The Great Gatsby Motifs and Symbols

Time and Obsession: F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the symbolism of relationships frequently to elaborate on how love, desire and sex are major motives for almost every character in The Great Gatsby. However, all the relationships mentioned are never depicted as healthy or stable. Focusing specifically on the relationship between Gatsby and Daisy, it is evident in the very first chapter that Daisy (without Gatsby’s character being revealed to the audience) perks up at the sound of his name, noticeably remembering him after many years. However, when the pair reunite in Chapter 5,  “We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy, her voice as matter-of-fact as it could ever be. “Five years next November.”(Gatsby) (5.69-70) it is apparent that Daisy’s memories of Gatsby are more abstract and clouded, while Gatsby has been so infatuated with her that he knows the exact month they parted and has clearly been counting down the days until their reunion. There is another moment in the scene when Nick returns after the initial awkward re-introduction, he comes back to find them talking emotionally. However, Gatsby has transformed, as he is radiant and glowing, “He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture” (5.87). In contrast, Daisy is not so thoroughly transformed, except for her overflowing tears. Although the narrator, Nick pays closer attention to Gatsby than Daisy, it is apparent that Gatsby is more intensely engaged in the relationship. Their relationship also reflects the idea of change as much as Gatsby wants to repeat the past, he can’t. In the present, Daisy has moved on and he can never return to that beautiful, perfect moment when he kissed her for the first time and wedded all her hopes and dreams to her. Thus proving that over time, Gatsby’s affection for Daisy has transformed into obsession while Daisy has learned to move past and maintains her relationship with Tom, her husband. 


Manipulation and Materialism: The characters in The Great Gatsby are enraptured by materialism and manipulate their surroundings to satiate their needs and maintain their social status. This elaborates the hollowness of the upper class which is one of the most important and more explored themes in the novel. It emphasizes the sociology of wealth and specifically how the characters manipulate their position in society to move up the social ladder. In The Great Gatsby, the West Egg represents the newly rich (such as Gatsby) whereas the East Egg represents the old aristocrats (The Buchanan Family). The significance of these two ends represents the difference in lifestyle and consumerism. The author portrays those in West Egg to be vulgar, pretentious, gaudy and lacking in social grace and constantly. This is evident in the novel as Gatsby himself lives in a monstrously adorned mansion, hosts extravagant parties every weekend, drives expensive cars and intentionally rejects invitations from upper-class families just to appear to have more important engagements. “And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.” (Jordan, Chapter 3) Gatsby throws his parties in honour of Daisy, they also represent the life the pair could have had together, in a big house with lots of money and friends and luxuries. By inviting all the wealthy people from the area, Gatsby aims to manipulate Daisy into leaving her wealthy husband Tom and start a new life with him. He even makes a point of inviting some of Daisy’s best friends, but due to her aristocratical lifestyle, Daisy never comes. Gatsby’s rapid consumerism and manipulating tendencies eventually lead him to his demise in the last chapter where George Wilson shoots him as he believes that Gatsby killed his wife Myrtle. Gatsby in his willingness to manipulate every situation to his own benefit took the blame for Myrtle’s death so that Daisy was not held responsible.


Weather: The author also utilizes the weather as an affective backdrop in The Great Gatsby to match the emotional narrative tone of the story. Gatsby and Daisy’s genuine relationship starts in the pouring rain, proving the awkwardness of their refound affection. Their love reawakens just as the sun beings to come out and Nick returns to the scene. To contrast, Gatsby’s climactic confrontation with Tom occurs on the hottest day of the summer, under a scorching sun, “The next day was broiling, almost the last, certainly the warmest day of the summer” (pg 114). Daisy exclaims, “But it’s so hot,”, on the verge of tears, “And everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!” as an excuse for them to make their ill-fated journey into the city. Here, the heat operates and oppresses on both a literal and a symbolic level. It causes irritability and fractiousness in the characters. The weather also symbolizes Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. It is when the weather is at it’s hottest that Gatsby’s and Daisy’s relationship reaches a climax where Daisy decides to chose Tom (who has a better social status) over Gatsby. What started on a rainy day with a great promise of romance comes to an end on this hot day on an abrupt note.


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