What does the coming of fall predict/symbolize in The Great Gatsby?

2 Answers

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Great Gatsby, fall is a symbolic season, particularly in chapter 5. Often in fall we experience new beginnings. It is the time of year when children go back to school and calendars are refreshed. This is the time of year when a new harvest comes in. This is the time of year when a new season ushers itself in by the winds of change.

This time of year is also questionable. Halloween brings darkness and ghosts while people retreat to their homes for warmth. The leaves fall off trees demonstrating death and decay.

In chapter 8, just before the revelation that Gatsby was dead, references to fall foreshadow the dark events as they unfold:

A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of transit, a thin red circle in the water.

These italicized clues work together to help reveal the final truth that a red circle of blood now stands where a man floating on a raft once stood. Fall predicts Gatsby's death. Fall symbolizes an end... but it can also symbolize a new beginning. Perhaps the end of Gatsby and Wilson both birthed a new beginning for Nick as he soon left the area to retreat home.



gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As was mentioned in the previous post, fall symbolizes Gatsby's death and the end of his American dream. During the fall, the leaves on the trees change and plant life begins to wither away as winter approaches. Also, the air is usually crisp and windy during the fall as the temperature begins to drop. The majority of the story takes place during an extremely hot summer. Throughout the summer, romances "heat up" and tensions peak between the characters. After it is revealed that Gatsby is a bootlegger, Daisy decides to remain with Tom and accidentally kills Myrtle Wilson while driving Gatsby's car. Gatsby's dream of becoming Daisy's husband and living out his fantasies is no longer a possibility. Gatsby's version of the American dream ends as the summer comes to a close, and he is murdered at the beginning of the fall. Also, the fall ushers in a new beginning for Nick Caraway. Nick's life and perception have drastically changed and he travels back to the Midwest in the fall. Thus the fall season symbolically represents Gatsby's loss of the American dream, his ultimate death, and a new beginning for Nick Caraway.