shaken by
those November winds?
 Analyze
the symbolism of seasons in this
classic novel.
 Getting started..
 The
weather in the novel unfailingly matches
the emotional and narrative tone of the
 Gatsby's and Daisy's reunion begins amid a
pouring rain, proving awkward and
melancholy (a gloomy state of mind)
 Their
love reawakens just as the sun begins
to come out.
 Gatsby's
climactic confrontation with Tom
occurs on the hottest day of the summer,
under the scorching sun (like the fatal
encounter between Mercutio and Tybalt in
Shakespeare's R and J).
 Wilson
kills Gatsby on the first day of
autumn, as Gatsby floats in his pool despite a
palpable (you can feel it) chill in the air.

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