What is a good thesis statement for the use of symbolism and motifs in relation to the American Dream in The Great Gatsby?I need to write an essay of how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the devices of...

What is a good thesis statement for the use of symbolism and motifs in relation to the American Dream in The Great Gatsby?

I need to write an essay of how F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the devices of symbolism and motifs throughout the novel The Great Gatsby to connect symbols and motifs with the theme the American Dream.

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two symbols that Fitzgerald uses to represent the American Dream are the colors green and yellow/gold. Both symbolize different aspects of the American Dream that Fitzgerald ties to Gatsby. Green symbolizes the desire of the earliest European settlers to start anew and rebuild Eden, leaving the mess of the past behind. In the green light at the end of the dock that Gatsby stares at and longs for, green also represents his dream of starting anew with Daisy, and leaving the past five years behind.

The color yellow symbolizes the materialism and love of money that is part the American Dream. This color, and money itself, are associated with both Gatsby and Daisy. 

The novel critiques both these dreams as unsound in different ways. You could argue that it says the dream of reclaiming a perfect past is impossible and that money is destructive. To do this, go through the novel and find instances of how Fitzgerald uses these colors to illustrate his ideas about the American Dream. Is it significant, for example, that the car that kills Myrtle, Gatsby's car, is yellow? What does it mean that Nick ties together the color green in the "green breast" of the new continent and the green light at the end of the dock in the following passage:

. . . gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes a fresh, green breast of the new world.

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.

A thesis—and you would want to finesse and narrow this to suit your purposes and ideas—might say, "F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the colors green and yellow as symbols of two aspects the American Dream: green as the dream of recreating Eden and yellow as the dream of wealth, then critiques both parts of the dream."


Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald connects symbolism and motif to the idea of the American Dream by using them to demonstrate what he saw as the perversion and loss of the true American Dream. Originally the American Dream was centered on the ideological: discovery of self and opportunity; individualism instead of recognition by rigid class definition; the "pursuit of happiness" as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. Fitzgerald uses symbols and motifs to tie decadence, decay, immorality and greed to the aspirations of Americans like Daisy, Tom, Baker and Gatsby, whom Daisy's greed has corrupted to the point of pursuing criminal activity that he might attain the things that will attract her and lure her to him.

A thesis for this might be something like: "Fitzgerald uses symbols and motifs such as The Valley of Ashes and weather to show that America had materialized its original Dream of high ideals such as individualism and happiness."

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well... it does help to know what symbols and motifs you intend to write about in order to craft a thesis that will work, so I will suggest a couple of ideas and recommend you check out the study guide for some ideas.

Here is a sample

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby intentionally uses the symbols or motifs of ___________,______________ and _____________ to demonstrate man's struggle in the quest to fulfill dreams.


The Great Gatsby effectively portrays the literary technique of the symbol in many ways.

Good luck... if I knew more I could create a more accurate thesis for you.

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question