The Importance of Color in the “Great Gatsby”

In many works of literature, you can find countless numbers of symbols. In “The Great Gatsby,” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you can find symbolism in the different colors that are portrayed throughout the novel. These colors are blue, grey, yellow, white, and green. The story follows and is told by, Nick Carraway. He was once the neighbor of the lavish James Gatz, more notoriously know as Gatsby after he changed his name to Jay Gatsby. We are constantly seeing Jay Gatsby’s attempt to win back Daisy Buchanan. These attempts are all told from the perspective of Nick Carraway. We can put together many underlying themes within the colors of the story. With these colors you are able to gain insight into someone’s intentions and or feelings. The depiction of these colors is what really puts the pieces of the puzzle together.

Yellow

The color yellow is portrayed in many ways throughout the entirety of the novel. Yellow in the novel is also seen as the color gold. The color can be referred to as wealth, being in the upper class, and a majority of Gatsby’s possessions. Yellow is the color of Gatsby’s car, his prized Rolls-Royce. The color of his tie is gold, his toiletries, and even his food is sometimes gold. The era this novel is based off of was during the “Roaring 20’s.” During that time, there was an economic boom, which led to material possessions, extravagant parties, and other upper class activities, being a must have. These things were a “must have,” because during that period in time, you were considered high class and successful if you looked the part. This was a desire that many strived for, idolized, and worshipped. Since these selfish tendencies are associated with the color yellow, it can also be symbolized as greed. The color yellow is not just wealth and rays of sunshine; it is also viewed as one of the most destructive of colors. “The yellow color is the color of autumn leaves, which symbolizes decay, death and destructive power,” (Haibing). Before Gatsby was murdered by gun shot from Mr. Wilson, he vanished into the yellowing trees instead of asking his chauffer’s for help. Him disappearing into “yellowing trees,” was an indicator of the inevitable death of Jay Gatsby. Jay dies because he is the one who George thinks killed his wife. When in fact, the person who ran over Myrtle was Daisy, Gatsby’s one true love, who was driving Gatsby’s car.

In the novel, Daisy was more than just a character. She actually can be portrayed as two different colors as well as Gatsby’s kryptonite. Yellow and white are both colors that Daisy was associated with. To Gatsby, Daisy was “the Golden Girl,” most of what Gatsby does and buys is to impress Daisy. “High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl,” (Fitzgerald, 120). The reason Gatsby tries to “keep up with the Joneses,” is to impress Daisy and eventually win her back. “In Western culture, the yellow color is the color that the aristocratic class uses to decorate themselves, so it represents wealth and noble identity, (Haibing).” Daisy can be associated with the term greed, an instance of this is when she was confronted with a pile of Gatsby’s clothing. Upon seeing his clothing, she almost instantly starts to cry and put her face into them as if she was filed with shallow remorse. It was at this moment, that she realized she made a mistake by leaving Jay and should have never married Tom for his money. She would have been far better off marrying Gatsby, the man who truly loved her, but also acquired a substantial amount of money.

White

The color white is also known as “the color of Daisy.” Daisy almost embodies what he color is and it seems to almost revolve around her. Even though Daisy was selfish and greedy, she also had a purity and innocence about her. The daisy flower is also white, pure, and beautiful. Which is what the color white represents; purity, innocence, peace, and beauty. Early on in the novel, when Daisy and Jay first meet each other, she wore a pure white dress. “She was dressed in white and had a little white roadster,” (Fitzgerald, 74). When she was a teenager, she would capture the eyes of many young officers in her all white apparel. She had a house, which was all white and had white decorations on the inside. She wore only white when she was out, and she even drove an all-white car. There are two examples shown of how white Daisy’s house really is. The first time we are told about this is on page 8, “the windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside,” (Fitzgerald). The second instance is also found on page 8, “A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags,” (Fitzgerald). Even though the color white can be seen as a mark of purity and beauty, it can also be held to a maleficent view in the novel.

