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Symbolism in
The Great Gatsby
Aubrey Wydock
American Literature
11th Grade
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The Valley
of Ashes
The Green
and Gold
East and
West Egg
The Eyes
of Dr. T. J.
Owl Eyes and
Gatsby’s Books
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The Green Light
• Located at the end of Daisy’s East Egg dock
– Barely visible from Gatsby’s West Egg lawn
• Represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future
– In Chapter 1, Gatsby reaches for the light in the darkness
as a guiding light to lead him to his goal (Daisy)
• Also symbolizes the generalized ideal of the American
– In Chapter 9, Nick compares the green light to how
American must have looked to early setters of the new
nation as it was rising out of the ocean
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The Valley of Ashes
• Located between West Egg and New York City
– It is a desolate land created by the dumping of
industrial ashes
• Represents the moral and social decay that comes
from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth
– The rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing
but their own enjoyment
• Symbolizes the plight of the poor
– The people who live among the ashes are seen as dirty
• Ex: George Wilson
– Results in lost vitality
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The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg
• Located in the Valley of Ashes
• May represent god looking down on and judging American society
as a moral wasteland
– Connection between god and the eyes exists solely in George Wilson’s
• Also represent the essential meaninglessness of the world and the
arbitrariness of the mental process by which people invest objects
with meaning.
– Nick explores these ideas in Chapter 8, when he imagines Gatsby’s
final thoughts as a depressed consideration of the emptiness of
symbols and dreams
• Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s glasses have yellow rims, which symbolize
– This may mean that he either sees corruptness everywhere, or sees
through the eyes of someone who is corrupt.
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The Color White
• Symbolizes innocence and femininity
• Used mainly when talking about Daisy
The color of her car before she was with Tom
Her clothes
The rooms of her house
Describing her
• “white neck”
• “white girlhood”
• “high in a white palace”
• The use of the color white to describe Daisy enforces
the point that even the purest characters have been
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Yellow and Gold
• Symbolizes money and destruction
• Examples:
“yellow cocktail music”
“bewitched to dark gold”
“two girls in yellow”
“the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate”
“the golden girl” (Gatsby describing Daisy)
Gatsby’s yellow car
Gatsby’s gold tie
Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s glasses
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East and West Egg
• An egg is white on the outside and yellow on the inside.
– Symbolizes a false show of purity on the outside, but rotten and
corrupt on the inside.
• East AND West Egg
– There is deception of both sides.
– East: Symbolizes “Old Money”
• Money that has been passed down through the generations
– West: Symbolizes “New Money”
• Money that you earned yourself
– Think of the United States during this time. If you lived in the
eastern part, chances are your family came from that part of
the country and earned their living their. If you were from the
west, people were moving out towards California to try their
luck at making their own living in a new way of life.
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Owl Eyes and Gatsby’s Books
“Owl” being symbolic of:
His large glasses imply that he is more perceptive than the rest of the characters.
– Wisdom
– An omen of death
– Only guest who is suspicious of Gatsby
Takes the time to investigate further
Reveals that someone else was driving the car
– Involved in the car accident outside of Gatsby’s house
– Only guest to come to Gatsby’s funeral
Owl Eyes is amazed that Gatsby’s bookshelves are filled with “real books”
The unopened, unread books may represent Gatsby himself.
– Many upper-class people during that time would keep cardboard books on their shelves to
take up room and make it appear as if they were more educated.
– Throughout the novel, the rumors about him only seem to build up, and the facts remain
unexamined and unopened.
– The façade of the books only being there and not being read may symbolize Gatsby’s habit of
acting the fraud.
He often referred to himself as an “Oxford man” when in reality he only attended there for a few
months at the most.
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• The section of the story takes place during the
summer, implying that it is hot out to begin with.
• The heat symbolizes the foreshadowing of coming
– When the drama begins to heighten, so does the
– The “hottest” point in the story coincides with the climax.
• The heat also presents contradictions within the
– Example: Gatsby’s feelings for Daisy
• The heat may be symbolic of Gatsby’s nemesis or his
Review Question
Which of the following best represents the
symbol of Gatsby’s love for Daisy?
A. The Color White
B. The Green Light
C. The Color Yellow
You chose. . .
The Color White
Great Try
Better Luck Next Time!
The color white was a symbol of Daisy’s purity
and innocence.
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the review question.
You chose. . .
The Color Yellow
Not Quite
You’ll Be Sure To Get It!
The color yellow was a symbol of money,
destruction, and corruption.
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the review question.
You chose. . .
The Green Light
Great Job
You Got It Right!
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face to return to the
title slide.
Well done!

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