Decoding Symbolism in The Great Gatsby: What Do the Colors Symbolize?

In the literary masterpiece that is The Great Gatsby, colors play a significant role in portraying the themes and messages conveyed by the author. From the iconic green light at the end of Daisy’s dock to the gaudy yellow car Scott Fitzgerald chose for Gatsby, every color has a distinct meaning that adds depth to the story. Understanding the symbolism behind the colors can provide readers with a deeper appreciation and understanding of this classic novel.

The color green, which is often described as the most significant shade in the book, represents wealth, hope, and jealousy. The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is a symbol of Gatsby’s unfulfilled desires, his relentless pursuit of the American dream, and his obsession with the materialistic lifestyle. Meanwhile, the color yellow is used to convey lavishness, corruption, or death. It’s evident in the flamboyant yellow car that Gatsby drives, which symbolizes his wealth and extravagance, yet ironically, it also represents his ultimate demise.

Perhaps the most intriguing color used in the book is blue, a color that symbolizes sadness, confusion, and coldness. It’s an interesting choice for a book that embodies the American dream, which is often perceived as warm, welcoming, and optimistic. The use of blue, however, is often tied to Gatsby’s insurmountable loneliness and isolation, a result of his inability to attain his dream and reunite with his beloved Daisy. Understanding the symbolism behind the colors used in The Great Gatsby adds a deeper emotional layer to the book and emphasizes the significance of color in literature.

The color green symbolizes wealth and envy in The Great Gatsby

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, color plays a significant role in conveying the underlying themes. One of the most prominent colors throughout the story is green, which symbolizes both wealth and envy.

  • Wealth: Throughout the novel, green is often associated with money and material possessions. The character of Jay Gatsby, for instance, is frequently described as wearing or surrounded by shades of green. This is due to the fact that he has built his fortune through illegal means, such as bootlegging. The color green, therefore, represents the wealth that he has amassed.
  • Envy: At the same time, green is also used to indicate the envy that other characters feel towards Gatsby’s wealth and opulence. For example, Tom Buchanan, another main character, is described as having “green eyes” that represent his jealousy and resentment towards Gatsby’s social standing and possessions.
  • Green Light: The most iconic symbol of green in the novel is the green light on Daisy Buchanan’s dock. Gatsby stares longingly at this light, which represents his desire for not only wealth but also love and acceptance from Daisy. The green light, in this case, is a symbol of Gatsby’s unattainable dreams.

Overall, the color green in The Great Gatsby is a complex symbol that represents both wealth and envy. It highlights the contrast between those who have acquired their fortunes through legitimate means and those who have resorted to illegal activities, as well as the jealousy and longing that often accompany wealth and success.

Yellow represents moral decay and corruption

Throughout The Great Gatsby, the color yellow is a prominent symbol that represents moral decay and corruption. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the color yellow to portray the negative aspects of society and the characters within it.

  • The color yellow is often associated with wealth and luxury, which in the novel, is attained through illegal means such as bootlegging. This wealth and luxury is what attracts characters like Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker to individuals like Jay Gatsby.
  • The yellow color of Gatsby’s car is symbolic of his corrupt and illegal wealth. It is eye-catching and draws the attention of everyone in the story, but ultimately leads to his downfall as it is involved in a hit-and-run accident which results in the death of Myrtle Wilson.
  • The Valley of Ashes, a desolate area adjacent to New York City, is described as “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens,” with a “yellow spectacled woman” who directs wasteland trains. This is where the poorer characters in the book live and work, and their lives are bleak and hopeless. The yellow spectacled woman is symbolic of the corruption and decay rampant within society.

The color yellow is a constant reminder throughout the novel that material wealth and luxury often come at a great cost, and that the attainment of these things through corrupt means leads to a society riddled with moral decay and corruption.

In conclusion, the color yellow in The Great Gatsby symbolizes the negative aspects of society and its characters. By using this color as a motif throughout the novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald emphasizes the costs of the pursuit of wealth and luxury through illegal means.

YellowSymbolic of wealth and luxury attained through illegal means, corruption, and moral decay in society
Gatsby’s carSymbolic of Gatsby’s corrupt and illegal wealth which ultimately leads to his downfall
Valley of AshesSymbolic of the decay and corruption in society, particularly in the lives of poorer characters

The use of color symbolism in The Great Gatsby is what makes the novel a literary masterpiece and an enduring classic.

White embodies innocence and purity, but also superficiality

Throughout the novel, white is used as a symbol of innocence and purity. However, white also represents superficiality and a façade of innocence that masks darker intentions and desires. Here are some examples of how white is used as a symbol in The Great Gatsby:

  • White is used to describe Daisy Buchanan’s appearance, from her white dress to her white car. This reinforces the idea of her as a pure and innocent figure.
  • However, it is later revealed that Daisy is not as pure as she seems, as she is willing to manipulate others to get what she wants, even if it means hurting them.
  • Jordan Baker is also associated with the color white, wearing a white dress and often described as being “incredibly white”. However, she is a dishonest character who lies to others and cheats at golf.
  • The character of Gatsby himself is often associated with the color white, from his white car to his white suits. This reinforces the idea of him as a figure of purity and innocence, but it also reveals his desire to impress and maintain his façade of wealth and success.

