What is the most important symbol in The Great Gatsby?

One could argue that green light is the most important symbol in The Great Gatsby. It represents Gatsby's hopes and dreams, which form the basis for much of his behavior in the story. Gatsby's pursuit of these hopes and dreams constitutes one of the book's main themes.

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There are many unforgettable symbols in The Great Gatsby . Indeed, the work as a whole is highly symbolic, making it a particularly rich piece of literature that repays those who reread it several times. But on the whole, one could reasonably argue that it is the symbol of green...

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There are many unforgettable symbols in The Great Gatsby. Indeed, the work as a whole is highly symbolic, making it a particularly rich piece of literature that repays those who reread it several times. But on the whole, one could reasonably argue that it is the symbol of green light that is most important.

Readers encounter this symbol in one of the book's most poignant scenes, when Gatsby stretches out his arms towards the green light hanging at the end of Daisy's dock. From his palatial mansion in West Egg, he can see the green light from her dock across the bay. The green light thus represents Gatsby's hopes and dreams, of which being with Daisy is by far the most important. At the same time, the distance between the green light and Gatsby's outstretched arms illustrates just how far Gatsby is from turning his hopes and dreams into reality.

Through the symbol of the green light, readers see that Daisy is so near to and yet so far from Gatsby. He may be fantastically wealthy and he may possess a collection of fancy designer shirts that makes Daisy cry, but he is still a parvenu, one of the nouveau riche. And to a member of the old-money elite like Daisy, that's a big problem. That being the case, the green light and all it represents will always be tantalizingly out of reach for Gatsby.

Green is the color most often associated with money, and so, more broadly, the green light can also be seen as representative of the American Dream—which, for most people, Gatsby included, is synonymous with the pursuit of material wealth. In one sense, Gatsby has achieved this dream, rising from modest origins to acquire a massive fortune. Yet he still finds himself on the dock, gazing longingly at the green light across the bay. Thus, the green light represents the illusory nature of the American Dream, which will always leave people wanting more than what they have.

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