Symbolic Meanings of Colors in The Great Gatsby


Haibing ZHANG


F. Scott Fitzgerald, who lived in the midst of the “Jazz Age”, was a representative of the “Lost Generation” in the 1920s. He is regarded as the spokesman of the special age in American history. His masterpiece The Great Gatsby, written in 1925, is a good illustration of the mood of the “Jazz Age” and is praised highly by many famous writers and critics. The novel applies a lot of symbols, which run through the whole novel and play an important role. And this paper intends to find out major symbols of colors and analyze their symbolic meanings. The major colors in The Great Gatsby include green, white, red, yellow, blue and grey. Green is closely associated with the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. It symbolizes Gatsby’s deep love to Daisy and his American Dream. But as the green light is always feeble and far away, it also indicates the disillusionment of his dream. White, which is closely associated with Daisy, is not only pure but also hollow. It symbolizes vacuity, superficiality, hollowness and ruthlessness. Red is usually related to blood and is closely associated with Tom in the novel. Thus it represents Tom’s character: selfish, arrogant, barbarous, fractious and cruel. Yellow is the most common color appeared in the novel. First, it symbolizes money, materialism and high social position, such as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s enormous yellow spectacles and Gatsby’s golden tie. Second, it symbolizes luxury and greed when the author describes Daisy as a golden woman. Third, it also represents destructive power and death, such as the yellow leaves and yellow car. Blue symbolizes melancholy, loneliness, tranquility and fantasy, such as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s blue eyes, Gatsby’s blue gardens, blue leaves, blue lawn and blue livery. Grey symbolizes decadence, bleakness, corruption, disillusionment and spiritual emptiness. The Valley of Ashes explains this color best. Colors used in the novel play an important effect in shaping the characters, developing the plot, and deepening the theme of the novel. It makes this novel more profound and significant.


F. Scott Fitzgerald; The Great Gatsby; Symbolic meaning; Colors

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