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Rhetorical Strategies Found in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

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In the story, green symbolizes certainty and hope. It correlates to Gatsby’s original dream and hope of ending up with his love, Daisy Buchanan. The green color is closely associated with the reoccuring green light. The light is first introduced when Nick sees Gatsby stretching out his trembling arms toward the dark water. He says, “Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock.” 

In reality, we find out that the green light is purposefully at the end of Daisy’s dock. When Daisy and Gatsby were younger, they both were madly in love with each other, both wanting to become engaged. However, when Gatsby goes to war, Daisy eventually breaks off their engagement and married Tom Buchanan, who is significantly more rich than him at the time. Thus, he believes that this is because he is too poor. He then becomes full of hope, as the green light shines bright. However, the light is always too far away from reach, and it symbolizes that Gatsby’s dream is doomed to fail. A big part of the green light occurs is at the end of the novel when Gatsby dies. Being the only one who believed in the light, and Tom and Daisy on the run, the light flickers out slowly, indicating the disappointment of the American Dream. Nick tells the reader that, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. And one fine morning” .

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With the disappointments of the American Dream, the green light also represents Gatsby’s hopes and struggles towards his dream. But unfortunately, because Gatsby loves the greedy and selfish Daisy, Gatsby’s American Dream about winning her back was destined to fail.

Throughout the novel, the color yellow can be seen standing out heavily, especially Gatsby’s yellow Rolls Royce. Yellow symbolizes wealth and materialism. After becoming rich through illegal means, Gatsby often shows off his belongings to Daisy, such as his yellow car, golden tie, and his golden food. Thus, the yellow objects relate to the fact that the American Dream was becoming more about material items than growing into a stable life. 

In continuation, Fitzgerald describes Daisy as a golden girl. Gatsby explains that her voice is like money, saying, “‘Her voice is full of money,’ he said suddenly. That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl. Even Gatsby comparing Daisy’s voice to money sets off a red flag, hinting that all she really wants in life is wealth, just like the new American Dream of the 1920s. Because she is selfish and avaricious, yellow begins to symbolize luxury and greed. Because of her greed, the color correlates the failure of Gatsby’s American Dream.

Gray symbolizes dissipation and corruption. For example, The Valley of Ashes, a place where most of the poor folk live, has nothing but gray skies and buildings. Nick claims that, “This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” The fact that the Valley of Ashes lacks bright colors makes people feel depressed and hopeless, while others are able to go to Gatsby’s parties and enjoy their extravagant lives.

Myrtle’s accident happens on a foggy, gray night. After her death, her husband becomes furious. Fitzgerald writes, “Wilson’s glazed eyes turned out to the ashheaps, where small grey clouds took on fantastic shape.” Unlike the happy Mr. Wilson the reader meets in the beginning of the story, the gray color indicates his now painful state of mind and his determination to kill Myrtle’s murderer. The American Dream relates to this as life was not as rich and lavish as Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby. There will still people who continued to live a poor life, with no hope that they would ever be able to have enough money to live comfortably. 

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