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SYMBOLIC MEANING OF THE NOVEL / SYMBOLISM
Fitzgerald clearly intends for Gatsby's dream to be symbolic of the American Dream for wealth and youth. Gatsby genuinely believes that if a person makes enough money and amasses a great enough fortune, he can buy anything. He thinks his wealth can erase the last five years of his and Daisy's life and reunite them at the point at which he left her before he went away to the war.
In a similar fashion, all Americans have a tendency to believe that if they have enough money, they can manipulate time, staying perpetually young, and buy their happiness through materialistic spending. Throughout the novel, there are many parties, a hallmark of the rich. But each festivity ends in waste (the trash left behind by the guests) or violence (Myrtle's broken nose and subsequent accidental death.) Between the wealth of New York City and the fashionable Egg Islands lies the Valley of Ashes, the symbol of the waste and corruption that characterizes the wealthy.
When Gatsby's dream is crushed by Daisy's refusal to forget the past or deny that she has ever loved Tom, Fitzgerald is stating that the American Dream of wealth and beauty is just as fragile. History has proven that view correct. The sense of wonder of the first settlers in America quickly turned into an excessive greed for more wealth. The ostentatious, wild lifestyle of the wealthy during the 1920s was followed by the reality of the stock market crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Where there is great wealth, sadness and waste always seems to follow. The end product is always a valley of ashes.Watching over the Valley of Ashes, that lies between the wealthy of the Egg Islands and the wealthy of New York City, are the all-knowing eyes of T.J. Eckelberg, a symbol of the omniscience of God; but his image is fading, as if he is totally tired of sadly looking down at the wasteland below. He seems ashamed of mankind's extravagance that cause the ashheaps. His is a powerful image that is repeatedly referenced to hold the novel together and to emphasize Fitzgerald's key theme: wealth corrupts.