Great Gatsby Color Symbolism

During the 1920’s, many people would disguise themselves through the identities of someone else. In the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the main characters can be seen “hiding” behind the symbolism of different colors. Color affects the mood, emphasizes the importance of events in a novel, and can also interact with the personalities of the characters. The concept of color symbolism is prominent in the novel. White, yellow, blue, green, and even the color black affect the atmosphere of scenes through association with a specific mood, and also through the actions of the characters.
The color white is associated with purity and innocence. Gatsby and Nick, the main male characters in the story, can be affiliated with this color, but it mostly symbolizes Daisy and Jordan, the main female characters in the story. The characters can be seen using “white” as a way to make themselves look better. The color is first correlated with Daisy and Jordan when Nick is on a tour of Tom’s house, who is Daisy’s husband, and he sees two women who are “both in white” (Fitzgerald 8). This is significant because this is the first time that Daisy and Jordan are mentioned, and it portrays them innocently.

Another instance where the representation of Daisy and Jordan together is mentioned is when Nick decides to drive to East Egg, New York for lunch at Tom’s house. When he arrives at the house, they are “laying upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses” (Fitzgerald 115). Even though at this point in the story, you can clearly see the corrupt lifestyles that Daisy and Jordan live, they are still trying to depict themselves righteously. When we start to examine Daisy closer, we realize that she is always connected to white.
When Daisy and Gatsby are together, and Daisy decides to kiss Gatsby, it is described as “Daisy’s white face came up to his own” (Fitzgerald 118). When Daisy kisses Gatsby, it is pictured as being a pure act, but really, she has just cheated on Nick. Once again, this shows Daisy “hiding” behind white. When we look back to when Daisy was younger, we still see her linked together with the symbolism of white. The main idea of childhood represents innocence, and because the color white is associated with innocence, white is once again a representation of innocence. This makes it seem that Daisy was innocent when she was younger.
An instance where this is shown is when Gatsby is describing to Nick the first time he met Daisy. Gatsby stated that “…She dressed in white, and had a little white roadster” (Fitzgerald 74). What Gatsby stated here was important. It made Daisy out to be this perfect girl with the perfect image. That is one of the reasons Gatsby tried so hard to get her back. Another time when Daisy’s “childhood” is stated, is when Jordan talks about Daisy and herself years before. She said “When I came opposite her house that morning, her white roadster was beside the curb” (Fitzgerald 74).
The significance of this is once again it shows Daisy trying to put forward this image of “purity”. Like I said before, not only is Daisy related to white, but Jordan is too. The difference is that Jordan uses white more often to cover up her true self. It is explained that “Jordan’s fingers, powdered white over their tan” (Fitzgerald 121). Throughout the novel, Jordan is seen by many as a liar, and not trustworthy. When her fingers are powdered white, it is almost as if she is trying to cover up her true self, and pretend that she is pristine.
This is also proved true when Daisy’s daughter says “Aunt Jordan’s got a white dress to” (Fitzgerald 117). This shows how Jordan wants to make herself look better in the eyes of others. Not only do the female characters represent white, but the two main male characters, Gatsby and Nick, are also compared to white. After five years, Gatsby finally gets to see his love Daisy again. When he meets her for the first time, he wore a white suit “… and Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, and gold colored tie” (Fitzgerald 90-91). He wore this to show that he was good, pure, and honest in an attempt to appease Daisy.
When Gatsby was stopped by the police for speeding, he got out of it by “taking a white card from his wallet, and waving it before the man’s eyes” (Fitzgerald 68). This here shows how innocent Gatsby can be, just by using something white. When we turn our focus to Nick, we see that he believes that he himself in the most honest person he knows, and how he is usually dressed in white to symbolize his innocence. An important event in the novel is when Nick goes to Gatsby’s party for the first time, “Dressed up in white flannels, I went over to his lawn a little after seven” (Fitzgerald 47).
Nick dressing in white symbolizes how he is immaculate, unlike the others at the party who could be labeled as corrupt. “White traditionally symbolizes purity, and there is no doubt that Fitzgerald wants to underscore the ironic disparity between the purity of the characters, and their actual corruption” (Schneider 146). The color yellow can be connected with the symbolism of greed, desire for wealth, and “old money”. Corruption is also distinctly represented by yellow, but death is also a key to yellows dark symbolism.
The color yellow can be seen around a tragic death. The first time this is seen is when Myrtle is killed. She is the mistress of Tom, and is also married to a man named George Wilson. Myrtle was killed by Gatsby’s yellow Rolls Royce, in front of her yellow brick house, and under the yellow spectacled eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. The “spectacles” are an advertisement on a billboard that oversee the valley of ashes (a poor part of town). These eyes see everything, and can be referred to as “god”. The yellow color of Gatsby’s car led to his death.
If the color of his car was black like most of the other cars that time, then he wouldn’t have been killed. Gatsby is also seen walking through yellow trees just before he was murdered, “… but he shook his head and in a moment disappeared among the yellow trees” (Fitzgerald 161). Daisy also can be related to yellow. Like her name suggests, Daisy is a flower with white pedals and a yellow center. It shows that Daisy is pure, like the pedals, but is rotten on the inside, like the yellow of the flower. This is proven true because she ends up being the one who killed Myrtle, even though she looks so innocent on the outside.
The Color Gold
