The perception of light and dark sides is subjective and relative. Commonly, light is associated with the some good, positive and pleasant events, while the darkness represents some negative, evil or bad experience. As for the novel The Great Gatsby, there can be noticed both light and dark motives. The novel contains both positive and negative events, good and evil characters, happy and sad situations as well as pleasant and disappointing emotions and feelings. The author provides a complicated picture of the American society after the World War I, dwelling on its strong and weak sides, virtues and drawbacks. From this standpoint, Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby combines the light and dark aspects as it provides a many-sided picture of the social life with all its positive and negative sides.
Displays of Light in the Novel
There is no doubt that the novel comprises of many light motives and elements. The light can be found in the individual characters, certain events, surroundings and ideas. To start with, the greatest light in the novel is related to the description and praise of the feeling of endless love and patience. Gatsby himself represents this idea and shows genuine feelings and true love. Throughout the novel, the author emphasizes the importance of the true feelings and their significance for every human being. He shows that richness and great possessions cannot substitute the need for love, family warmth and happiness (Wei 25).
The entire wealth of Gatsby did not bring him any moral satisfaction or happiness, as it did not give him the lost hopes and love. The author said that “he had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths — so that he could “come over” some afternoon to a stranger’s garden” (Fitzgerald 61). Gatsby’s patience, endurance and persistence are the aspects that bring light and prove the victory of the good. G. Fitzgerald calls his character great due to his unique ability to demonstrate patience and never-ending feelings. From this point of view, the praise of human feelings and emotions is the lightest aspect of the novel.
The light is also revealed in the recollections and flashbacks from the past. The old dreams, hopes and expectations revealed by Gatsby are filled with warmth, tenderness, sympathy and compassion. They evoke the feelings of devotion, empathy and happiness. When Gatsby recollects his past, he draws the pictures of spring, blossom, warmth and youth. All the dreams bear the light character and refer to the spiritual beauty and morality. Gatsby remembers, when he saw Daisy “one spring in Cannes, and later in Deauville”, connecting her image with the revival of the nature and sun (Fitzgerald 60). Thus, the memories from the past also contain elements of the light and optimism.
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Moreover, the light in the novel obtains a symbolic meaning and sense. For example, it represents the new hope and expectations. Gatsby recollects the times when he “distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far way, that might have been the end of a dock” (Fitzgerald 19). The green light or color on the dock of Daisy’s dress symbolizes the revival, beginning of a new life and new perspectives (Wang 264). Interestingly, the light exists only in a tiny stripe on the dress, symbolizing its fragile character and nature. Still, the very fact of its presence provides a new hope for the better future recapturing the past dreams and plans.
It is impossible to neglect the image of the light in the luxury and wealth of the elite class. The evening parties at Gatsby’s house were filled with the gleaming lamps, fireworks, candles, bright colors and splendid dresses. His house was sparkling, glittering and shining as well. However, the light of the wealth is rather relative and controversial. Despite the opulence of the balls and parties, they were dark and negative. The loud evenings do not represent any moral value or virtues, as they symbolize the doubtful wealth and image of the upper classes of society. In this way, the author wants to draw the readers’ attention to the issue of external and inner light as well as the difference between the fashionable glamor and genuine happiness.
Finally, the light in the novel is found in the romantic atmosphere, which is contrasted to the loud and noisy parties and crowds. At one moment Gatsby recollected how “the quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars” (Fitzgerald 85). This moment clearly distinguishes between the noise of the crowded balls and the desirable silence of the intimate and romantic atmosphere. Moreover, the quiet lights of the night evoke the memories about the first kiss of Gatsby and Daisy. Thus, their meaning is symbolic, notable for the characters and full of romance and love.
Role of Dark in The Great Gatsby
Though it is possible to define many positive and light moments in the novel, the dark motives are also present and noticeable. Probably, the most vivid manifestation of darkness can be found in the description of the contemporary society, its interests and values (Bloom 39). Particularly, the author focuses on the life of the wealthy citizens, both aristocrats and rich people that obtained money and property after the World War I. Obviously, there are huge differences between those two classes of society, though their interests, attitudes and preferences are much the same. The author describes striving to luxurious and splendid lives, full of bright parties and rich entertainment (Bloom 42). The narrator describes them as “riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart”, pointing to their immoral and meaningless nature (Fitzgerald 5). Thus, the useless aspirations and preferences of the contemporary society represent the dark side of the novel.
Moreover, the dark side can be observed in the specific accidents and actions, described in the novel. On the one hand, it refers to the heartlessness of some characters that escape from the responsibility and law. For example, Jordan seems to be quite indifferent and apathetic to other people and their troubles. The narrator describes her as “incurably dishonest…and unable to endure being at a disadvantage … in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body” (Fitzgerald 46). Jordan had many good qualities, though her arrogance and lack of sympathy makes her a rather dark character.
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The same is true in relation to Daisy. Gatsby never says anything bad about her, surrounding her with love and admiration. However, the readers can notice that Daisy is far from being an ideal and virtuous woman. She became the victim of the new tendencies and interests and wanted to resemble other representatives of her social class (Ke 88). She tends to avoid any life obstacles and protect herself from any troubles and worries. Such a behavior together with the impossibility to make right decisions makes Daisy a dark character whose potential is not revealed in a positive light.
Darkness in the novel is also related to the interests of the elite society. The conversations of the rich people are based solely on material wealth and finances. For example, the women tend to discuss fashion and new cloths and gossip about each other. The author clearly shows that “all they think of is money”, pointing to lack of moral virtues and proper education as well (Fitzgerald 26). The men also have negative features, such as greed, betrayal and bribery. Generally, the whole society lives in the conditions of dishonesty, injustice and corruption. Many symbols, such as valley of ashes or Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s faded eyes witness the moral and social decline experienced by that generation. Perhaps, it was the influence of the recent war and economic recession, or it could indicate the fall of the individual morality and focus on the financial values.
Overall, the dark motives in The Great Gatsby are related to the image of the society and condemn of the individual traits of character and personality. Still, this novel does not praise any dark or negative features and continues to praise the importance of morality and true feelings (Shen 1728).
To sum up, the novel The Great Gatsby combines various images from the social life of the post-war America. It provides a distinct and vivid description of the society of those times together with all of its strong and weak sides. Largely, the novel shows a big contrast between the loud parties and silent solitude, spiritual decline and genuine feelings, luxury lives and poor morality, visible opulence and hidden suffering. The novel has many light and dark motives, which are mutually combined and interdependent.
Nevertheless, despite all the negative events and features described in the novel, The Great Gatsby can be regarded as a light literary work. It confesses the idea of the true feelings and is focused on the prominence of inner happiness and harmony. It shows a brilliant example of the eternal feelings and importance of the past dreams and expectations. The novel provides many positive lessons and examples to consider and follow. From this point of view, the light in The Great Gatsby prevails over the dark and indicates the significance of the moral virtues.