The Great Gatsby
• A symbol is an element of imagery, in which a
concrete object stands not only for itself but
for some abstract idea as well.
• Symbols are an important element in all
What do these symbols mean to you?
Full Skull
Red Rose
Full Moon
Valley of Ashes
• “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat
into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens;
where ashes take 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” p21
• Why would the Valley of Ashes be a symbol?
• What are they are a symbol of?
• The Valley of Ashes resembles something dark
and lifeless.
• Ashes stand for destruction and death – ashes
are the result of fire – one of the most
destructive natural forces.
• The death of Myrtle Wilson in the Valley of
Ashes stands as a symbol for the pain
associated with this valley.
• The fact that the Wilsons live in the valley
shows that they are not of such high social
standing as the other characters in the novel.
• By having to pass through the Valley of Ashes
in order to get to New York, the other
characters are ‘touched’ by this lower status.
They never let it actually affect them though.
• But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak
dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive,
after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.
The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and
gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. They
look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of
enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a
non-existent nose … But his eyes, dimmed a little
by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood
on over the solemn dumping ground. p21
• But above the grey land and the spasms of
bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you
perceive, after a moment, the eyes of God.
The eyes of God … look out of no face … But
his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless
days under sun and rain, brood on over the
solemn dumping ground.
Eckelberg and God
• Fitzgerald compares the eyes of Dr Eckleburg
to God.
• In talking about the eyes of God looking over
the world, Nick describes it as a dumping
Eckleburg and Nick
• This passage be also be seen as symbolising
the eyes of Nick.
• He is the only one in the novel who really
knows what is going on. The other characters
are not able to judge situations except from
their own perspective.
• They are all as blind as these eyes which are
just painted on a billboard.
Eckleburg and Wilson
• Because of Wilson's strong belief in God this
poster is not just an advertisement. It has a deep
meaning to him – and, through him, to us.
• His words “God sees everything” (127) shows his
belief that God is watching over him through the
eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.
• His neighbour Michaelis makes fun of Wilson's
faith and says about the billboard "that's an
advertisement" (127).
The Green Light
• The green light is probably one of the most
important symbols in The Great Gatsby. Green is
the colour of hope and it first appears when
Gatsby stares across the bay towards a green light
at the end of a dock. p20
• Later the reader finds out that this light stands on
Daisy Buchanan’s dock. In the context of the
novel this green light represents Gatsby’s hope to
meet Daisy again and a chance to win her back.
“Gatsby believed in the green light.”p144
East and West
• The Midwestern states and the Eastern states of
America are very different and marked by very
values and attitudes.
• While in the Mid West you find more traditional
values , for example living on one’s own, not
needing anyone else and being self-supporting,
the East has a closer connection to Europe and
orientates itself by European values and qualities.
• The West is described as the country of “wide
lawns and friendly trees”, “prairies” and “lost
Swede towns” (p.125,19).
• There, agriculture is the major economic factor
and the landscape is full of long wheat and corn
• During winter, the land freezes, they get “real
snow” and the temperature drops far below 0° C.
• The people living in the West tend to have a very
strict and conservative attitude and not to be
open for most changes. It was there, where
prohibition started.
• On the other side of the Ohio, the major
eastern side stream of the Mississippi, the
Eastern states begin. They represent the
modern America where the immigrants first
arrived in order to start a better life (American
• Also, the East is much more densely populated
and you find more big cities like New York. The
Easterners are said to be open-minded and
• In The Great Gatsby, East Egg and West Egg
are used as metaphors for the East and the
Middle West. While the "aristocrats" Tom and
Daisy live in East Egg, the newly rich Gatsby
lives in West Egg. Even though Gatsby shows
off with his wealth and tries to fit in with
wealthy society, the fact that he is living in
West Egg, shows that the distance between
East and West has not become smaller, as
West Egg stays the “less fashionable of the
two”. p8
• Most of the settlers, who explored the
western country, were Finnish.
• The “Finnish woman” (p7) who works for Nick,
is another example of the connection
between West Egg and the Middle West.
• A lot of these ‘super wealthy’ families earned
their fortunes through the shipping and
railway empires that were built during the
American expansion West.
The mansion
• Pembroke House is
seen as the model for
Gatsby's mansion.

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