Symbolism is the appropriation of an object or word to represent an abstract idea of quality, is used in literature in order to communicate a deeper meaning and facilitate weaving the thematic intricacies of the plot with one another. In the highly praised novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, symbols are mentioned frequently to provide insight, such as the omniscient eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg, the mysterious Valley of Ashes, and the glowing green light Gatsby finds himself mesmerized with. The green light Gatsby reaches out for at the end of Daisy’s dock on east egg represents his hopes and dreams, and it is symbolic of Daisy as his ultimate key to success, not only romantically, but monetarily and socially, exemplifying the theme of the American Dream and it’s deterioration throughout the whole novel.
In order to be able to fully understand the significance of the green light in relation to Gatsby’s version of the American Dream, it is important to know the first of his three desires involving Daisy, romantic success. When Gatsby first met Daisy, he was James Gatz, a young military officer leaving to fight in the war. He fell in love with her aura of sophistication, of luxury, grace, charm and beauty, and therefore, lied to her about his background of poverty to convince her he was worthy of her. When he goes to fight in the war, Daisy married Tom, who is rich and powerful, everything Gatsby wanted for himself in the future. Gatsby, through various means is able to afford a luxurious West Egg ( new money) rich lifestyle, living in a mansion across from Daisy’s dock who is in East Egg ( old money).
Gatsby longingly reaches out for the green light he sees on her dock miles away. “But I didn’t call to him, for he gave a sudden intimation that he was content to be alone- he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward-and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.” Nick states, observing Gatsby’s yearning to be closer to the light, and accordingly, to Daisy. (pg 21) Gatsby is longing for Daisy that he can see all the memories they had together, he is so close to her, but the bay is between them. Gatsby tries to get her attention every night by hosting parties and when he reaches his hand out to her as if he is trying pulling her into his arms. Gatsby sees the light as his happiness, there is always something between him and it, either the bay or the fog. The light shines bright and green, which is significant because it represents what Gatsby strives for in his future, Gatsby wants a bright future with money and Daisy. Gatsby wants, more than anything, for him and Daisy to restore the affair from the past, and to be happy again.