The overall expositional context of the Great Gatsby concerns a societal conflict between new wealth and the established hierarchy of wealth. However, from the standpoint of the protagonist’s perspective, there is a theme more central than the societal context of the story. This story is a love story about a self-made man who earned his wealth as means to the end of getting the girl. This is the most enduring and universal story in the book. Like a good storyteller, F. Scot Fitzgerald uses symbolism, metaphor, imagery and diction to convey this central message. As this theme is a timeless one, it is one that makes the story still relevant to the modern reader and will cause it to endure with changing times.
Daisy is the object of Jay Gatsby’s affection. He met her during the war. He is from the Midwest and not of the same social strata as her. He thought that she would wait for him, but she was married off. Knowing that the only way to be a suitable match for her is to rise to the level of wealth of her family, Gatsby made a fortune in the bootlegging business. One of the central symbols within the store is the green light on Daisy’s dock of her husband’s estate. This symbolizes both her, and how she is out of Gatsby’s reach. Through the narrator’s diction, we learn about this love story from Nick Carraway. He ponders, “I wonder where in the devil he met Daisy. By God, I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me. They meet all kinds of crazy fish. (Fitzgerald, 104).
There is much exposition regarding Daisy, and all of Gatsby’s yearnings, hopes and desires he places in the green light, which is a symbol for him and the readers not just of his love for Daisy, but his hope for it. Since hope is not something tangible, the green light becomes the embodiment of Gatsby’s hope. Gatsby tells Daisy, “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see you home across the bay You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (Fitzgerald, 92). Fitzgerald, in his five, mentions of the green light in the novel, always attach strong imagery around it to help establish the importance of the green light for the reader. I the preceding paragraph he uses the imagery of “mist’ on the bay burning through the night. A few pages later, the image of the light as a star near the moon is used. “It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock” (Fitzgerald, 94). At the end of the novel, the green light is related by association to the “vast obscurity beyond the city” and “dark fields” near a “blue lawn” (Fitzgerald, 180).
All of these elements work with the central theme to make this story one that is still studied and discussed to this day. The mere fact that it is being written about in 2014 demonstrates its relevance for modern readers. While it offers a lot about the period of the 1920s, its most persisting element of a story is the story of impossible love between Gatsby and Daisy.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1991