The use of white as a symbol in The Great Gatsby is a commentary on the superficiality of the social elite and the pursuit of the American Dream. The characters in the novel strive for wealth, status, and success, but they are often willing to sacrifice their integrity and morals in order to achieve their goals. White represents the ideal of purity and innocence that they strive for, but it also reveals their true nature as superficial and morally bankrupt.

Overall, the use of white as a symbol in The Great Gatsby serves as a reminder that appearances can be deceiving and that true integrity and morality cannot be measured by wealth or social status.

White clothing and carsSymbol of purity and innocence, but also indicates a façade of wealth and success
White as a description of characters’ appearanceSymbol of purity and innocence, but also masks darker intentions and desires

The use of white as a symbol is one of the many literary devices that F. Scott Fitzgerald uses to create a complex and nuanced commentary on American society in the 1920s. The Great Gatsby remains a timeless classic because of its ability to capture the desires, flaws, and contradictions of the human experience.

Blue signifies hope, but also sadness and loneliness

The color blue is used extensively throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. In the book, blue represents both hope and sadness, as well as loneliness and longing. The character of Jay Gatsby, for example, is associated with the color blue as he is often seen gazing up at the blue sky or staring out across the blue harbor with a sense of longing and yearning.

  • Hope: When introduced in the novel, Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby’s love interest is adorned in the color blue, symbolizing Gatsby’s hope for a future with her.
  • Sadness: The character of Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s mistress, is also associated with the color blue, which represents the sadness and despair she feels in her unfulfilling and oppressive relationship with Tom.
  • Loneliness: The character Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator, is often portrayed wearing blue clothes, symbolizing his sense of loneliness and isolation as an outsider in the wealthy and glamorous world of East Egg.

In addition to these character associations, the color blue also plays a significant role in the novel’s setting and imagery. The blue lawn outside of Gatsby’s mansion represents his desire for perfection and his longing for a better life, while the blue eyes of T.J. Eckleburg on the billboard in the Valley of Ashes symbolize the loss of moral values and hope in the face of the corruption and greed of the wealthy.

Daisy’s dressGatsby’s hope for a future with Daisy
Myrtle’s apartment wallsThe sadness and despair of her unfulfilling relationship with Tom
Nick’s clothesHis sense of loneliness and isolation as an outsider in the wealthy East Egg
The blue lawn outside Gatsby’s mansionGatsby’s desire for perfection and a better life
The eyes of T.J. EckleburgLoss of moral values and hope in the face of corruption and greed

Overall, the color blue is a powerful symbol in The Great Gatsby, representing both hope and despair, as well as the characters’ yearning for something more in their lives.

Red Represents Passion, But Also Violence and Danger

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby,” the color red is frequently used to symbolize passion, as well as violence and danger. Here are some of the ways that the color red is used in the book:

  • Tom’s car: Tom Buchanan’s car is described as a “bright red coupé” with “sausage-colored” upholstery. This car is later used to run over Myrtle Wilson, leading to her death.
  • Gatsby’s parties: Red is one of the dominant colors at Gatsby’s extravagant parties. The guests are described as “dancing in red” and “reddened and agitated.”
  • Myrtle’s dress: Myrtle, Tom’s mistress, wears a “crimson” dress during one of her encounters with Nick and Jordan. This foreshadows her eventual death at the hands of Tom’s car.

In addition to symbolizing passion and desire, the color red also represents violence and danger in the novel. This is particularly evident in the scenes involving Tom Buchanan:

Tom is a physically imposing character who is prone to outbursts of violence. His clothing and possessions often reflect his aggressive personality. For example, he wears a “jovial bulkiness” and has a “hard mouth” that is described as being “cruel in its insolence.” Tom’s car, which is bright red, also reflects his aggressive personality and foreshadows the danger that he represents.

Overall, the color red in “The Great Gatsby” serves as a powerful symbol of both passion and violence. While it can be used to represent desire and excitement, it can also signal danger and the potential for violence. This makes it a fitting symbol for the complex and often contradictory world of the novel’s characters.

Symbolism of Red in “The Great Gatsby”Representation
PassionGatsby’s parties, Myrtle’s dress
ViolenceTom’s car, Tom’s clothing and possessions
DangerTom’s car, Tom’s violent personality

Understanding the symbolism of red in “The Great Gatsby” is important for fully appreciating the novel’s themes and messages. By using color to convey deeper meaning, Fitzgerald creates a rich and complex work of literature that continues to captivate readers to this day.

