Symbolism plays a significant role in The Great Gatsby. Various substances, words or activities represent distinctive character features for each person described in the novel. Fitzgerald illustrates three completely distinctive aspects of the human life through symbolism. He narrates the glittery, magnificent life of the rich; the gray, ugly and desperate life of the poor, and the everyday struggles of those in between. The Great Gatsby, as a masterpiece, contains hidden and very important symbols that helps us understand the characters’ inner thoughts, conflicts and feelings.
The author successfully depicts the majestic life of those, who were born advantageously or whom life is majestic because of a coincidence, through the eyes of our narrator, Nick Carraway. Their life is full of richness and placed in a fairytale-like place. However, their life is not a fairytale. On the contrary, it is far from being one.
As first chapter begins, we are introduced to the Buchanans, who apparently have everything. Even though they look majestic, they are very miserable. We can take account of Tom’s need for another woman as a huge unhappiness sign. This is revealed to the readers by Jordan Baker who mentions the situation to Nick Carraway: ”Tom’s got some woman in New York… She might have the decency not to telephone him at dinner time. Don’t you think?” (Fitzgerald 32). Sh says this only after Daisy hears telephone and gives a reaction abruptly. Later in the novel, the telephone is again used as a sign of impicating Tom’s affair, when Jordan is once again, more eager than ever to tell everybody what the Buchanan’s situation is: ”The rumor is that, that’s Tom’s girl on the telephone.” (Fitzgerald 130).
In this case the telephone symbolizes Tom’s affair and his marriage, which is threatened whenever the phone rings.
Furthermore, we observe how careless and ignorant the rich are. For Tom, a car is taken for granted; it is a mere disposable object that he uses to tease George Wilson, a member of the poor. When Wilson, doubtful of Mr. Buchanan’s interest in selling him the car, points out that he’s been waiting for it for a long time, Tom tells him, with no consideration to his needs, that, ”I have my man working on it right now.” (Fitzgerald 41). Tom decides to tease him, saying that, “…if you feel that way about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.” (Fitzgerald 41). Tom Buchanan plays with Wilson’s needs once more, when the latter, trying to get him to sell the car, apparently disturbs Mr. Buchanan’s dinner. Tom replies: ”Very well, then, I won’t sell you the car at all…” (Fitzgerald 130). Wilson however, is persistent, as his need for the car, which in this case is the representation of money, grows constantly. Tom taunts him yet again, showing him Gatsby’s car, and implying that it was his: ”How do you like this one? I bought it last week… Like to buy it?” (Fitzgerald 137) This time, the car is symbol of the power of the rich over the unfortunate poor, ”ash-gray men” on the lowest step of the social ladder. It is like bone-teasing a dog, like a dangling medication in front of a dying, hungry man.


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