The Great Gatsby: Colors

Short post today. I spent the day at orchestra — I got moved up a level! So I’m in the higher level orchestra that I’d originally been aiming for! It’s awesome. 🙂 Of course, I had to cold read the Barber of Seville… Aghhh.

Anyway. I didn’t have a lot of time to type up my Gatsby notes, so I’ve only got a little for you. I’ll have the rest up before next week, hopefully done before next Sunday, but it might take Wednesday & Sunday.

I’d really like to talk about the metaphors hidden in the colors in the novel.

For example, Daisy always wears white because to Gatsby she represents a return to innocence and to purity. Yellow is used to represent golden things, happy things, things at their height. When Gatsby is at long last reunited with Daisy, everything is yellow. Gatsby’s tie, his car, the buttons on Daisy’s dress, even the scent of the flowers is described as “gold.”

One thing I noticed that was yellow that usually isn’t mentioned in analyses: maybe I’m misreading things, but Daisy’s daughter has yellow hair. Not described as blonde, but yellow. It makes me think that she’s one of Daisy’s happy things.

Lastly, green and the green light. At the beginning of the book, Gatsby stands in his yard and stares across the bay at the green light that the Buchanans have hanging at the end of their dock. The green light represents not only Daisy, but the out-of-reach hopes and dreams Gatsby has (and in extension, the dreams of man in general). It comes around again three times (that I’ve ascertained, anyway):

  1. When Daisy and Gatsby are reunited, he shows her about his house, and Nick remarks that Gatsby reevaluated the value of everything in his house by what she thought of it. They stand out and look at the light and the dock, and Nick says, “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.”
    It was at that point in the novel when I knew Gatsby was never going to get Daisy in the end. His number of precious things would keep ticking downward, and Daisy, his most precious thing would never replace them. He lost the green light, and then he lost the woman and the dream it stood for.
  2. When Myrtle is killed, one of the witnesses identifies the car that hit her as light green. I feel like this is significant for a couple of reasons:
  • The car isn’t a happy thing any more. It isn’t golden. It’s light green – or so it seemed to others.
  • Gatsby and Daisy had their quasi-falling out and Gatsby is losing her… She’s fading away. Hence ‘light green’ Daisy, as opposed to the vibrant, ‘green light’, dream Daisy.
  • The car hits Myrtle, the woman Tom is cheating on Daisy with. She is the lesser Daisy, a weaker version of the other woman in his life. Again, the light green vs. the bright green light.

At the very end of the book, after Gatsby’s death and right before Nick goes back west, he thinks about when the original settlers came upon West Egg, “a fresh, green breast of the new world… had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.”

Nick sits on his lawn and looks out over the water and sees the Buchanan’s dock and drives home the metaphor.
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

G’night, y’all!



2 comments on “The Great Gatsby: Colors

  1. Kira says:

    Well that’s depressing.

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