It took me years to earn the money that bought it.” (Fitzgerald 87) Gatsby wants to show her so many things, that he does not know where to start and he becomes ridiculous. He starts showing her his shirts. This would seem quite pathetic to an ordinary man, but the shirts have more meaning than one would think. Each one is different, “sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel…shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green…” (Fitzgerald 89) and each one represents all the different things that Gatsby is prepared to offer Daisy in order for her to come back. Daisy starts crying and to Gatsby it might seem like she is convinced of his upper-class status, but not to the realist readers. Daisy was not crying because of the sight of all the beautiful shirts. She was crying, for she knew that even though he had tried so hard, she could never take him back. To her, those weren’t real shirts and that wasn’t the real Gatsby. They were all bought, found or gathered from somewhere or another, including him. His character had no value, just like the shirts, even though expensive, had no real value. They were all just for show. The shirts didn’t have character, as the one who wore them had no character. They were all a bunch of authentic lies.
In many different ways, Gatsby tries to be someone else, someone that he can’t even recognize. The house is part of his whole unrealistic, self-created image, as even Daisy points out by saying that, “I don’t see how you live there all alone.” (Fitzgerald 87) Gatsby might seem rich and aristocratic on the outside, but he is as empty of value and character inside, as the books he keeps in his library, books he never opened, books that are just for show, “absolutely real – have pages and everything…what realism…knew when to stop too – didn’t cut the pages. But what do you expect?” (Fitzgerald 47) Yes, the question is “What do you expect?” indeed. How can one expect a person that has no past and no real history to have a character? Where would it have developed? When and how? A person that comes from nothing has nothing as his character. All his riches and luxuries are not what they seem. They are not a sign that he is better off now. On the contrary, they symbolize shallowness that Gatsby is falling pray to. They represent the things that are pulling him down in his struggle to reach “up.”
From the extreme of glitter and gold, to the one of grayness, ashes and dirt, with Gatsby in between, the story marches on. The novel describes the society at the top of the social scale, through the middle, into the struggling classes, to beyond the scale, off the face of the earth, engulfed in the power of the rich, “ash gray men.” Myrtle and Wilson are symbols of the men and women of that particular class of society. They live far from the “Vie en Rose,” where everything is bright, sunny and happy, into the forgotten “Valley of Ashes.” A “desolate area of land” represents their whole life, with its customs, daily chores and mundane activities”(Fitzgerald 26). Everything from men, cars, and buildings to life, is portrayed as gray. Usually gray is a neutral colour between white and black, but in this case gray represents depression, misery and desperation that grows “like wheat” with ever day that passes, with every hour on the watch, with every blink of a gray tired eye. In this case the “Valley of Ashes” represents the hungry starving, the needy lusting and the dead dieing. It is the worse it could get, the lowest a person can go, the unhappiest and most ungraceful side of life. Furthermore, the ones who have it all, the ones who don’t even know the other side exists – the rich, constantly oppress these poor ashes of a human being.
One again, as it was present in the first category of people described, the car is also a symbol of the poor. While for Tom Buchanan, it wasn’t anything but another object to taunt the less fortunate with, the car represents a whole lifetime of work and struggles for George Wilson. He understands that the rich use the poor to their advantage, but he is naïve enough to believe that Tom Buchanan is different and is going to sell him the car promised at some point in time. After a long period of waiting, he finally raises the courage to ask Tom, “When are you going to sell me that car?” (Fitzgerald 28) Tom does not realize that Wilson’s entire life depends on that car.