Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

Category: Heaven, Hope, Symbolism
Last Updated: 17 Mar 2023
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Nick Caraway, the narrator, Is one of the few characters who does not exhale the major laws that the other characters do. He Is able to see what Is wrong In society, at the same time as what Is positive about people, and his viewpoints are what characterize those In the novel. Nick moves to West Egg In the summer of '22 and begins his life as a bond man after the Great War. It Is who he meets In that summer that the novel Is about, using rich colors to describe his surroundings and having long pollens of people. Colors within the novel help to characterize the people around Nick, describing the nature and characteristics of people by associating them with certain colors.


Nick tends to have a positive opinion of Jay Gatsby, often putting him on somewhat of a pedestal in comparison to many others he met in the summer. Gatsby is a war hero that Nick knew in the war and who later is his neighbor on West Egg. Gatsby is often associated with the color blue, blue only coming up a few times when not associated with Gatsby, the only other reference to blue is of T. J. Eagleburger eyes. Blue is used to characterize people as watchers, or omnipresent people. After Wilson, a mechanic and husband, loses his wife Myrtle in a car accident, Wilson looks out the window at "the eyes of Doctor T. J. Cocklebur, which had Just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night. 'God sees everything"(107). Wilson describes the eyes of Cocklebur as the eyes of God, seeing through the deception his wife had played on him for so long. The Cocklebur eyes are a billboard in the Valley of Ashes, they have been there for a long time and oversee everything, much like a man on a pedestal or God would be able to do.

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Cocklebur is viewed as God with his blue eyes seeing everything. Nick notices the eyes "brood over the solemn dumping ground"(15). People often blame events on God or claim his nonexistence because they do not erectly see an outside help when they have problems. People claim that God only sees what happens on Earth and does not actually help his creations, leaving them to fend for themselves and having them make their own decisions. No one directly helps In the situations that are within the book; no outside hand helps with the problems nor guides any character to righteousness.

Cocklebur sees but does not do. He Is a God. Gatsby Is much Like Cocklebur In the fact that he watches without action. Gatsby went to war and left behind Daisy, his love, only to find her married when he got home. Gatsby then saved up and bought a home across the bay from Daisy and watched from afar, watching over her but never contacting her. Nick goes out to his lawn the in the night after having reconnected with his cousin Daisy and, Nicks old heavens"(14). He notices Gatsby on and that "he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way'(1 5).

Gatsby is reaching for, what we later learn, is the light at the end of Daisy's dock. While he wants to partake in Daisy's life, like many believe God wishes to do in our lives, he restrains himself. He instead watches for Daisy and takes clippings about her life from the newspaper. Nick says that they are choosing their part of the local heaven, and God presides and watches from heaven. Gatsby watches and overlooks Daisy's life like God would humanity. Gatsby is characterized as a God character because of his inaction; this puts him on a pedestal, elevating the view of him.

God is not hated, he is loved, and Gatsby is well loved by Nick. Gatsby would be free from Nicks criticism due to his love for him. Gatsby has parties in his "blue gardens"(25" that chauffeurs dressed in "robin's-egg blue"(27) invite people to. Parties are where Gatsby looks to find Daisy, hoping that she will one ay stumble into one and he will be reunited with her. Gatsby is always present at these parties but no one can ever remember seeing him or talking to him when asked. Furthering the idea of omnipresent, Gatsby has control over the chauffeurs and they follow as he says. He is watchful through them but doesn't need to be seen.


Gatsby is often associated with blue, but he is also connected to white. Many characters are seen in white at some point in the novel and it is used to describe the appearance of innocence or false purity. Daisy and Jordan are both introduced in a Larry of white: "The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling... Woo young women were buoyed up as though up upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had Just been blown in after a short flight around the house" Jordan and Daisy are given almost and ethereal appearance in the scene, like little angels or cherubs. They wear white like young innocent brides at a wedding, innocent and pure. Their appearance of innocence is dusted in white, from the curtains, to the ceiling, to the dresses on their bodies. They are almost described as birds, flying around the house in the wind and finding themselves tied to the ground again.

