The image of the green light in the novel Great Gatsby, by F. Scott
Fitzgerald, is a significant symbol which reflects Gatsby's dream and other
aspects beyond Gatsby's longing. Throughout the novel Fitzgerald uses many
other images or symbols. At first, it may seem very basic, but when the
symbol is closely studied, one may see the deeper meaning found within it.
Fitzgerald uses these symbols to make a point across to the reader. He
then uses this point and converts it into a deeper meaning, into a myth
about America. The green light mentioned in the novel clearly represents
and is a prime example of this.
Before examining the significance of the green light, one must
learn what a symbol is. A symbol cannot be seen as a sign. The two are
very different. A sign is an object which signifies something else. For
example, a green traffic light instructs drivers to proceed. A symbol is
much more complex than this. A symbol may also stand for something else as
seen in its simplest case. A symbol sums up a large number of ideas and
attitudes. The complexity of a symbol may be more intense than a sign
because it can have several meanings in different situations. (Beckson and
The green light is first mentioned in chapter one of the Great
Gatsby. Nick, the narrator of the novel, sees Gatsby curiously stretching
his arms out towards the water. Nick went to see what Gatsby was looking
at and all he could see was "...nothing except a single green light, minute
and far away, that might have been the end of a dock."
At this point in ...
... middle of paper ...
the green light at the end of Daisy's dock....and his dream
must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it.
He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere
back in that vast obscurity beyond the city...
The main point in this quotation is that Gatsby could not get over his
dream. Through this quotation and through close examination of the green
light, one may learn that the force that empowers Gatsby to follow his
lifelong aspiration is that of the "American Dream." Fitzgerald, the
author of the novel, through Gatsby, was able to make this myth about
America and the American Dream of self-fulfillment.
Beckson and Arthur Ganz. AReader's Guide to Literary Terms. New York: The
Noonday Press, 1986.
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