What does the car symbolize in The Great Gatsby? Is it related to death?

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Among other things, Gatsby's flashy, yellow car symbolizes the shallow, materialistic lifestyle that he leads. Like the car, everything about Gatsby is for show, designed to impress. As Nick tells us, certain features of the car are "monstrous" and "swollen" implying that, like its owner, it's more than a...

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Among other things, Gatsby's flashy, yellow car symbolizes the shallow, materialistic lifestyle that he leads. Like the car, everything about Gatsby is for show, designed to impress. As Nick tells us, certain features of the car are "monstrous" and "swollen" implying that, like its owner, it's more than a tad vulgar.

The further implication is that Gatsby is trying to be someone he isn't, making himself out to be better than he really is. And that's perfectly true. Gatsby, a former criminal from a humble, Midwestern background, desperately wants to be accepted by the authentic blue-bloods of East Egg and sees ostentation—flashy cars, a big mansion, lots of nice designer shirts—as a way of doing that. But the bulkiness and sheer excess of his car reveal him to be a parvenu, a member of the new rich, someone without a snowball in hell's chance of being accepted on equal terms by the old money elite.

Despite his strenuous efforts to ingratiate himself with the East Eggers, Gatsby remains a mystery to them and to everyone around him, and the car's windows symbolize this. The multi-layered glass hides Gatsby from the world outside as he drives along, just as his elaborate persona hides the real Jay from the people he's trying to impress.

Gatsby is eventually undone by his doomed attempts to live the American Dream, which is partly symbolized in the story by his car. It is Gatsby's car, driven recklessly at high speed by Daisy Buchanan, that inadvertently leads to Jay's death. After Daisy mows down Myrtle Wilson, Myrtle's distraught husband, George, is led to believe that Gatsby was driving the car. So he goes looking for Gatsby and shoots him dead.

On a symbolic level, the American Dream, symbolized by Gatsby's car, ends the life of both Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson, two people who desperately wanted to escape their humble backgrounds and become someone and something else.

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