Not only birds, but birds captured in a room or cage, making you feel sorry for them and wanting to set them free into the wind. They seem dainty and young, the innocence of babes surrounding them and protecting their view of the world. In reality though, Jordan and Daisy are both corrupt. Everyone likes to say that white in The Great Gatsby means innocence, probably because (1) that's easy to say and (2) everyone else is saying it. Buddhist is hardly the picture of girlish innocence. At the end of the novel, she's described as selfish, careless, and destructive.

Jordan cheats on her golf matches, moving the ball closer to the hole, and Daisy has affairs and is unfaithful in mind and body. Neither is as innocent as they would like you to believe. Their innocence is false and used to protect the image of femininity the characterized Jordan, and especially Daisy. Gatsby is also described in white, showing his desire to be liked and seem innocent and pure. Gatsby is gone from Daisy for 5 long years, in which she had related to Daisy, there became opportunity for Gatsby to reconnect with his old love.

Nick invites both Gatsby and Daisy over for tea one afternoon and Gatsby wears "a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and a gold-colored tie"(55). Gatsby has not seen Daisy in over 5 years and wants to make a good impression on her, to make her see him as good and honest, better than the man she was currently married to. He may have known her when they were young but the time had past and he wanted to remind her of the times before all that had happened and when they were innocent and ere, before they were tainted by the lives they currently lead.

He wanted to remind Daisy of the time they spent together in Louisville in her "white roadster"(49). Gatsby uses white to seem innocent in the moment and to show his pure intentions towards Daisy. While the use of white by characters in their dressing might be unintentional, they subconsciously want to send a message to another party within the novel. There is an underlying nervousness with Gatsby involving his meeting of new people or the reconnection of him and Daisy. The focus on color and the appearance of purity indicates the desire to have a specific image about them.

Nick also dresses up in white flannels to make a good first impression. Upon being invited to on of Gatsby great, grand, glorious parties Nick "dress[sees] up in white flannels" and crosses the short distance between his house and Gatsby (27). Nick had never met Gatsby before and even told Jordan at dinner, the same one where he reconnected with Daisy and Tom, that he had never met his neighbor but knew that he was Gatsby. Nick is nervous, to the point of becoming drunk one of two times in his life, and wants to make sure that Gatsby likes him.

Nick searches out his host, trying to be a good guest and thank him for the invitation, further indication that Nick wants to be seen in a favorable light. Nick is searching out, not only Gatsby, but Gatsby approval of who he is. He is like a small school boy trying to please the teacher by bringing them a glistening apple on the first day of school. Nick is brining himself, dressed up in his nice, white duds, to please the metaphorical teacher of Gatsby. While Nick seems least corrupt and has the fewest flaws of all of the characters within the novel, he wants the others to know Just how good of a character he has.

While Nick is not flawed like the others within the novel, he is still human, and there is a falsity of the persona he puts on to show people. Nick does not want to be seen as the rest of the crowd. He does not share their flaws but he is not above them all. The distinction of the way he acts is accentuated by the color white, furthering his appearance of innocence in the events of the summer.


White is pure like the shell and outside of an egg. The problem is that the white part never indicates if the inside will be rotten or not. While "white is unblemished morality' and false purity, gold is corruption, greed, and money (Huber 2011). Nick and the others in the novel live on either East or West Egg. The eggs are similar in shape but different in personality and culture. On the outside though, everyone on either egg tries to hide who they are and their corruption with their white clothing, homes, and decorations. Many of the characters have corruption associated with them, even if the measure of how bad it is differs. Gatsby and his golden feasts with "pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold", show his money and corruption (26). While Gatsby is characterized with beautiful language and pleasant interaction with and that is where his money came from.

