What does Daisy Symbolize in ‘The Great Gatsby’: Unraveling the Enigma

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Updated: Sep 02, 2023
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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Langston Hughes’ “Harlem (Dream Deferred)” both incorporate imagery, figurative language, and symbolism to shed light on the 1920s idea of the American Dream. The American Dream was an idea introduced by F. Scott Fitzgerald as a time of economic prosperity and big dreams. These two pieces of literature collaborate together to show how dreams can either thrive or die.

Imagery: Painting Vivid Pictures

Both pieces of literature use imagery in their writing to give detailed and sensory images to the reader.

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A quote from The Great Gatsby states, “I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye.” This gives insight to the reader that New York City is like the American Dream; it is fast-paced and adventurous. In the 1920s, many new people came to America to achieve their dreams, and “machines” refers to how many new cars were being bought around this time. Another quote from this novel states, “Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly, it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy, it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now, it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” This quote explains that when Jay and Daisy touch, the dream kind of fades away, just like their love.

In Harlem (Dream Deferred), this collaborates with the other piece by explaining what could happen when a dream dies. “Or fester like a sore—And then run?” This quote gives a more gruesome description of a dream dying as it “festers.” Another quote says, “Or crust and sugar over.” This is lighter than the other quote. Both use clear imagery to make their point understandable to the reader. Imagery can give insight into the American Dream to show that when you finally achieve it, it could perhaps lose its value.

Figurative Language: Expressing Themes and Mysteries

Each piece uses figurative language to build a theme and add mystery to the story. In Harlem (Dream Deferred), Hughes uses similes such as “like” and “as” as a way of comparing two things like “dried raisin in the sun” and “sags,” in which way a person might feel if their dream died. In the last sentence of this poem, it states, “Or does it explode?” This refers to an explosion into a million pieces; when your dream dies, you can get so angry that you just lose it.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s piece, he writes, ‘Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch, she blossomed for him like a flower, and the incarnation was complete.’ This shows language by using “like,” and also this can show how when they both kiss, it’s such an incredible feeling; this can be compared to the American Dream when you finally achieve it. Also, towards the end of the novel, the feelings change, as it states, ‘It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people- with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.’ This could be describing how one person may be “selfish” in obtaining the American Dream, as a person may just use everyone to get what they want. The idea of the American Dream was a goal of almost everyone in this time period; you could feel happy and elated, but it all depends on how you achieve it.

Symbolism: Conveying Deeper Meanings

Both pieces use symbolism to create an understanding of each of the stories and create more meaning behind one thing. In The Great Gatsby, the novel states, “If it wasn’t for the mist, we could see your house across the bay.” Said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” The green light can perhaps be a signal for the dreams of Jay Gatsby, as he looks at it every night and thinks of Daisy. Another symbol is Daisy, as she is the American Dream for Jay Gatsby. He has always dreamed for her, but when they finally get together, she chooses Tom over Jay, in which his dream is crushed, which compares to Harlem (Dream Deferred). “Or does it explode” and “Sags like a heavy load” both relate to Jay Gatsby’s sadness towards his dream being crushed. Also, in the 1920s, many people did not achieve the American Dream; many immigrants never made it to America to achieve their dreams. Also, the dreams being crushed could also defer to the Great Depression in less than a year. Everyone’s dreams and hopes were crushed by the stock market crashes.


These two novels have way more comparisons than contrasts, hinting at the American Dream by using imagery, figurative language, and symbolism. This creates a special reading experience for the reader by having a deeper meaning in both the novel and the poem.


  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.
  2. Hughes, Langston. “Harlem (Dream Deferred).”
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What Does Daisy Symbolize in 'The Great Gatsby': Unraveling the Enigma. (2023, Sep 02). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/what-does-daisy-symbolize-in-the-great-gatsby-unraveling-the-enigma/