Weather Symbolism in Literature: How Weather Tells its Own Story in The Great Gatsby

Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby is a tragic love story about a rags-to-riches man pursuing the love of his life. Fitzgerald uses fantastic storytelling wrought with symbolism to convey his tale. One method of symbolism he invokes is the influence of changing weather throughout the novel.

On the Winds of Change

When the narrator of the story, Nick, first visits the Buchanan household to meet with his cousin, Daisy, the weather of the day is sunny and warm, but with gusts of wind. Nick has high hopes of a pleasant visit, and while overall the interactions are nice, Nick can see a rousing wind billowing through the Buchanan family, perhaps signaling an emotional storm ahead.

Rains of Despair

Nick becomes the neighbor of wealthy, but troubled, Jay Gatsby. Jay soon reveals to Nick that he has been in love with Daisy Buchanan for many years. Jay decides to finally approach his old flame by asking Nick to extend an invitation to his cousin at home.

Despite Jay’s ardent preparations for Daisy’s visit, from manicuring Nick’s lawn to decking Nick’s home in flowers, the day unleashes a downpour of rain. The unpleasant rain reflects the awkwardness of Jay and Daisy’s first conversation. But when Nick overhears their conversation warming, he leaves them alone and steps outside into fresh sunshine, the clouds now cleared.

However, after a time, the downpour resumes. Fitzgerald uses this expression of weather to foreshadow that Daisy and Jay’s reunion and happiness together will be short-lived.

The Heat of Passion

The building climax of the story heads straight towards the hottest day of the year. The summer day is unusually hot, and this peak of temperature symbolizes the height of love and passion Jay and Daisy are now feeling for one another.

However, the day’s heat becomes stifling. Emotions from multiple characters are brought to the surface as if gasps for air. Hot tempers ensue, and the day ends with a collision of emotions between Jay, Daisy, and her husband, Tom, followed by a deadly car crash.

The Cold Days of Autumn

The final chapters of the book take place when the weather turns chill with autumn’s swift entrance. At this point in the story, Daisy has left Jay all alone. The weather’s symbolism reflects the turn from lonely chill to deadly cold when Jay is murdered in cold blood by a man seeking revenge for the death of his wife in the recent car crash.

The Final Gloom of Rain

Despite Jay Gatsby’s raucous 1920s parties with countless wealthy acquaintances, his funeral is attended by no one but narrator Nick. The day is rainy and cold, symbolizing the tragic loneliness and despair that Jay experienced in his final days.

The Great Gatsby uses weather to set the mood of each scene and amplify the catharsis readers feel for the characters of the tale. Sunshine, breezes, heat, rain, and cold all work in tandem with the story to better capture our hearts, making us feel hope, love, nostalgia, and pity from beginning to end.