All of his purchases were paid for with money gained through illegal means. While the nature of Gatsby and his intentions are pure, like his white flannel suit, his money is not. Gatsby also wears a "gold tie" upon meeting Daisy again at the tea that Nick planned(55). Gatsby wants to prove that he is good by wearing his white flannel suit but he unconsciously also announces his wealth to Daisy. Daisy has always been attracted to wealth and opulence, and Gatsby achieved his status in an effort to win Daisy over again with the money she always desired him to have. The gold tie represents Gatsby money, but not only that.

It is also the corruption required to gain the money so quickly and continuously throughout the years. His corruption goes beyond Just the fact that he gained money through ways that were immoral and against the law. He also pursued a married woman, having an affair with her. Gatsby, had he been able to let go of the past, would have been able to accept that Daisy was married and that he could no longer pursue her or have her in any way, even physically. Before they commit any sins of adultery, Nick and Daisy go to Gatsby house after tea. In Gatsby garden there is the "pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate"(60).

No regrettable actions have occurred yet but the sentiments that will soon occur are alluded to by the flowers color-scent and its presence in Gatsby yard. Gatsby will eventually send his servants away to protect his secret affair with Daisy, but the affair never is open to the public like that of Myrtle and Tom's. Gatsby and Daisy have to "kiss at the gate" before they rush home. The scent of the flowers and its association of gold coincide with the nature of the relationship that Daisy and Gatsby carry out. An affair is never indicating positively of ones character. Gatsby and Daisy both have flaws that lead hem to the affair.

Daisy did not marry out of love, but out of greed and desire to be wealthy. It is that same sort of desire that led her back to Gatsby. While she was now a married woman, she continued to fulfill her fantasy and pursue the love she had with Gatsby. Gatsby is corrupt because he knowingly took a married woman, pursued her, and then proceeded to have an intimate relationship with her. He did it because he thought it would benefit both him and Daisy later, that they would be happy. Gatsby corruption is a unique kind, not directly for his own benefit but for someone he thinks will benefit his life in the end.

Gatsby has Daisy and Nick has Jordan. From the beginning of when they met, Daisy desired to match Nick and Jordan up together "Ill sort of- oh- fling you together"(13). Nick never stated that he wanted Jordan, one of Daisy's flaws is assuming she knows what others want, and they usually will consent because she has a way about her that is hard to ignore, but they never usually tell her that they want it in the first place. Nick never stated that he desired Jordan; he was interested and confused by her aloof nature but never stated a desire for her. Nick is an upstanding individual with no real flaws of nature or morality.

Jordan, despite Nick's initial knowledge, is actually a liar and corrupt in her own nature. At one of Gatsby parties earlier in the summer, Nick found Jordan and went around with her "slender golden arm resting in" his (28). Jordan plays golf, a rich mans sport, and was accused of cheating by moving her ball closer to the hole than it actually fell. Jordan denied the accusations, claiming that she played a fair game and was not a liar. Later the retracted their statements, presumably under the influence of a large stack of bills pushed their way. Jordan buys her innocence with money and corrupt action to cover ere other corrupt actions.

While the white of an egg seems pure and delicious, the rotten inside will eventually be seen. Jordan can cover herself with white dresses in a white ceiling room with white curtains around, but she cannot alter her true and corrupt nature.


A major idea of the novel is corruption of society, additionally the American dream is expressed as a want from all of the characters. They all want to live they perfect life, have families, and to be able to have no worries of money. The desire and hope is seen through the emotions and sentiment connected to the color green.

Daisy has green light at the end of her dock and Gatsby reached for it "trembling"(1 5). Daisy is Gatsby everything, his dream, his hope, his future. Gatsby went off to war believing that he would come home to find Daisy waiting for him, that they would have a happy future. He had the hope to believe that he would be able to leave for war and come back to everything being as it was, as if stopped in time. Gatsby is described by Nick in the beginning of the novel "it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again"(2).

Gatsby was a romantic person with the ability to wait for long periods of time purely on the hope that the future would come and be what he wished. Gatsby realizes Just what the green light means to him when he is reunited with Daisy and she is on his lap: "If it wasn't for the mist we could see your home across the bay said Gatsby You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock. ' Daisy put her harm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had Just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever.

Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very hear 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"(61-62). Gatsby had desired Daisy for so long that he had not realized that he substituted the green light at the end of Daisy's dock for the real and actual Daisy. Gatsby had had that light as a hope and beacon for all that he did. It was a hope for the future, for the coming day, for what he would do next.

The green light directed and guided him in the night and day, eloping him chose in difficult situations and lending him guidance on his life choices. Gatsby life goes downhill from the moment he reconnects with Daisy and loses hope and his sense of direction for the future. He knows he wants to be with Daisy but he has already done everything he had planned for the past 5 years. He is at a loss and doesn't know what to do next. He loses hope and starts destroying the life he built. He fires servants, stops the parties, and loses the spark that made him so likable in the beginning of the novel. It [green] represented the hope of a better life ND the birth of the American Dream because in this new found land you could have anything you wanted if you worked hard enough... Green also represents corruption and the failing or death of the American Dream" ("Color Symbolism in the Great Gatsby'). The green light is not the only green associated with Gatsby, of the few instances the color is mentioned, Gatsby or something Gatsby owns is usually hope and loss of hope he has when he is younger, Just before becoming Jay Gatsby. When Dan Cody meets him, "It was James Gate who had been loafing along the beach in a torn green Jersey' (98).

Gatsby came from a penniless family and did not have very much to have hope in, given his circumstances. He was without means to make anything of himself and there was not much hope in the lower income classes of the time for gaining anything higher than their current position. The "torn green Jersey' represents the hopelessness of Gatsby prior to his meeting of Dan Cody. Once he had met him, Gatsby had a goal, he Joined the army, met Daisy, and became very wealthy. After he had met Cody he no longer wore the green Jersey, he had other, nicer clothes and he no longer felt the hopelessness associated with the lower income groups of society. His transition away from this hopelessness shows character growth and gives background to Gatsby story.


The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, highlights characteristics in characters using the colors blue, yellow, white and green. Blue is the omnipresence of both Gatsby and T. J. Cocklebur, the characters that keep vigil over the long island sound and the people in it. They are those who represent God's presences and judgment of the actions of those throughout the novel. Yellow is corruption and money. Gatsby wears gold and has golden items, thing he bought with dirty money room a false business. Cordon's golden arm helps her cheat in golf, and Daisy is obsessed with Gatsby money and has no negative thoughts of the affair she carries on with Gatsby. White is the false innocence of the characters and the protecting of femininity for Jordan and Daisy. They are characterized with white but are not as pure as they seem and the association is always in accordance with their femininity: their dresses or physical appearance. Green is the ever present hope and desire for Daisy and the past she and Gatsby shared.

Related Questions

on Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

Why Is Gatsby Dressed In A Gold Tie And Silver Shirt?
As a symbol of his wealth and extravagance, Gatsby dresses in a gold tie and silver shirt to impress and show off his status to others. It also represents his desire to attain the unattainable, just like the silver and gold that he can never truly possess.
How Is Nick Characterized In The Great Gatsby?
Nick is characterized as a reserved and observant narrator who is honest and non-judgmental in his dealings with others. He is also depicted as a moral and reflective individual who struggles to reconcile his own values with the decadent lifestyle of the wealthy elite.
What Does The Color Green Mean In The Great Gatsby ?
The color green in The Great Gatsby represents hope, envy, and money. It is often associated with the character of Daisy Buchanan and the corrupting influence of wealth.
What Color Does Nick Represent In The Great Gatsby ?
Nick does not represent a specific color in The Great Gatsby. Instead, he serves as a neutral narrator who observes and describes the events and characters in the story.
What Does The Color White Mean In The Great Gatsby ?
In The Great Gatsby, the color white represents purity, innocence, and the façade of the wealthy elite. It is also associated with Daisy Buchanan, who is portrayed as a beautiful and ethereal figure, but ultimately proves to be shallow and selfish.

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Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby. (2017, Dec 06). Retrieved from

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