The Symbolism of Time in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The outline attached is only a suggested outline if it serves you helpful, and I also attached the novel to help you find quotes otherwise 2-3 quotes related to the topic of time are sufficient.
-3 pages for Gatsby essay
-Times New Roman, 12 point, double spaced font
-Textual evidence that spans the novel
-Focused specific thesis that directly addresses and answers your chosen prompt
1. Select a topic and develop a guiding question and argument related to that question.
2. Analyze the way time constructs the novel and the situation the characters are in, such as through the symbols of seasons and the clock.
How are the symbols treated by the text, and how do the symbols connect to some larger message that Fitzgerald conveys in the novel?
*Not part of the instructions (Only if helpful)
Since there’s only an hour, here’s some helpful insight to get some ideas about the theme and prompt I’m trying to convey:
The story begins in late spring/early summer. The season is typically symbolic of renewal or newness as trees, flowers, and the earth seems to come to life. This season is reflective of the hope Gatsby has for the future in his attempt to find and develop a relationship with Daisy. Summer is when the earth is in full bloom and the growth on earth comes to fruition and reaches its peak. This coincides with the relationship and the seeming fulfillment of Gatsby’s dream to be reunited with Daisy. Finally, the summer ends, and, as we know, in the fall plants and leaves begin to die and life seems to come to an end. This season reflects the end of Gatsby’s relationship and hope for a future with Daisy, and this also reflects his ultimate demise.
Additionally, Fitzgerald’s narrator, Nick Carraway, mentions that this story takes place during one summer. Again, the reference to summer relates to the characters’ age as they are young adults getting started in their lives and careers and they are in the prime or summer of their lives. Other references to time continue in the book when Gatsby made his fortune to buy his house and collect his material possessions in just five years. Five years was how long between when Gatsby and Daisy first met to when they reconnect during the summer of this story.
Similarly, Gatsby is so nervous when he meets Daisy at Nick’s house that he leans on the mantle and knocks over the mantle clock, yet he catches the clock. This symbolizes how Gatsby is fumbling with time and trying to cheat the clock by turning back time and pretending that he and Daisy can reconnect like nothing changed in the five years, when big changes have occurred. Daisy has married Tom Buchanan and she now has a young daughter. Gatsby catches the clock, again symbolic of how he is trying to go back and save things and keep things from being ruined.
In the same way, Gatsby realizes near the end of summer that he has not used the swimming pool all season and he asks the pool man to delay draining the pool. The pool symbolizes the time in his life, summer, and how he has nearly missed the entire season due to distraction. Gatsby’s distractions have been his job to make the money necessary to secure Daisy. If Gatsby has nearly forgotten to enjoy the pool then this symbolizes that Gatsby has forgotten to enjoy his young adulthood.
To demonstrate how Daisy references time, she tells Gatsby that she could not wait for him and she just couldn’t wait since it took him so long to return from the war. Daisy’s reference to time is that she was impatient and wanted everything instantly and was not willing to be patient, despite the fact that she said she would wait for him to return.
The clock can be viewed as a crutch symbol. We all know that Gatsby wanted to go make something of himself and acquire mass wealth before presenting himself to Daisy as a suitor. After making his money Gatsby contacts Nick, Daisy’s cousin, and executes a time-consuming plan to get to know his neighbor so he can make preparations for a private party to serve as an occasion for being reunited with Daisy. Fitzgerald describes Gatsby waiting rather impatiently with “his head leaned back so far that it rested against the face of a defunct mantelpiece clock” (pg. 87). The act of leaning against a clock can symbolize that Gatsby is using time as a crutch to support his hopes of winning Daisy after having lost her.
The clock symbol and Gatsby’s act of knocking the broken timepiece over could also suggest Gatsby’s infatuation with money prevents him from paying attention to time. Money doesn’t matter, but failing to make a human connection through time was what really lost Daisy to another man. “The Washington Post” makes an interesting observation that, “Tom and Daisy smashed up things and creatures […] and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together”. The author suggests that Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with those who have money is complicated. (see reference 2). But time seems suspended as a complicator and fits well within the symbol of “time is money”.
The clock may also symbolize Gatsby’s inability to let Daisy go. Gatsby had spent all previous time amassing wealth to win Daisy over. That the clock is broken symbolizes his efforts to win her were broken and a complete waste of time. After catching the clock to keep it from breaking Gatsby apologizes profusely to Nick, who assures him it doesn’t matter because the clock is already broken. However, Gatsby carefully places it back in its place like a precious object. Some view this as a symbol of Gatsby’s refusal to let time go. (see reference 3)