What do New York, Gatsby's parties, weather, time, and the faded timetable showing the list of guests symbolize?
- New York is the center of cultural and spiritual decay in the novel. Bordered by the Valley of Ashes, entering the city causes one to contemplate the barrenness, sterility, and futility of the modern age, and wasted opportunities. This is where Tom keeps his mistress, signalling moral weakness. It is also where scenes of abuse take place: Tom breaking Myrtle's nose, Tom berating both Gatsby and Daisy, the death of Myrtle just outside the city.
- Gatsby's parties symbolize the decadence and extravagance of the time, and the shallowness of those in wealthy society. Most people at the parties are not invited, and have no idea who Gatsby is. Wild rumors spread, copious amounts of alcohol are drunk; there is music, dancing, bright colors. Each party scene gives one the impression of being on a tilt-a-whirl, a carousel of colors and sounds that don't really mean anything, because the people there don't really mean anything.
- The weather and often reflects the personalities and subtexts of the characters. I agree with the first poster that they are connected in part to emptiness and oppression, but they also reveal the passion between Gatsby and Daisy. This is most notable in Chapters 7-9, where the heat is continually described as stifling and simmering, just as the tensions are simmering under the surface of Gatsby and Daisy's faces.
- Finally, the faded timetable is a sad reminder of who Jay Gatz once was. His father kept it as an example of Gatsby's determination and self-discipline, but it comes to represent everything that he lost in his pursuit of Daisy. He had everything so well planned, but he couldn't have planned for Daisy's own shallowness and selfishness. Thus, all his careful planning was for naught.
Each of theses items in some way connect to the theme of disillusionment with the American Dream. Gatsby's quest for wealth is centered on wanting to obtain Daisy, which is his symbol for the American Dream. If he can win Daisy's heart, he will have achieved all that he desires to achieve; he will have truly made himself something out of nothing. The parties show the amount of wealth that he has built up yet he does not actually know most of his guests. His wealth and popularity are superficial at best, fleeting ideas (much like the American Dream). The idle passing of time and the overbearing heat show the oppression and emptiness that vain pursuits of wealth have. New York is the hub of activity, and a very popular city, yet the descriptions of the areas that Fitzgerald gives are dirty, faded, and failing. This is how Fitzgerald viewed the pursuit of identity, wealth and the American Dream.