The Great Gatsby Symbolism Essay

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The most important way in which people perceive the world is through vision. Humanity’s reliance on vision has lead people to correlate specific colors with specific emotions or concepts. Authors have exploited people’s natural perception of colors to use them as powerful symbols in literary works. These symbols help convey profound ideas in a graceful and easily-interpretable way. Symbols are heavily employed by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the quintessential American novel: The Great Gatsby. This work recounts the experiences of Nick Carraway as he is thrust into the city of New York in the 1920s and into the orbit of the wealthy Jay Gatsby. From the dazzling island of Manhattan through the bleak Valley of Ashes and to the opulent West and East…show more content…
The character most heavily associated with white is Daisy Buchanan. Her white dresses and her home- a white palace- are used by Fitzgerald to create a strong connection between Daisy and the color white. Historically, white has symbolized purity and virtue. It is a moral color entirely above all of the other “messy” shades. In the eyes of Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan is a paragon of virtue. She is a counter to the dark, poor, and corrupt Valley of Ashes. Even though white has been used to convey holiness and sanctitude, the hue is also a symbol for the deep emptiness and lack of meaning which plagues the lives of the upper class, especially Daisy. White in one sense is timeless and unblemished, but from Fitzgerald’s perspective white is also devoid of all color. This reflects entirely on the utter careless in which Daisy and Tom live; Nick says that Tom and Daisy are “careless people… they [smash] up things and creatures and then [retreat] back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever… and let other people clean up the mess they [have] made” (Fitzgerald 187). The Buchanans and the ultra-rich live their lives without any purpose or care. They simply drift through the world spending their endless amounts of money without contributing anything to society. Fitzgerald incorporates both the universal and more profound of white to critique the carelessness and hollowness of the
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