Using the Great Gatsby, focusing on one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole....

 

Using the Great Gatsby, focusing on one symbol, write an essay analyzing how that symbol functions in the work and what it reveals about the characters or themes of the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

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appletrees | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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One of the most prominent symbols of the novel is one that was also the subject of the book's original cover art: the large billboard advertising the services of the optometrist T. J. Eckleberg. The eyes are described in detail by Nick Carraway, who seems to find them to be a disturbing and haunting presence. Various interpretations of the eyes and what they represent are possible (for example, the eyes being those of God, to emphasize an overall loss of spiritual engagement and morality in America at this time).

But it is also possible to simply interpret these eyes as representing a general reminder that one's actions have consequences. Nick mentions that the eyes keep a "watchful vigil" at a time just before Gatsby is involved in a dispute with Tom (which ultimately leads to his death). The idea is that not even Gatsby, a powerful man with enormous wealth and influence, can escape the repercussions of his actions. This awareness is intended to call attention to the pervasive moral decay and decadence that Fitzgerald saw sweeping the nation during the Jazz Age.

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