Color Symbolism used in the Great Gatsby


In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald emphasizes Jay Gatsby’s longing and desire to be with Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby and Daisy had met five years prior to when the book takes place, but Gatsby left for the war and Daisy hadn’t heard from him since. In this way the story should seem like a classic love story, where two lovers are happily reunited, but it is not. It is a story of unfulfilled longing, obsession, and an American dream that can never be satisfied.

Throughout the book it seems that Fitzgerald vividly uses a variety of colors to represent important aspects of his book. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald suggests through the symbolism of the colors green and white, that what Gatsby believes is love, is in fact only a dream. In The Great Gatsby, the color green symbolizes a sense of false hope for Gatsby. The main source of the color green in this book is the green light at the end of the dock between Daisy and Gatsby’s house. The light represents Gatsby’s many years of longing and wanting. His dream and everything that he has worked for in his life for the past five years has all been for her. His dream of being with Daisy is finally realized when Nick helps set him up on a date with her. However, after his dream of having her is realized, the sense of hope and longing that he has had for years is now gone. This is shown in the end of the book when Nick is quoted in saying, “I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.”(180) “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.” (180) Along with these quotes, Daisy says, “Even alone I can’t say that I never loved Tom, it wouldn’t be true.”(133) This series of quotes suggests that Fitzgerald wants us to see that Gatsby struggles to live in the present time. Daisy has already moved on from the five years prior when the two were together. His dream will now never become a reality, making the green light a sense of false hope.

While this might make sense if one believes that Gatsby truly loves Daisy, I believe that their love was completely false from the beginning. White is a color that is used commonly in The Great Gatsby. When you think of the color white, often you think of purity. However, in this book Fitzgerald suggests that the color white symbolizes a façade. This can be seen in almost every character but I will focus on Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship. Daisy is described throughout the book as having white fingers, a white face, and is often seen wearing white dresses. Through Fitzgerald’s companionship of white with Daisy, I believe that she never truly loved Gatsby. After Nick sets Gatsby up with Daisy he starts daydreaming and says, “One autumn night five years ago they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned toward each other. His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own.” (110) This is the scene where the two first kiss and supposedly solidify their love for one another. Throughout this particular passage the color white is mentioned numerous times. I believe that Fitzgerald did this to show that Gatsby and Daisy’s “love” was a façade or a mask that the two could hide behind. It allowed them to act as completely different people and have different feelings than what they truly have. The kiss wasn’t out of true love at all. Gatsby doesn’t actually love Daisy, he loves what she represents. While Daisy doesn’t truly love Gatsby, she loves all of the attention and materials that he has to offer to her.
When Gatsby came back to Daisy, he had to completely change himself to be good enough for her. Daisy was satisfied with the security and safety that she had by being married to a wealthy man. Gatsby felt that if he would be able to get Daisy back he would have to devote his life to become perfect for her, making her the unattainable goal or the sense of longing that he loved more than Daisy herself. “True love” was never shown in this book between Daisy and Gatsby; both of their lives were all about materialism.

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