Gray suggests ambiguity and uncertainty

Gray is a color that suggests ambiguity and uncertainty in “The Great Gatsby.” This neutrality is used to reinforce the feeling of confusion and disillusionment the characters experience throughout the novel. The color gray is used in multiple instances throughout the book to symbolize a lack of clarity or a lack of clear answers.

  • Gray is first introduced in the novel when Nick visits the Buchanans’ home. He describes the area as “a gray leading edge of the rolling tide” (Fitzgerald, Chapter 1). This image is meant to convey the sense of ambiguity and uncertainty that Nick feels while visiting the home of his cousin Daisy and her rich husband Tom.
  • The color gray is also used to describe Tom’s physical appearance. Fitzgerald writes, “The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground” (Fitzgerald, Chapter 2). Tom’s physical appearance as described in this passage is unsettling and ambiguous.
  • The color gray is also used in the description of Myrtle Wilson’s husband, George. “He was a blond, spiritless man, anemic, and faintly handsome. When he saw us, a damp gleam of hope sprang into his light blue eyes. He had been looking at the advertisement of the soap for an hour” (Fitzgerald, Chapter 2). George Wilson’s characterization is meant to convey how his life is gray and unfulfilling. The dullness of his life is further emphasized by the fact that he spends his time reading an advertisement for soap.

The use of gray in “The Great Gatsby” helps to underscore the confusion and lack of clear answers that the characters experience. The color reinforces the sense of disillusionment that is present throughout the novel. Through its use, Fitzgerald is able to convey the feelings of ambiguity and uncertainty that plague the characters, adding an extra layer of complexity to the novel’s themes.

Purple Symbolizes Royalty and Extravagance

In “The Great Gatsby,” the color purple is prominently displayed as a symbol of royalty and extravagance. This color is often associated with luxury, wealth, and power, making it a fitting symbol for the lavish lifestyle of the wealthy elite characters in the novel.

  • The purple color is first introduced in the book when James Gatz, also known as Jay Gatsby, describes the vibrant color of the light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock. This light represents Gatsby’s desire for Daisy and the wealth and status that she symbolizes.
  • The main character’s luxurious clothing and furnishings are often described as having purple accents, showing that he adheres to the glamour and opulence of the Roaring Twenties.
  • Gatsby’s car is also described as being the color of “a rich cream,” with “bright nickel” shining on the spokes of the wheels, and the car has “deep purple” seats. This description showcases the extravagance and wealth of the character that owns it.

Furthermore, purple has a long history of being associated with royalty and power, as it was a difficult color to obtain in clothing and dye due to the rarity of the materials necessary to create it. It was often reserved for use in clothing and regalia of monarchs and other elite members of society.

The color purple also has spiritual connotations as it is often associated with mystical wisdom, creativity, and imagination. This could be seen as a reflection of Gatsby’s yearning for the idealized version of his past and his idealization of Daisy as a pure and almost unattainable love interest.

Purple Symbolism in “The Great Gatsby”Meaning
The purple light at the end of Daisy’s dockGatsby’s longing for wealth and status symbolized by Daisy
Gatsby’s car with deep purple seatsHis extravagance and wealth
Purple clothing and furnishings of charactersThe luxurious and glamorous lifestyle of the wealthy elite

The use of the color purple in “The Great Gatsby” is a powerful symbol of the lavish and extravagant lifestyle of the elite characters in the novel. It conveys their wealth, power, and status, while also hinting at their spiritual and emotional longing for something deeper and more meaningful.

Black embodies darkness and death

Black is a color used extensively in The Great Gatsby to represent mystery, death, and sorrow. Its significance is prominent throughout the novel, as it is associated with certain characters, settings and objects.

Here is a list of some things that are represented by the color black in The Great Gatsby:

  • The Valley of Ashes – This area is a symbol of the social and moral decay caused by the pursuit of wealth and materialism. It is described as a “desolate area of land,” covered in gray ash and smoke that “drifted indifferently” over it. The color black is frequently used to describe the lifelessness of this location.
  • The characterization of Tom Buchanan – Tom is known for his physical dominance and aggressive behavior towards others. His dark personality is reflected in the description of his physical appearance, which includes “a cruel body” and “hard cruel mouth.” The color black is also used to describe his car, which is “a hard-bitten straw-colored” vehicle.
  • The character of Jay Gatsby – Gatsby is a complex character whose story is shrouded in mystery. He is known for his extravagant parties, his wealth, his illegal activities, and his unrequited love for Daisy Buchanan. The color black is often associated with him, particularly in the scene where his true past is revealed to Nick Carraway. Here, we see him wearing “a black suit and silver tie,” which highlights the somber nature of his backstory.

