The Great Gatsby is a novel that took place in New York in the 1920's. This novel is known for the admirable symbolism that shows how mankind and wealth was. Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Some examples of symbolism in The Great Gatsby are the valley of ashes, the eyes, colors, flowers, the green light, and East/West.
The Valley of Ashes
The Valley of Ashes is located half way between West Egg and New York, this is where Myrtle (Tom's mistress) and her husband Wilson live. The Valley is where all of the debris and garbage went from New York. The Valley symbolizes the moral decay that Fitzgerald saw behind wealth and happiness. The Valley is the poor part of the New York where all but good happens, this is where Myrtle is killed in a car accident and where Wilson finds out his wife is having an affair.
Quote: "This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and raising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air." (pg. 27, The Great Gatsby)
Dr. TJ Eckleburg's Eyes
The eyes of Doctor Eckleburg are in the Valley of Ashes, it is a deserted landmark, a billboard with an advertisement for an optometrist (eye doctor). Fitzgerald uses the eyes to symbolize god staring down upon and judging American Society as a moral wasteland, a decay of humanity and the meaningless garbage that there lives became.
Quote: "The eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg are blue and gigantic...they look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous...