Tempest and Sunshine in the Great Gatsby

An expository essay about the weather motif in The Great Gatsby.

In a hot summer day, Tybalt kills Mercutio in Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet; the temperature and weather fit the setting well, with the heat as a symbol of anger and conflict between the two characters. The motif of the weather being a symbol of the story’s mood has long been used literature, and is clear in The Great Gatsby. Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby tells the story of a man that has gone from rags to riches just to win his dream girl. Throughout his journey, the weather correlates with his and the other characters’ feelings. In his novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald effectively employs weather imagery, underscoring the mood and interrelationships among the characters.

Fitzgerald first begins using weather as a motif when Nick arrives at the Buchanans’ mansion, underscoring the situation’s mood. When he arrives, the weather outside is warm, sunny, and windy. This description gives the readers the idea that Nick’s visit will be happy and friendly with happy and friendly people. However, the readers soon learn that this is not the case. As the chapter progresses, Tom says the following: “It’s up to us [Nordics] who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have the control of things” (Fitzgerald 14). From this quote, the readers clearly realize that Tom is an absolute racist and an irrational bigot full of hauteur. Believing in the Nordics’ superiority over all other races, Tom advocates Nordic domination over others. This is simply one example of the fact that things don’t go warmly inside the home.

Fitzgerald further presents Tom as a supercilious libertine when the readers learn that he commits himself to an affair and, because of the affair, is not present at the birth of his child. Because he didn’t appear when his own child is born, he makes evident his uncaring and selfish nature. The readers later learn that he easily gets irritated and Tom and Daisy’s relationship is certainly not reciprocal. Daisy is not so perfect herself, since she talks and acts lazily and cynically. As seen, the weather outside the house juxtaposes sharply with the “weather”, or mood, within the house: When is warm and sunny outside, it’s stormy inside. Fitzgerald’s juxtaposition shows the readers how superficial the Buchanans and wealthy people in general are.

The average American believes that they have a perfectly happy life. In reality, the situation cannot be further from the truth. The upper-class try to cover up their ugliness with all their money and power, as Daisy and Tom do. The weather serves as an important aspect in this scene and will be even more important later on.

Although Fitzgerald uses the weather for juxtaposition, he uses it for more than just that, as it also coincides with a present mood. Following a few chapters, when Gatsby decides to meet Daisy, he meets her amidst a rainy weather, foreshadowing an awkward or unpleasant situation. Sure enough, when Gatsby finally gets together Daisy, the incredibly awkward situation keeps all the characters almost dead silent: “For half a minute there wasn’t a sound. Then from the living room I heard a sort of chocking murmur and part of a laugh followed by Daisy’s voice on a clear artificial note” (91). This clearly demonstrates the situation’s awkwardness: none of the characters make a sound until Daisy laughs. Her laugh, which would go unnoticed in any other situation, rings clearly here. Furthermore, the author describes her laugh as being “artificial”, indicating that Daisy fakes it to relieve the present tension. This silence and unpleasantness between the characters corresponds with the rain. Like rain, their shyness ruins what could have been a pleasant reunion.

Later, Nick goes outside and leaves the two alone. The rain starts clearing and the sun starts shining by now. When Nick returns, he finds that the tension is dramatically relieved. No longer reticent, Gatsby and Daisy joyfully laugh, cry, and joke around with each, as old friends do. Here, the rain’s end symbolizes that the initially awkward and quiet moment between Daisy and Gatsby has “cleared up” and the situation has “brightened up”, like the sun’s arrival. The chapter finally ends with Nick “walking out of the rain” (102). When he walks out, he is met with rainy weather again showing that Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship may deteriorate in the future. This foreshadowing proves itself correct when readers later discover Daisy eventually deserting Gatsby and not appearing at his funeral – the funeral of a man who has dedicated his whole life to her. As seen, the weather’s significance becomes larger and larger as the story progresses, with weather becoming a major indicator of the situation’s mood.