As stated before, the color white isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Yes, it means that Daisy is a beautiful pure woman who the story almost revolves around. It shares some of the same traits as the color yellow. These traits are symbolized as “empty, vacuity, superficiality, ruthlessness and selfish to a great extent in the novel,” (Haibing). The color white is a double edged sword, just like our lovely Daisy. She is not only pure and beautiful, but she is also in fact, carrying “a superficial, hollow, cold and selfish heart inside,” (Haibing). Daisy has accomplished everything she needed in her life, everything except for true happiness. She married into a wealthy family, she has to do almost nothing all day, and she has all the possessions she could possibly want in her fictional world. That is, she has everything except for Jay Gatsby, the man in which she truly loves. Daisy is bored almost constantly and while her husband is out and cheating on her, she is lonely. Daisy lives the same life each and every day, she even makes reference to this. “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” (Fitzgerald, 118). To be associated with the color white means that you are indeed wealthy and possess many things, but those possessions are just a compensation for how your personal character is shallow and meaningless.

Grey

There is no color that is more bleak and bland as the color grey. Nothing moves and nothing good comes from anything grey. In the novel, there is a place known as the valley of ashes, which is what Nick Carraway uses to describe Queens. Nothing good ever comes out of the valley of ashes, there is death, spouses cheating on each other, and the lifeless eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. ‘The valley of ashes ?gures most prominently when Fitzgerald uses the setting for the event that inspires the book’s climax: the death of Myrtle Wilson,” (Hauhart). The color grey is connected to death and lifelessness. The man who ended up taking away Gatsby’s life, was also described with grey or ashen accents. On page 26 in the novel, we are shown that George Wilson wears a suit covered in “ashen dust.” Towards the end of the novel we are told about how the ashen figure who killed Gatsby. This is a sad and tragic end to the dream that Gatsby once strived so heavily for.

Blu

When it comes to being lonely, sad, and shallow; there is no better way to put it other than feeling blue. Gatsby is the owner of an eloquent blue garden. This garden consists of blue leaves and his blue yard. “The blue tone of Gatsby’s garden reveals Gatsby’s loneliness and melancholy in his inner heart,” (Haibing). Blue can also be seen as fantasy, which also has a sad longing tone that tags along with it. In Gatsby’s case, that fantasy is to win back and to impress Daisy. The biggest symbol of the color blue is the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. “The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face,” (Fitzgerald, 23). The gigantic eyes with no face symbolize an emotionless god over a shrill and desolate land across from the Eggs of Long island. The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg look down over the valley of ashes. They look over a land of hopelessness and death. Even though the color blue is a sad color. It can also symbolize rebirth. When Jay dies in his pool which is the color blue, it is a sign that he now has a chance to restart and enter a new life. A chance to start over and find his new Daisy if that what his new life entails.

Green

Colors are a gateway to add layers to the story that don’t necessarily have to be described with words. “Colours communicate the moral, social and spiritual dimensions of the work as deeply as any of the other more obvious symbols in the novel,” (Rea). Green has a few meanings, the obvious one being money, while the others are life, dreams, and the color of hope. There is a symbol that shows up three times throughout the novel, this symbol is the green light. The color green, and the green light, can also be closely related to Gatsby. At the end of chapter one, Nick was with Gatsby. When Nick looked over at Gatsby, he was reaching for the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. “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.” (Fitzgerald, 21). When Gatsby reaches out towards Daisy’s dock, he is reaching for his unobtainable future with Daisy. His one hope and dream was to always be with her, which is why tried so hard to obtain prestige and wealth. He believed that Daisy broke off their engagement because she got married to Tom, who was rich. So in his mind, he had to have been too poor to win over Daisy’s affection. The Third time we hear about the green light was at the end of the novel. We hear about the green light when we hear Nick say, “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,” (Fitzgerald, 180). This is a point in time where the color green showed us a chance for a new hope and a chance to strive to achieve our goals and dreams. (Fitzgerald)

In “The Great Gatsby,” color is our gateway to new and interpretive insight into what Fitzgerald might have been thinking. Whether it might have been foreshadowing the main character’s death. Telling us more about a certain character’s personality. Even if it is something as small someone obtaining substantial wealth. We are able to give our own interpretations as to what can be drawn from character interactions and appearances. It is a beautiful way to add meaning to something that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. If you read the novel and were told to interpret those colors. What would you take from them?

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