Is weather used symbolically in "The Great Gatsby"?

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The symbol of weather is used throughout The Great Gatsby to help set both the emotional and narrative tone of the story. For example, in Chapter 5, Gatsby and Daisy's proposed meeting takes place against the backdrop of a huge downpour outside. As well as being an example of foreshadowing, the bad weather is a symbol of the state of Gatsby and Daisy's relationship at that particular moment. But the sun does eventually come out and shine on the two lovers, both literally and figuratively.

In Chapter 7, the intense, sticky heat provides the ideal counterpoint to a crucial part in the story in which everyone seems so antsy and uncomfortable. This is not surprising when one considers that Gatsby is planning on divulging his affair with Daisy to Tom. Things get even more stifling during the tense confrontation at the Plaza Hotel. Tom has figured Gatsby for a phony and openly confronts him about little details of his past that don't add up. Gatsby defends himself quite effectively, and in return tells Tom some home truths about his marriage. But Tom prevails, telling Gatsby that he knows about his bootlegging operation and all his other little criminal enterprises. A stung Gatsby forces Daisy to admit that she never loved Tom, but she can't bring herself to say it.

The weather also has a significant role to play in Jay's tragic final scene. Gatsby's death happens on the first day of Fall, when there's a noticeable chill in the air. Yet, despite the cool weather, he's decided to take a dip in his outdoor swimming pool. It would appear that he craves those bright, sunny days when it seemed that he and Daisy really had something going between them. But it was all a delusion. During his last hours on earth, Gatsby retreats into a cloudless, sun-dappled world all of his own, unwilling to accept the existence of Daisy's child, and with it a separate existence, one in which there is no place for Jay.


luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first chapter, Nick describes the leaves coming on the trees, the sun shining, and says that he had "...that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."  A little later in that chapter, when he enters the Buchanan house for the first time, he describes the soft breeze causing the curtains to gently billow like pale flags.  The conviction that Nick speaks of and the favorable weather at the beginning of the summer and the beginning of the story symbolizes the promise that lies ahead.  Just like there was so much promise in Jay's life.  Jay had the talent and the drive to become whatever he wanted to become.  Toward the end of the story, in chapter 7, the heat is intense and so is the tension between the characters in the story.  When Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Nick, and Jay are in the suite at the Plaza hotel, Fitzgerald dwells on the description of the extreme heat.  Tension among the characters rises with the heat until the explosion occurs that carries Daisy out of the hotel and Jay following her.  In the next chapter, the day after Myrtle was killed, the gardener mentions emptying the pool soon before the leaves fall and clog the drain.  This hint of autumn and dying leaves comes just before Jay is shot and killed while in his pool.  The weather follows the action in the story.  There is freshness and possibility at the beginning, then things heat up and explode, finally, there is death.

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The Great Gatsby

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