In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses colors to symbolize his characters attitudes and feelings. Color symbolism became popular in novels written during the 1920’s. There is much color symbolism in the novel The Great Gatsby, but theyre main colors that stand out more than the others. The colors green and white influence the story greatly. Green shows many thoughts, ideas, attitudes, and choices that Gatsby has throughout the story. White represents the stereotypical mask that every character hides behind. Jay Gatsby, Daisy, and Jordan Baker are three characters that have color symbolism. These colors, cited throughout the novel, help to understanding the characters and their emotions.
The color green in The Great Gatsby symbolizes different choices the character, Jay Gatsby, can make during his life. The green element in this novel comes from the green light at the end of the dock near Daisy’s house. The color itself represents peace, as in everything seems perfect. This warns Gatsby that he should not pursue his dream for getting Daisy back, because his chance has passed. This example arises with Nick when he says,
“His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him…(Fitzgerald 189). This quotation clarifies in the view of Nick that Gatsby does not have a good chance of getting Daisy back. Another symbolic example of the color green, however it contradicts the previous one, is the meaning “go.” In a traffic light signal most people associate green with the word and action “go.” This can be interpreted as meaning Gatsby should go for his dream without hesitation. It implies that Gatsby and Daisy mean togetherness and nothing should stop Gatsby from his destined happiness and love with Daisy. It inspires hope for Gatsby that he remains on the right path, heading towards the best years of his life. He believes that things will soon be as they once were, only better. Gatsby, heading on the right path and says, “I’m going to fix everything just the way they were before(Fitzgerald 117).
The last symbolic example of the color green in this novel is an urge to strive ahead in life, or to do better in life and succeed. Gatsby changes his entire personality for a better, more sociable, image and status. He constantly strives to achieve a more successful figure in society. Ever since his childhood he put himself on a schedule with hopes for becoming a highly
(2) respected, well known person. His dad points this out when he says, “He knew he had a big future in front of him(Fitzgerald 181), and again saying, “Jimmy was bound to get ahead(Fitzgerald 182). The color green is magical to Gatsby, it will always be associated with his success and fortune(money).
White is the other symbolic color involved in The Great Gatsby. Where green only influenced one character, white has a wider range of influence on the characters. This color symbolizes one thing, but it appears in every character. For example, Daisy wearing white gives her an innocent naive appearance. She almost uses that as an excuse for when she does something ridiculous or childish, making it seem like she does not know any better. In reality, she knows exactly what she does but just doesn’t care. She uses this little princess image and her money to hide her narrow-minded, snobbish, and conceited view of herself and her lifestyle. When Nick watches Daisys snobbish attitudes toward everything he says:
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they
smashed up things and creatures and then
retreated back into their money or their vast
carelessness or whatever it was that kept them
Another character that hides behind the symbolic color white is Jordan Baker. She also wears white quite often. She acts as though she stands superior to everyone around her. Her attitude and even the things she says imply this arrogance. One example of Jordan Bakers arrogance occurs when Nick says:
She was extended full length at her end of the divan,
completely motionless and with her chin raised a little
as if she were balancing something on it which was quite
likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her
eyes she gave no hint of it-indeed I was almost surprised
into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by
coming in.(Fitzgerald 13)
She portrays a bored and apathetic attitude about everything, which shows part of her “I am too good for you” appearance. In reality, she just wants respect and seen as socially accepted as Gatsby. She is not willing to take responsibility for her actions and uses her image as a guard implying that she could not have possibly done anything immoral, much like Daisy.
Color symbolism, however not very noticeable, can tell a great deal about a story or a character. The colors give the reader a look at the character’s choices and paths, which adds depth to the story. The green
symbolizes the different choices Gatsby can make, whether it serves as a warning, an inspiration, or an urge to get ahead. The white symbolizes a mask or a type of disguise. It allows the characters to portray themselves as a whole other person and hide who they really are. This puts a piece of reality into the story, as everyone wears a white mask of some kind to hide his or her true self from the world. It is the plain clues given to the reader that fascinate and allow a person to relate to the characters.