The colors gold and yellow stress a great importance of representation in fortune in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. Throughout this novel, Fitzgerald makes the connection of yellow to sickness, fraud, and dying. Despite the slight difference in color, he objectively relates gold to the “superior” wealthy. He makes it evident throughout the book that fake fortune represents a declining future and genuine fortune represents a partially secure future.
Before Fitzgerald begins his novel, he explains the meaning of the entire novel through Thomas Parke D’Invilliers’ poem:
“Then he wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high bouncing lover,
I must have you!” (1)”
Fitzgerald wants the reader to know this poem is the start of the novel by starting Chapter 1 on page 6 and this poem on page 1. The man in the poem, who wears a gold hat, attracts women with his riches and would not be able to attract women without them. This man mirrors a main character in The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby. Although Jay Gatsby wants to fit in with the gold image of Fitzgerald’s world, he is naturally portrayed with yellow qualities. Jay Gatsby is not the characters real name, suggesting Gatsby’s fake yellow character and how yellow represents whitewashing. Gatsby tries to impress Daisy Buchanan by wearing a “white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie” (89) showing his wealth, as gold is showing Gatsby’s impure earnings of his wealth. With Gatsby only wearing a gold tie, he tries to cover up his impurity by making himself appear as the golden figure, further proving how Gatsby is a yellow image. Gatsby also attempts to portray his fake wealth by throwing grand parties, where there are:
…buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded
against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkey bewitched to a dark gold.
The dark gold color represents Gatsby’s wealth and also is another attempt to cover up that Gatsby’s a fraud and an imposter. But, the “dark” gold is perfectly portraying how Gatsby isn’t fitting in with the wealthy people of East Egg or could be representing how Gatsby’s future is not very bright. Gatsby’s house is a “factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy” (9) and shows Gatsby, a character with yellow features, is a fraud, when the beauty of his house is reduced when one realizes the imitation of it. Gatsby’s death in the novel, being shortly after “disappearing among the yellowing trees” (169), shows how his entire life attempt to acquire false money was destined for destruction since the start. The yellow associated with his death, and his entire life, shows how attempting to live the gold standard life doesn’t end well.
Gatsby begins bootlegging when he realizes that Daisy, the woman thought to be the love of his life, leaves him for Tom Buchanan, a very wealthy individual. Gatsby attempts to start back where they left off once she sees that he has money, but things don’t work out and the gold associated Daisy, and yellow associated Gatsby, don’t mix. Daisy’s voice is described by Gatsby as, “full of money” (127) shows how even he thinks that she sounds like a snobby rich person. However, she is described as the “golden girl” (127) because she is idolized as being rich. These observations combined show that the color gold is categorized by people who are idolized in society and legitimate riches. Daisy’s house is “glowing with reflected gold” (11) shows how her house in East Egg, the more pure rich, as opposed to West Egg’s more cowardly bootlegged rich, is seen an idolized place to live.
Unlike gold, yellow is best portrayed by ideas in the novel. For example, the description of the overarching billboard in the valley of ashes can be explained:
The yellow eyes are a reflection of how society is full of corruption as well as impurity. Almost the entire of West Egg earned their riches through the bond business. The yellow spectacles of T.J. Eckleburg show how everyone is decaying, as the billboard is looking down on them, hinting that. Plus, the combined yellow spectacles and blue eyes form the color of money, green. The money associated with T.J. Eckleburg shows impurity. Secondly, Gatsby’s car, his yellow Rolls-Royce is a representation of how West Egg is connected to the color yellow. His car, the one that killed Myrtle, the woman Tom is having an affair with, represents how the color yellow is also associated with cheating and death. Everybody that gets in the car on the weekends is really showing everyone getting on the yellow business, the bond business, is a quick and easy way to make money. Although they are making money, the money is false, leading to decay, and isn’t forever.
Near the end of the novel, Nick refuses to enter Daisy’s home, but still admires it from the inside, shows Nick’s indecisive choices. His decision of not going in reflects how he does not wish to interact with the rich, yet at the same time he admires their glory. Nick saying, “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life” (40), explains that wealth seems to be idolized, prized, and generally good, but it isn’t all that. Wealth isn’t as glamorous as it is portrayed to be. By the end of the novel, Nick understands that more money doesn’t mean more happiness. Everything on the outside seems fancy, but once you’re on the inside, you’ll want more, as Nick experienced. The yellow and gold that Fitzgerald symbolized provided an idea of what society was in the 1920’s and how it is increasingly getting worse through the years.
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