Color Symbolism In ”the Great Gatsby”

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Color Symbolism in ”The Great Gatsby”


The Jazz era of the 1920's introduced many new innovations to literature, including the use of color symbolism. Upon seeing a certain color, the mind is triggered into connecting the color with a specific emotion or meaning. Through the effective use of the colors green, white, and gray in The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates how colors are able to symbolize and enhance characterization and setting. Because the author is able to evoke emotions by incorporating color, Fitzgerald takes advantage of the ability to connect his character's persona with the reader under discreet terms. By not only examining the character's actions and the setting's disposition, but also the color that portrays them the reader can better interpret the personality of the character and mood of the novel.


Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald uses the color gray to represent hopelessness and unimportance. While describing George Wilson, he states, "Mingling immediately with the cement color on the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in its vicinity - except his wife, who moved closer to Tom (Fitzgerald, 28)." Although the veil of gray hopelessness surrounds Wilson, Myrtle is sheltered from the ugly gray by moving closer to Tom. Because Tom is of higher social status, Myrtle naïvely believes that Tom will essentially pull her from the realms of her gray existence in the Valley of Ashes. Myrtle Wilson, and her husband George Wilson, reside in the Valley of Ashes, home of the lowest social class. Therefore, Myrtle is desperately trying to evade the gray atmosphere that expresses the hopelessness of the people felt in the Valley of Ashes.

However, Myrtle eventually succumbs to the gray life she was trying to avoid when she dies in the gray atmosphere in the Valley of Ashes after being struck by Gatsby's car. Another important reference is made through the color gray when the author refers to Gatsby's house and how, "the gray windows disappeared (Fitzgerald, 91)." Since windows usually symbolize how a person "looks out" at life, this quote is significant because it shows how Gatsby's already hopeless ideals, are further diminishing as the "windows disappeared". Although one would not expect such a plain color to exhibit such tremendous meaning, the color gray is essential in the portrayal of the mood of the setting as well as the characters.

Another color that is used effectively to symbolize the attitudes and feelings of the characters is the color white. Although white represents the stereotypical mask the characters hide behind, it also represents being honorable and morally unblemished. Through Fitzgerald's use of white to describe Daisy's "white girlhood" and "Miss Baker's and Daisy's white dresses", he gives the image of Daisy being an unattainable dream girl. The color white is also used as a façade against the characters true being. Daisy uses her image and her wealth to disregard her narrow-minded view of herself (Fortesque, pp 34-72).

In contrast to the windows of ...
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