The color black is also represented in a table of symbolism that is present throughout the novel, as follows:

Eyes of Doctor T. J. EckleburgBlack and BlueRepresent the lack of moral clarity and the blindness of society
Tom Buchanan’s carBlackRepresents the power and influence of Tom and his disregard for others
Tom Buchanan’s suitBlackReflects his callous and cruel behavior towards others

In conclusion, the color black plays an important role in The Great Gatsby as a symbol of death, mystery, and sorrow. Through its association with specific characters, settings, and objects, it helps to deepen our understanding of the themes of the novel.

Pink represents femininity and superficiality

The color pink in The Great Gatsby represents femininity and superficiality. Pink is often associated with feminine qualities such as softness, gentleness, and beauty. In the novel, pink is used to symbolize the femininity of Daisy, who is often described wearing pink dresses and surrounded by pink flowers.

However, pink can also represent superficiality, as it is a color often associated with materialism and shallowness. This is evident in the character of Daisy, who is portrayed as shallow and materialistic, more concerned with her own comfort and pleasure than with the feelings of others.

  • Pink represents femininity, softness, and beauty.
  • Pink is often used to describe Daisy, emphasizing her femininity.
  • Pink can also represent superficiality, as it is associated with materialism and shallowness.

To further emphasize the theme of superficiality, Fitzgerald uses the motif of pink and white to represent the wealthy and elite in society. The color pink, associated with femininity and frivolity, is often used to describe the lavish parties and clothing of the wealthy characters in the novel. The contrast of pink with the color white, associated with purity and innocence, reinforces the idea that the wealth and extravagance of the rich is built on a foundation of false values and moral decay.

PinkFemininity, superficiality, the elite
WhitePurity, innocence, false values

Overall, the color pink in The Great Gatsby symbolizes both femininity and superficiality, highlighting the theme of materialism and the decay of moral values in the wealthy elite of society.

Orange symbolizes extravagance and frivolity.

In “The Great Gatsby,” the color orange is used to symbolize extravagance and frivolity. The protagonist, Jay Gatsby, throws lavish parties at his mansion, and the color orange can be seen in abundance throughout his home and at his social events. This use of orange represents Gatsby’s wealth and his desire to display his opulence.

  • The orange symbolizes the wealth and extravagance of Gatsby and his guests.
  • The color represents Gatsby’s desire to show off his status to impress Daisy and win back her love.
  • Orange is also associated with frivolity and superficiality, which is a reflection of Gatsby’s lavish lifestyle and his lack of true emotional connections.

The symbolism of orange is reinforced by the descriptions of Gatsby’s parties, which are described as being full of indulgence, excess, and superficial relationships. The color orange represents this superficiality and hollowness, as it is often associated with bright and vibrant colors without much substance.

To further highlight Gatsby’s obsession with wealth and status, author F. Scott Fitzgerald includes numerous physical descriptions of the color orange throughout the book. This includes Gatsby’s orange car, orange ties, and orange shirts. The abundance of orange reinforces the idea that Gatsby is trying to impress others with his wealth and extravagance.

Examples of orange symbolism in “The Great Gatsby”
Gatsby’s orange car
The orange decorations at Gatsby’s parties
Orange ties and shirts worn by Gatsby and his guests

Overall, the color orange in “The Great Gatsby” represents Gatsby’s obsession with wealth, status, and superficiality. It is a symbol of his desire to impress others and his hollow relationships, which are characterized by extravagance and frivolity.

What Do the Colors in The Great Gatsby Symbolize?

1. What does the color green represent?

In The Great Gatsby, green symbolizes hope, wealth, and the pursuit of happiness. It also represents the envy, greed, and corruption prevalent during the Roaring Twenties.

2. What does the color yellow represent?

Yellow in The Great Gatsby signifies wealth, extravagance, and corruption. The color is usually associated with Gatsby’s parties, representing the excesses of the elite class of society.

3. What does the color white represent?

White symbolizes purity, innocence, and new beginnings in The Great Gatsby. However, it can also represent a facade, as the characters use it to mask their true intentions.

4. What does the color blue represent?

Blue in The Great Gatsby represents illusion and false appearances. It is often linked to Gatsby’s character, who appears to be something he is not.

5. What does the color red represent?

Red is a symbol of passion, love, and desire in The Great Gatsby. However, it can also signify violence, anger, and danger.

6. What does the color gray represent?

Gray represents lack of life, loss of emotion, and boredom in The Great Gatsby. It is associated with the Valley of Ashes, which is a symbol of the working-class society.

7. What does the color black represent?

Black represents death, mourning, and decadence in The Great Gatsby. It highlights the futility of chasing after wealth and pleasure at all costs.

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of what the colors in The Great Gatsby symbolize. Fitzgerald’s use of color symbolism adds a layer of depth to the characters and themes of the novel, making it a timeless classic. Thank you for reading, and we invite you to come back and visit us again soon!