The Great Gatsby is a deep and complex novel. There are many layers to the characters and the plot, and this depth is often due to the way in which F. Scott Fitzgerald uses both metaphors and symbolism throughout. Of the many different symbols present in the novel, one of the most prominent and interesting is the car, as not only do cars remain relevant to the story from start to finish, but when we consider the possible use of symbolism, we can uncover their true significance.
First and foremost it is important first to consider when and also how cars are referenced throughout the story. The first time a car is mentioned occurs within the opening pages, as Nick discusses some of his past possessions ‘an old Dodge and a Finnish woman’. Even without considering metaphors or symbolism, Fitzgerald’s decision to include Nick’s car as one of his few mentioned possessions, alongside a woman, is noteworthy. As this particular passage occurs early in the story, it is the first opportunity that the audience have to learn about Nick’s character. Furthermore the use of the word ‘old’ is significant. Whilst deceptively simple, this tells the reader a lot about Nick. As his car is old he is probably not rich but the fact that Fitzgerald still includes it shows that it is important to Nick. Thus, although simple, this adjective has told us not just about the car but Nick’s opinion of it, and therefore has given new meaning to the passage.
The significance of the car can be highlighted further when we consider the possibility of Fitzgerald using cars in a symbolic manner. As clearly stated in ‘The Art of Fiction’ by David Lo...
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...udience have a better knowledge of life before and after this crisis, and this means we are aware of how quickly wealth vanished for people living in 1920’s America, and as a result, more sympathetic towards the possibility that Fitzgerald is critiquing this hollow dream.
To conclude not only do cars feature throughout the novel, they are one of the main features of the book as a whole. They are responsible directly and indirectly for the deaths of Myrtle, Gatsby and George Wilson. When we consider them as being symbolic however, they become even more significant, as we are able to make different interpretations of the story depending on what we believe they symbolise. Therefore through an understanding of the ways in which symbolism could have be used by Fitzgerald, we can gather a much deeper understanding of ‘The Great Gatsby’, and the possible meaning behind it.
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