Daisy is also referred to as the “golden girl” (gold can be associated with the color yellow), “high in a white palace, the kings daughter, the golden girl” (Fitzgerald 120). Gatsby realizes here, that her voice, her main feature, is “full of money. ” Yellow is not just the color of money, but also of destruction. Of course since Daisy can be expressed by yellow, it’s not a surprise that Jordan can be too. You can see Jordan’s “yellow side” through her autumn leaf yellow hair.
She can also be compared with the color gold, “With Jordan’s slender golden arm resting in mine” (Fitzgerald 49) and “I put my arm around Jordan’s golden shoulder” (Fitzgerald 86). This shows how Jordan is pretty much all golden, which can be related to corruption. She is a “Chronic liar who even cheated to win a golf tournament” (Bradstreet 2). Corruption is basically what Jordan stands for, considering all of the lying and cheating she constantly she does. Gatsby can also be symbolized by yellow because he is a character who desires wealth, and because he is also surrounded by corruption.
The first time he meets Daisy after five years, he decides to wear a gold necktie, “… and Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, and a gold colored tie…” (Fitzgerald 90-91). The gold tie symbolizes the corruption that Daisy and he stand for, and foreshadows further problems to come, such as when Daisy kills Myrtle. The color yellow also appears in Gatsby’s parties. It is presented to describe the wealth of the party. “… Two girls in twin yellow dresses…” (Fitzgerald 48). This shows the inhabitants of West Egg and the wealth people who attend the parties.
Yellow in Great Gatsby
In the parties, it can be seen that people are showing their true side. Since yellow is the color of corruption, it can be related to George Wilson for what he did, and for what happens to him. To start off with, his house is made of yellow bricks. Actually, it’s the only place referred to as yellow. “The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick” (Fitzgerald 30). The house contains Myrtle and George. Myrtle was killed outside her yellow house. George eventually decided to kill Gatsby based on the information given to him inside the house.
This house is somewhat of a “corrupt” house. George shows his depravity when he tells his friend that god sees everything, relating to the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. “God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God! ” (Fitzgerald 166). As stated before, George Wilson sees the billboard as some sort of “god”. Eckleburg is wearing yellow glasses, which represent the corruption of his godliness, and in turn, represents the corruption of everything he sees. The people who live in the yellow house are corrupted and immoral.
The billboard can be related to Wilson’s home, as he views it as god. The color yellow does not only represent wealth, but more importantly, it also stands for corruption. The color blue personifies a false appearance, and it also represents and “dream” that can be connected to Gatsby. Blue is used when Gatsby’s gardens are described. This is where people can come and go to the parties as they please. His “blue” gardens are like a fantasy land. “In his blue gardens man and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars” (Fitzgerald 45).
Blue represents Gatsby’s dream, which he thinks is reality. “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it” (Fitzgerald 188). Another representation of a dream in when Dan Cody, who use to be Gatsby’s best friend, buys Gatsby a blue coat. He begins to become more prosperous and wealthy. Maybe it was in his dream that his success was caused by that coat, but in reality it was just a coincidence. The color blue is also said to personify false appearances. This is true for George because he has blue eyes.
This is significant because he believes that his wife is faithful, and doesn’t see through the falseness she puts out. The eyes of Eckleburg are also blue, which represent his false appearance as god. Blue is the color of being depressed, moody, or unhappy. It also represents Gatsby’s illusions, his deeply romantic dreams of unreality. The color green represents a new beginning for Gatsby. The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is the representation of the American dream, the will to succeed in life. The green light also illustrates hope. Gatsby was trying to restore his old relationship with Daisy.
He failed to realize it was impossible because he was “blinded” by the hope generated by the green light. “… He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way, and, as far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling involuntarily. I glanced seaward- and distinguishing nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been from the end of a dock”. (Fitzgerald 27-28). In reality, it seems like Gatsby is looking forward to getting “The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock- that symbol of the future” (Schneider 145).
In a way, if Gatsby would obtain the light, then Daisy would be included in the process. The color gray is another was to show dullness or a loss of hope, lack of happiness, and even lack of life. Jordan can be represented here because of her gray eyes. “Her gray, sun strained eyes…” (Fitzgerald 65). They show lack of love and a general boredom in life because she is surrounded by everything she wants. She has no dreams or plans for the future. The color grey is also brought up the first time Gatsby and Nick meet, when they make a reference to the war. “We talked for a moment about some wet, grey little villages in France. ” (Fitzgerald 53).
The villages mentioned here are portrayed as sad due to the face they went through a war. The color of grey can also convey a lack of spirit. In the valley of ashes there are, “Grey cars, grey ashes, and the grey land. ” (Fitzgerald 27). It is also stated that “the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it. ” (Schneider 145). This is the area where men worked tirelessly in the ashes. People saw this as dirty and low life. The color grey can really be related to the other colors mentioned. When looked at closely, all of the colors have a “dark” side to them. Color adds to the emotion of situations.
As seen in the novel, color is a way to correlate events that have a common meaning. Even though color symbolism is not very noticeable, it can tell you a great deal about the story. The Great Gatsby contains three primary colors- white, yellow, and green. The colors are powerfully exercised to represent aspects of personality and life. Symbolized by white is the innocence of the characters, which mask their corruption. The corruption is illustrated by the color yellow. Yet, through all of the deception and madness, the color green still shines brightly. It is signifying hope in the harsh world of The Great Gatsby.

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