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The Great Gatsby Essay On Colors

Essay/Term paper: The great gatsby: symbolism in colors

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The Great Gatsby: Symbolism in Colors


Colors can symbolize many different things. Artists use colors in their
paintings when they want you to see what they are trying to express. Like if
an artist is trying to express sorrow or death he often uses blacks blues, and
grays basically he uses dreary colors. You automatically feel what the artist
is trying to express. When the artist uses bright colors you feel warm and you
feel happiness. In the novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald is like an
artist. He uses colors to symbolize the many different intangible ideas in the
book. He uses the color yellow to symbolize moral decay decadence and death.
Then he uses the color white to symbolize innocence. He also uses the color
green to express hope. Fitzgerald's use of the color green the strongest.
Although these are not the only colors that Fitzgerald uses for symbolism, they
are the ones that he expresses the most. This book is a very colorful book in
the sense that it uses colors to cover so many different aspects of peoples
lives.
Fitzgerald uses the color yellow to symbolize moral decay. On (Page 18)
he writes " The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf
yellow of her hair." He is talking about Tom and Jordan Baker, and he is
suggesting that tom might be heading for moral decay. In the book there are
several things that Tom does that might prove this. First of all Tom is having
an affair with Myrtle Wilson. A second thing is that he does not like Gatsby,
and several times he tries to prove that he is not who he says he is. Tom even
hires a detective to prove this. Gatsby had a Rolls Royce that was yellow "His
station wagon scampered like a yellow brisk-bug . . ." (Page 39). Gatsby's car
was referred to many times in the book, but it was always referred to as "The
yellow car" (Page 157).
The color yellow was used most frequently when there was a death. One
of the first things that Fitzgerald wrote about when Myrtle died was when they
laid her on a table in the garage. He wrote "The garage, which was lit only by
a yellow light in a swinging wire basket overhead" page . Wilson her husband
was in a dazed state, and kept referring to his car only as the "Yellow car"
(Page157) "That big yellow car" (Page141). That car led to Gatsby's demise.
Just before Gatsby was shot by Wilson, Gatsby decided he was going to take a
swim in his pool. He had not used it all summer. The chauffeur helped Gatsby
fill up a mattress he was going to use in the pool. "Gatsby shouldered the
mattress and started for the pool. Once he stopped and shifted it a little, and
the chauffeur asked him if he needed help, but he shook his head and in a moment
disappeared among the yellowing trees." Page (161-162) Perhaps another sign of
his demise.
Green is a very strong color in this book. It symbolizes hope. Gatsby
and Daisy had met for a short time before he went off to war. When he returned
he knew that Daisy had married Tom. He desperately wanted to get back together
with her. So much so that he bought a house where he could see Daisy's house
from his. Gatsby was able to pick out a green light at the end of her dock, and
often looked toward it. I feel that green was symbolized as the deepest feeling
in this book. Gatsby was so close to his dream of being with Daisy. He worked
hard to get where he was, but before he could achieve his dream his life was
ended.
Another color that was used frequently was white. It symbolized
innocence. (Page 75) Jordan Baker talks about Daisy, "She dressed in white and
drove a little white roadster . . ." I think what Fitzgerald is saying is that
when Daisy was younger she symbolized innocence. He also expressed that thought
when he says she had a white girlhood on (Page 20). He also talks about the
steps to Gatsby's house as being white. Maybe what he was saying was that on
the outside it looked innocent, but on the inside it was not.
Fitzgerald also uses many other colors such as silver, gray, pink,
lavender, brown and black to symbolize the many other feelings. In this book he
shows us how society uses colors to express our feelings. We use black at
funerals, white at weddings, and red with war and love. Many people use colors
to express their feelings, and don't even realize what they are doing.



 

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow

The green light isn't the only symbolic color in Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses color like a preschooler let loose with tempera paints—only a little more meaningfully. Let's break it down:

Yellow and Gold: Money, Money, Money. Oh, and Death.

First off, we've got yellows and golds, which we're thinking has something to do with…gold (in the cash money sense). Why gold and not green? Because we're talking about the real stuff, the authentic, traditional, "old money" – not these new-fangled dollar bills. So you have Gatsby's party, where the turkeys are "bewitched to dark gold," and Jordan's "slender golden arm[s]" (3.19), and Daisy the "golden girl" (7.99), and Gatsby wearing a gold tie to see Daisy at Nick's house.

But yellow is different. Yellow is fake gold; it's veneer and show rather than substance. We see that with the "yellow cocktail music" at Gatsby's party (1) and the "two girls in twin yellow dresses" who aren't as alluring as the golden Jordan (3.15). Also yellow? Gatsby's car, symbol of his desire—and failure—to enter New York's high society. And if that weren't enough, T. J. Eckleburg's glasses, looking over the wasteland of America, are yellow.

White: Innocence and Femininity. Maybe.

While we're looking at cars, notice that Daisy's car (back before she was married) was white. So are her clothes, the rooms of her house, and about half the adjectives used to describe her (her "white neck," "white girlhood," the king's daughter "high in a white palace").

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. But come on – Daisy is hardly the picture of girlish innocence. At the end of the novel, she's described as selfish, careless, and destructive. Does this make the point that even the purest characters in Gatsby have been corrupted? Did Daisy start off all innocent and fall along the way, or was there no such purity to begin with? Or, in some way, does Daisy's decision to remain with Tom allow her to keep her innocence? We'll keep thinking about that one.

Blue: This One's Up For Grabs

Then there's the color blue, which we think represents Gatsby's illusions -- his deeply romantic dreams of unreality. We did notice that the color blue is present around Gatsby more than any other character. His gardens are blue, his chauffeur wears blue, the water separating him from Daisy is his "blue lawn" (9.150), mingled with the "blue smoke of brittle leaves" in his yard.

His transformation into Jay Gatsby is sparked by Cody, who buys him, among other things, a "blue coat"—and he sends a woman who comes to his house a "gas blue" dress (3.25). Before you tie this up under one simple label, keep in mind that the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg are also blue, and so is Tom's car. If blue represents illusions and alternatives to reality, maybe that makes the eyes of God into a non-existent dream. As for Tom's car…well, you can field that one.

Grey and a General Lack of Color: Lifelessness (no surprise there)

If the ash heaps are associated with lifelessness and barrenness, and grey is associated with the ash heaps, anyone described as grey is going to be connected to barren lifelessness. Our main contender is Wilson: "When anyone spoke to him he invariably laughed in an agreeable colorless way" (2.17). Wilson's face is "ashen," and a "white ashen dust" covers his suit (2.17), and his eyes are described as "pale" and "glazed." We're not too surprised when she shows up with a gun at the end of the novel.

Green: Life, Vitality, The Future, Exploration

Last one. We're thinking green = plants and trees and stuff, so it must represent life and springtime and other happy events. Right?

Well, the most noticeable image is that green light we seem to see over and over. You know, the green light of the "orgastic future" that we stretch our hands towards, etc. etc. (9.149). Right before these famous last lines, Nick also describes the "fresh, green breast of the new world," the new world being this land as Nick imagines it existed hundreds of years before. Green also shows up—we think significantly—as the "long green tickets" that the rich kids of Chicago use as entry to their fabulous parties, the kind of parties where Daisy and Tom meet, and where Gatsby falls in love. So green does represent a kind of hope, but not always a good one.

When Nick imagines Gatsby's future without Daisy, he sees "a new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about...like that ashen fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees." Nick struggles to define what the future really means, especially as he faces the new decade before him (the dreaded thirties). Is he driving on toward grey, ashen death through the twilight, or reaching out for a bright, fresh green future across the water?

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