Chapter 5 begins with Mick's fear of a "fire". Discuss and comment on the symbolism of this section in the novel.
Nick is afraid that his house had caught fire upon returning home. However, he realizes that it is only "Gatsby's house, lit from tower to cellar". Gatsby's house is so bright that "the whole corner of the peninsula was blazing with light".
The blazing light coming from Gatsby's house symbolizes his "infinite hope" and his "romantic readiness". Gatsby is utterly devoted to the pursuit of his dream, and cannot distinguish his reveries from his reality. He continues to believe in the "green light" until the very end. Nick admires his optimism, yet, at the same time, has no desire to partake in it. On the one hand, Gatsby's fire evokes a sense of wonder and amazement within Nick, and on the other, he fears its destructive nature, and would prefer to avoid it entirely. Nick understands just how destructive Gatsby's quest for the holy grail is. He understands the danger of devoting oneself entirely to an impossible ideal, an unattainable dream. Nick may indulge in the occasional fantasy, but he, unlike Gatsby, remains grounded in reality.
Gatsby's fire was at its brightest just as he was on the cusp of realizing his dream. Even as his dream was being undone, he remained as luminous as ever under the moonlight, his resolve visibly unshaken. This would prove to be his undoing. Unable to see Daisy for what she really was, unwilling to let go of his impossible illusion, he takes the fall for her carelessness and immorality. His fire consumes him, and causes him to meet a tragic end.
Tags: Nick, Gatsby