Summary: Sensational Color Symbolism Throughout The Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is considered as Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and of the finest American novels in the 20th century with its mood and characteristics of the Jazz Age. The novel is inspired by Fitzgerald’s personal life and experience. The main theme of the novel is the American Dream, and it also portrays the mood and the moral state and situation of the 20th century. As one of the greatest writers in American literature, Fitzgerald used sensational color symbolism throughout the whole novel for many reasons; to develop the plot, shape the personality of the characters, deepen the theme vividly and demonstrate man’s struggle in the quest to fulfil dreams. The colors green, white and yellow describe different characters which all relate to the same theme which is the American Dream.

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Green is the color of spring which symbolizes confidence, hope and vibrancy. The green color runs throughout the whole novel and it is embodies Gatsby’s short life. The color green symbolizes Gatsby’s dream and hope, his ceaseless pursuit of his ambitions. Yet these dreams ironically lead to his downfall. Moreover, the color green can also be seen as the color of envy and greed. Gatsby can be perceived as a covetous, jealous character. He once owned his love of his life, daisy, but now she is married to another man. This is why he spends all of his time, life and effort into getting back with Daisy and to recreate his old life with her. He also desires many of the wealthy people around his home and this is why he throws these huge parties and extravagant get-togethers so he can relate with the prosperous “old money” people. Not only that but to attract Daisy and he hopes that she would someday end up at one of his parties to see how wealthy he has become. This leads the reader to assume that Gatsby is indeed “green with envy”. Furthermore, the green color is not only associated with Gatsby but to the whole theme of the novel. The green color burning all night is seen three times and each time it represents something else which relates to the theme of the novel. The first time the green light occurs is at the end of chapter 1 when Nick first sees Gatsby stretching out his arms toward the dark water and trembling. “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” . The green light was found to be light from Daisy’s dock. In Gatsby’s eye, the green light represents Daisy, who is his hope, dream lifelong pursuit. Furthermore, Gatsby thinks that the reason behind Daisy breaking their engagement is that he is now on the same social class as her. He believes that he can win Daisy’s heart back only if he earns money and become a successful wealthy man and this is why he dedicates all his effort just to earn money and Daisy back. Though the green light is far away, he believes that only if he tries his best to pursue it, he can reach it, touch it and own it again. But on the other hand, as the light is always distant, it symbolizes that Gatsby’s dream is doomed to fail. During the fifth chapter, where the green color is mentioned again, Gatsby has successfully shown his fortune to Daisy and she begins to cry heavily when she sees and faces Gatsby’s incredible wealth and the stage he reached. Gatsby informs Daisy that “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock”. It seems that Gatsby began realizing his dreams but he becomes lost between the deep difference in the real Daisy he is witnessing and the imaginary Daisy he dreamt about all these years. As Heraclitus once said “It is not possible to step twice into the same river.” 

Gatsby wasn’t aware that the imaginary Daisy has changed and that he can’t recreate the past. Moreover, Gatsby is oblivious that he can’t step again in the same spot without destroying other things because there is a consequence to every action. At the end, the reader notices how in reality Gatsby actually didn’t truly love daisy. He was in love with the idea of daisy and she was just another feather that completed his dreams and ambitions. The green light seems to have lost its original significance and the fascinating charm and perfection, which symbolized the huge difference between dreams and reality. This indicates that the American Dream is beautiful in our imagination but is an illusion in reality. The third time the reader notices a clear symbolism of the color green is at the end of the novel. With the death of Gatsby, people who hold faith and hope in the light do not exist anymore. This signifies the disillusionment of the American Dream. “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 our arms farther. And one fine morning”. Besides the disillusionment of dream, the green light also represents new hope and the ceaseless struggle towards people’s dreams. But no matter how much a person strives to reach his goal, which is represented by the green light, he will never reach it because there is always something that does not allow us to move on in life and to proceed. In addition to that, the green light which also represents the American Dream is given by people of higher social class for the working class just to work and this is also another reason why people do not reach their target and aim in life. Gatsby’s love to Daisy and his desire to recreate the past was the reason that did not allow him to pursue his dreams. The green light and the American Dream are both allusions and people will always attempt to reach the green light, hoping to better their lives yet they will never because there is a water current holding them back from their past.

