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Question: Great texts use imagery to make us examine ourselves

A great text uses imagery to make us examine ourselves and the world we live in. F. Scott. Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” uses symbols and settings such as the green light, the valley of ashes, various things within the valley of ashes and East/West egg to make us examine the ideals of the American Dream. A dream meant to mean that anybody from anywhere can make it in American society.

Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” was written during the height of America’s “Roaring 20’s” and the prohibition. Morals were looser, skirts were shorter and alcohol, though illegal, was in plentiful supply. In the aftermath of WW1 and the horrors of war experienced by people of the time many had started to turn away from the Judeo-Christian values that had bound previous generations. “The Great Gatsby” follows the story of Gatsby, a “Mr. Nobody from nowhere” and his rise to wealth.

The green light makes us examine how having an unrealistic expectation of a dream is a recipe for disaster. The green light is symbolic of Gatsby’s desires to have Daisy Buchanan, a wealthy “Old Money” woman who Gatsby shared a brief summer with before being sent to war. Gatsby idolises Daisy and makes her the center of his dream. “I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light…” “…his dream seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it”. The audience knows that Gatsby’s dream is an illusion yet he believes if he tries hard enough he will be able to break into Daisy’s “Old money” upper class aristocracy. The green light highlights how everyone is a product of their past, you can’t change your past but your past can change you. Gatsby failed to see this because he “Believed in the green light”. Fitzgerald uses the green light to make us think about how we as people can become corrupted by reaching a materialistic American dream. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy and what she represents to him, (the fulfilment of his dreams) highlights how having an unrealistic expectation is a recipe for failure.

Gatsby is doomed to fail because his whole being is fake, there is no Jay Gatsby, only the broken dreams of a poor James Gatz, who has lived out his life pretending to be Gatsby since the age of 17. Gatsby will never be real and neither will his dreams. In Proverbs 18:20 it says “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say”- Gatsby fails to see this and is therefore left “Watching over nothing”. Because of Gatsby’s predisposition as a poor person starting from humble beginnings he can never be accepted by the “Old Money’’ rich such as Daisy, such a thing was unacceptable during his time. Through the use of the green light Fitzgerald challenges us to examine ourselves and the world we live in. He shows us how having an overly obsessive and materialistic dream is a plan that is doomed. Fitzgerald shows the failings of the American Dream, highlighting how even if you make money like Gatsby you can never “ make it” to the metaphorical green light unless you are already there. In other words, you have to already be rich to attain that green light.

Fitzgerald also uses the setting where the green light is situated to challenge us to examine ourselves and the world we live in. Gatsby lives in the “new money” suburb of West Egg while Daisy lives in the “old money” suburb of East Egg along the Long Island sound. Gatsby is separated from the green light and his dreams of Daisy by a body of water that separates the two suburbs. Fitzgerald uses this to show the division in the upper classes between new and old money. While the East Eggers have been born into their money and possess more “class” they lack heart or any ambition to do anything- “They were careless people Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money”. They are very much like the American dream Fitzgerald challenges us to examine and think about. “Respectable” and “admirable” on the surface but selfish and immoral in reality. They have this in common with their west egg counterparts.

West Egg is home to Gatsby and other “new money” celebrities. In short, the west eggers have very little class, “ she was appalled by west egg, this unprecedented ‘place’ ”. Gatsby hosts lavish parties where morals are forgotten and lots of illegal alcohol is drunk. Gatsby also fills his library with actual books, highlighting that he is willing to go the extra mile to present this illusion of his sophistication as a reality. In FitzGerald’s time it was common for the rich to fill their libraries with fake, cardboard books in order to present themselves as “sophisticated” and as people with “Class”. The parties at Gatsby’s can be seen as symbolic of the American Dream, appealing and attractive on the surface but rotting and materialistic in reality. Through the use of the Eggs Fitzgerald points out the hollowness of the upper class, they have money however they have nothing else, there is no substance to them. He makes us think about the people we see as the upper class today- movie stars, musicians, athletes and so on. Fitzgerald aims to teach us that such are not as they seem to be, most becoming corrupted by their wealth. It seems almost ironic that in today’s world we are able to have celebrities in huge mansions with more than enough space and homeless people who do not even have a roof over their heads.

Another important image that challenges us to examine ourselves and the world we live in is the Valley of Ashes. It is through the Valley of Ashes that we are made aware of the failings of the American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is located halfway between New York and the Eggs and is the city’s dumping ground: “The Valley of Ashes- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat.”. It is home to Gorge Wilson who owns a failed garage business and his wife Myrtle Wilson who is having an affair with the rich Tom Buchanan. Myrtle married Wilson thinking that he would become rich and successful however when she realizes this will not happen she finds comfort in Tom, believing he will whisk her away to some fantasy land. The Valley of Ashes is a place of broken dreams, in it life has no meaning and despair is the only currency. Wilson is described as “so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive” this highlights how the death and failure of his American Dream has tarnished his sprit and motivation to live. Wilson is metaphorical of how society will cast out failures, his dream is dead in the place where dreams come to die.

Within the Valley of Ashes there is also a huge billboard which belonged to Dr. TJ Eckleburg, a failed eye doctor whose “watchful eyes” loom over the Valley of Ashes. Wilson equates the eyes to the eyes of God- “God sees everything”. Through the use of the doctor and equating him to some type of God Fitzgerald aims to examine and judge America and its materialistic dream. He examines the inequity of the American Dream, highlighting how the poor like Wilson are doomed to fail because of the greed within the upper classes. Through the Valley of Ashes Fitzgerald highlights the fallout of unchecked materialism and a disposable society where without wealth people are thrown into the ash heap. Fitzgerald points out how the pursuit of wealth leads to the death of one’s spirit. This can be linked to other texts such as Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” which also deals with the corruption of the American Dream through two poor ranch workers with a dream to “Make it big”. However, like Wilson, their dreams are all in vain. Through both Steinbeck and Fitzgerald we are made aware of the failings of the American Dream and that its materialistic views will result in the death of one’s spirit.

In conclusion a great text uses imagery to make us examine ourselves and the world we live in. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott. Fitzgerald uses symbols and settings such as the green light, the valley of ashes, various things within the valley of ashes and East/West egg to make us examine the ideals of a corrupt American Dream. From the texts we learn that the American Dream has become corrupted by materialism and is an impossible dream without being born into wealth.

Kia ora

Reading through this - it is clear you have a strong understanding of this text and your evidence is clearly analysed in relation to the “examine ourselves” part of the question.

The only thing I would suggest you think about is to be cautious about your choice of, and breaking down of the statement. This would be a great response to a symbolism question - but symbols are not the same as imagery. Imagery is generally more about how specific language is used to create vivid images, whereas your discussion is more about the wider symbolism of each of these things in general. This distinction will possibly prevent you from being “insightful” in an exam, so ensure you understand the key terms in the question.

Otherwise - well done, clearly you know how to write a great essay!