Provide a description (using quotes) of the symbol from the text.
– Explain when and why the symbol appears throughout the text.
– Analyse what the symbol helps you to understand about an important character.
– Make a link between the symbol and the idea of illusion.
In the Great Gatsby, water symbolizes time. Time is unstoppable and you cannot turn back time. Water shows the distance between Gatsby and Daisy because of the length of water across the bay, between their docks. The separation of East Egg and West Egg is represented by the water between and how each lifestyle is so different and they all have different morals and beliefs. The water between Daisy and Gatsby represents the 5 years lost between them while Gatsby was at war.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” This is a quote that Nick says at the very end of the book, it describes how a current always moves forward and we cannot try and go back into it, it is like trying to swim upstream in a strong river, impossible. It signifies how Gatsby was unable to forget his past and he kept trying and believing he could get it back. He kept pushing toward the green light but he could never quite get there because it is physically impossible to turn back time.
Water was also present when Gatsby and Daisy met again after five years, it was raining heavily. The rain at this time represented the 5 lost years between them and all the memories and emotions, guilt, happiness were coming back to both of them. At the start there was an intense awkwardness and tension. It is also said that rain cleans things. In this case it is cleaning away their lost years, we can see this because once the have been talking for hours and the tension had faded, the weather finally clears and it becomes sunny.
Eyes are a symbol that is frequently mentioned in this novel. It is often said that eyes are the window to the soul, this means that even if someone lies you can see exactly what they think or feel in their eyes. Gatsby uses his enchanting smile to cover up how he really feels, for example when Nick first met him the first thing he noticed was his smile. This is what intrigued Nick and led him on. However his smile is what Tom thinks leads everyone on, Tom said “He threw dust in your eyes, just like he did in Daisy’s” to Nick after Gatsby died. Tom thinks that Gatsby just used nick to get closer to Daisy and put Nick under his spell,
Gatsby’s eyes are often blank and lifeless, many times they are described as vacant, “Gatsby looked with vacant eyes.” It is like the only thing that will fulfill his life is Daisy.
‘Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone.’ Daisy’s eyes told what she was really feeling through out the book. She comes across as blank and dull, but her eyes told us otherwise.
3: Green Light
The green light is a significant symbol in this text, it is mentioned often. The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s hope for a future with Daisy. “… I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.” This quote is the first time the green light is mentioned, and the first time Nick sees Gatsby. When Gatsby reaches for the green light that is on the end of the Buchanan’s dock this represents that he is reaching out towards Daisy, and his future with her. Because the light is so far away from him and so minute tells us how Gatsby’s dream is always going to be just out of his reach.