What are some symbols in Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter Six of The Great Gatsby, readers learn of "James Gatz of North Dakota, and F. Scott Fitzgerald continues his use of symbolism:

  • Nick narrates that Gatsby has created "his Platonic conception of himself. He was the son of God." Gatsby has created a symbolic image of himself with a new name and persona who possesses, "a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.” That is, the "rock" of material values is connected to his dreams. For, Gatsby believes that he can achieve his ideals, "a fairy's wing," through material possessions.
  • At college in southern Minnesota, Gatsby is upset that this environment is indifferent to "the drums of his destiny." In other words, Gatsby feels that he has a future of success waiting for him.
  • As Gatsby introduces his guests, he refers to Tom as "the polo player," symbolic of the arrogant rich man, who considers himself very athletic.
  • At the party East Egg, symbolic of the upper class, collides with West Egg, symbolic of the nouveau riche, as Tom is very snobbish and critical of the guests. Daisy, "appalled by West Egg," sarcastically refers to one man as having a "blue nose."
  • The sad waltz "Three O'Clock in the Morning" presages the fate of Gatsby as Nick narrates that

...one moment of magical encounter, would blot out those five years of unwavering devotion.

  • After the party, Gatsby is disconsolate, feeling that Daisy did not enjoy the party. He walks down "a desolate path of fruit rinds and...crushed flowers." The ruined fruit and flowers represent Gatsby's illusion of Daisy's leaving her husband and repeating the past with him.
  • Nick narrates another flashback in which young Gatsby walks Daisy under the moonlight. When they stop and face one another,

Gatsby saw that the block of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place about the trees--he could climb to it...and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.

The ladder is the upward mobility America affords and the "milk of wonder" represents the American Dream of attaining that for which one "climbs."
  • Color symbolism appears again in this chapter. For instance, there is the portrait of Dan Cody, "a grey, florid man." Grey symbolizes decadence and is used in reference to Daisy's fur collar. In another instance, Daisy uses a "gold pencil" to write down addresses that is symbolic of her wealth and adherence of what it provides her. The "ghostly celebrity of the movies" is a "gorgeous ,scarcely human orchid of a woman." An orchid is a very delicate flower that symbolizes luxury and a certain ephemeral quality. And, she sits under a "white plum tree" with white continuing the ghost symbolism.
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