White usually represents pure and innocent beauty. In the novel, it symbolizes nobleness and purity. It is Daisy’s color in the novel because the color white was associated with her and Fitzgerald described her using gullible and sparkling adjectives (her “white neck). She also wears a white dress when she meets Gatsby for the first time as well as when Nick visits her house in East Egg and the reason behind that is to show that she is innocent and she is playing the role of a naïve woman. But in fact she knows everything that is happening around her yet she prefers to put on a fake smile and a white dress rather than losing her life. Moreover, her house if full of the color white, for example “The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside” . Even her name ‘Daisy’ is also a kind of white flower thus it may easily manipulate people into thinking that she is pure, flawless, innocent and noble when people meet her the first time. That is why Gatsby is infatuated with her throughout his life and regards her as a pure genuine beauty and as his American Dream. Throughout the novel we find out that Daisy owns a superficial, hollow, cold and selfish heart and one of the quotes she said which prove this point is “I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool”. This quote permits the reader to see how shallow Daisy is and how she leans towards ignoring her problems instead of solving them and acts unwary of what is happening around her and to allow people move her around like a puppet. “Because to take away a man’s freedom of choice, even his freedom to make the wrong choice, is to manipulate him as though he were a puppet and not a person.” ― Madeline L’Engle.This quote relates to Daisy’s life because her freedom is taken away since she always other to manipulate and control her life. Daisy is lonely and her life is full of nothing except luxury, for example, she once cried, “what’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years”. On top of that, Daisy shows no grief for Gatsby’s death even though he sacrificed all his life just to obtain wealth to impress Daisy and to win her back. Instead she leaves Gatsby and travels with her husband Tom and this reveals her selfish and indifferent personality. Therefore she profiles the spirit and the mood of the 1920’s and the hypocritical and moral standards of the bourgeois. White implies that although the upper class is rich in their material life, they are quite poor in their morality and they lack virtue, integrity, righteousness, and honor. Moreover, they are irresponsible and insensitive towards other members of their society, to their life. Whereas Gatsby sees Daisy as his green light, so it reveals that his dream is worthless and unreal, which also implies that the American Dream is corrupted by wealth, materialism, and the desire to recreate the past.

The color yellow was a prominent color in Gatsby’s life throughout the novel. Using this color, Fitzgerald implies what kind of outer appearance Gatsby aims to manifest before others. Yellow is the color of fake gold in other words it represents “new money” whereas gold represents “old money”. Throughout the novel, the reader deciphers hat the town was split in two halves, old money and new money. Old money represents first generation wealth whereas old money has been passed town for a couple of generations. In the Western society, the color yellow is used by the refined class in other words “the old money” people to decorate themselves and their homes it portrays nobility and riches. So in order for Gatsby to win Daisy’s heart back and to show her that he grew into a man of means, he wears a white suit with a gold tie and a silver shirt which represents how he wants to impress her with his “wealth” yet he will never be more than fake gold. Moreover, Gatsby surrounds himself in a fake golden world. For example, his golden tie, his yellow car, the yellow cocktail music in his extravagant parties. All of that just to show off his fortune to Daisy and that was the reason behind why he built his mansion on the other side because he is “new money” and he could not build his house on West Egg he did on Eat Egg to stay near Daisy. In addition to that, Dr. T. J. Eckleburg’s glasses, looking over the wasteland of America, are yellow. The eyes symbolize the eyes of God and how he is always watching over men and judging American society as a moral wasteland. And no matter what a human can’t change their past. All of these aspects are just to prove that yellow is the color of greed and desire for more materialistic things. On top of that, Fitzgerald describes Daisy as the “golden girl” which say a lot about her personality. She cries when she sees all the money Gatsby owns. All of her actions show that she is not in love with Gatsby, instead she is greedy for money and a luxurious extravagant life. Gatsby’s dreams are just fake as Daisy because he sees her as this perfect woman with her seducing voice, her innocent white dresses and her naïve acts but is fact she is just an interpretation of the American Dream which is corrupted by greed and the hunger for social class. The yellow color also symbolizes death because the yellow car not only was the reason for Mrs. Wilson’s death but also the downfall of Gatsby in an indirect way. So this color demonstrates the flaws that the main characters portrays throughout the novel. Yellow that Gatsby was described with all throughout the novel not only gave him confidence and hope, but also destroyed his dreams and life because it represents the failure of the American Dream.

Fitzgerald uses colors as hints towards the mystery and the deep theme within the overlying words of The Great Gatsby. Not only do these colors make the novel worth reading but they allow the reader to understand the opinion and imagination of Fitzgerald towards every character which are based on his life. Moreover, every color has a hidden meaning behind it which relates to the theme of the novel which is the American Dream and how each color describes every character and how all these where the reason of the corruption of the American Dream. The whole theme and the moral of the story which is about the American Dream is derived by the different colors green, white and yellow.






  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2013.

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