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Questions & Answers
List and explain important symbols in the novel.
- The green light at the end of the dock symbolizes Gatsby's longing for daisy. In a broader context, it represents the unreachability of the American Dream.
- The Valley of Ashes represents the negative side effects of greed.
- The Eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckelburg represent different things to different characters. The common thread is that someone is watching over them.
What examples of modernism are present in the novel?
Modernist writers, such as Fitzgerald, felt that traditional institutions--churches, governments, society in general--had led them into World War I and had failed them. Fitzgerald hints that God, symbolized by the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, looks on, but does nothing. Fitzgerald's novel contends that greed, corruption, and the desire for ease and luxuries had usurped the American Dream.
What makes Gatsby so "great"? What makes him not so "great"?
- Everything Gatsby does is magnificent--his car, his mansion, and his parties are flashy and extravagant. He undertakes winning back Daisy in a most spectacular way. He's not so great insomuch that is riches were earned illegally and he's chasing an elusive dream, Daisy, who is not worthy of his admiration.
In what ways are the characters in the novel reckless?
- Tom has an affair with Myrtle Wilson, recklessly causing stress on two marriages. Myrtle recklessly runs to greet the car that she believes Tom is driving. Daisy, driving recklessly, runs her over and kills her. Tom recklessly tells George Wilson where Gatsby lives with the hope that he recklessly kills him, which he does. Gatsby throws reckless parties and pursues Daisy with reckless abandon.
What role does geography play in the novel?
- There is a constant struggle between east and west. There's East Egg vs. West Egg and the East vs. the Midwest. The novel's narrator is caught between the two. He's from the Midwest, yet learns the bond business in the East. He's Daisy's cousin, an East-egger and Gatsby's friend, a West-egger. His efforts to bring the two together fail.