Similar to the weather representing awkwardness and rejoicing, it can also represent anger and passion amongst the characters. As time passes a little more, Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, Nick, and Jordan go to New York on a day which is the year’s hottest day. Throughout this chapter, Fitzgerald constantly describes the weather as being excruciatingly hot. When readers look back at the story, they realize the weather gets hotter and hotter as the book progresses. The reason for the increasing is more than just marking spring’s transition to summer; the heat coincides with Gatsby and Daisy’s growing love and Gatsby and Tom’s growing tension. The gang’s excursion to New York occurring on the year’s hottest day means this is the day when Tom and Gatsby’s tension and Gatsby’s Daisy’s love come to a crisis. Daisy’s quote foreshadows this future crisis: “’But it’s so hot,’ insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears.

“And everything”s so confused’” (125). Her association of confusion with the weather implies a coming confusion, passion, emotion, and conflict. As expected, although this chapter is not the book’s climax, it is the most intense part of the book. It is in this very chapter that Tom openly scorns Gatsby about Gatsby’s reputation and his love for Daisy. It is also in this chapter that Daisy ultimately has to choose between leaving with Gatsby or staying with Tom, and she chooses the latter. Thus, it is very fitting that all this passion and conflict occur on that year’s hottest day, as the hot weather correlates perfectly with the conflict.

The last portions of the book, Gatsby’s death and the aftermath, are worth noting for its complex weather, since Fitzgerald adds both a more positive and darker meaning to it. On the day of his death, it is the first day of autumn, when the temperature starts getting chilly. This chilly weather is a perfect setting for the cold-blooded murder that’s about to occur. Thus, in this chapter, the most hateful action occurs. After Gatsby’s death, Nock holds Gatsby’s funeral on a rainy day. In the arts and literature typically portray funerals on a rainy day, and they occur on a rainy day for a reason. Even though the rain in this case does not represent awkwardness, it underscores the dejection within the funeral attendant’s hearts and the situation’s unpleasantness.

But, at the funeral, the rain represents more than just sadness. What is most significant about this rain is a quote one of the attendants or the minister at the funeral says: “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on” (183). This is clearly an allusion to either the English poet Edward Thomas or the famous 17th Century English proverb, “Blessed are the dead that the rain rains on,” or possibly both. In Edward Thomas’s case, the line “Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon” (line 7) appears in his poem “Rain”. Despite the poem’s melancholy mood, Thomas does include these lines: “And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks/ For washing me cleaner than I have been” (lines 4-5), which precedes the line first mentioned. These lines make the rain a symbol of spiritual cleansing and therefore, the dead, cleansed by the rain, are truly blessed.

The English proverb, however, means that if the rain falls on a coffin, it indicates that the deceased’s soul has arrived safely to the afterlife. In both the proverb and the poem, rain takes a positive connotation and embodies a blessing. This spiritual cleansing corresponds well with Gatsby’s numerous religious associations and Nick’s idea that Gatsby is the only moral person he meets in the East. Thus, it is perfect that someone moral and surrounded by religious imagery be spiritually cleansed before ascending to heaven. In Gatsby’s funeral, the rain serves as both a symbol of sadness and cleansing, and Fitzgerald’s ability to skillfully incorporate the weather sheds much meaning into the book.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, tells a story of love, ambition, and tragedy. His characters in the novel are as diverse as the weather employed. One minute it is raining, and the next minute, it is completely sunny. All this weather serves a purpose, whether to emphasize the tension or to show spiritual cleansing. The weather’s ultimate purpose is to underscore the situation’s mood and relationships between the characters. This is clearly present in numerous situations where the weather plays a significant role. It sheds light on the wealthy people’s corruption and Gatsby’s spirituality. In the end, Fitzgerald crafts a book that not only interests the readers, but is also full of vivid weather imagery that adds much significance to the book’s meaning.

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