Color Imagery in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"

Categories: The Great Gatsby

Literary devices play a crucial role in conveying the themes and nuances of a story. One such device, imagery, allows authors to create vivid mental images for readers, appealing to their senses and enhancing the narrative experience. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's American Modernist novel, "The Great Gatsby," color imagery takes center stage as a powerful tool for conveying recurring themes throughout the story.

The Significance of Color Imagery

Fitzgerald's choice of colors goes beyond mere aesthetics; it serves as a vehicle for conveying deeper, symbolic meanings.

The characters in "The Great Gatsby" become embodiments of these colors, reflecting the broader societal themes and values of the era.

The yellow hue, as seen in characters like Daisy Buchanan, symbolizes the corrosive nature of greed and the relentless pursuit of power. Daisy, who appears pure on the surface in her white dress, conceals her true desires for wealth and social standing. The underlying yellow serves as a metaphorical reminder of her insatiable hunger for material wealth.

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Similarly, the color gold is used to represent the glittering allure of material possession. Tom and Daisy Buchanan's opulent lifestyle, epitomized by their grand mansion, showcases the materialistic values that pervade their lives. Even Nick Carraway, who prides himself on his moral compass, is drawn into the world of materialism through his relationship with Jordan Baker, whose "slender golden arm" becomes a symbol of possession.

The deceptive shroud of yellow underscores the theme of dishonesty and façades within the story. Jay Gatsby's mysterious persona, concealed behind his yellow Rolls-Royce and extravagant tales, highlights the deceptive nature of appearances.

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Jordan Baker's "autumn-leaf yellow hair" mirrors her lack of integrity and willingness to cheat, adding another layer to the theme of deception.

The Yellow Hue of Greed

Yellow emerges as a recurring symbol of greed and the insatiable desire for power throughout the novel. Several characters in the story are driven by their relentless pursuit of more, never content with their current circumstances. This greed manifests in their actions and choices, reinforcing the association with the color yellow.

Daisy Buchanan, a central character in the narrative, exemplifies this connection between yellow and greed. Despite her marriage to Tom Buchanan, Daisy craves power and wealth, leading her to remain in a tumultuous relationship with Tom. Nick Carraway, the story's narrator, describes Daisy as appearing "in white, her dress rippling and fluttering," a superficial image of purity and innocence. However, the yellow at the center of the daisy flower metaphorically reveals Daisy's true nature, one consumed by greed and a desire for a luxurious life.

Another character who subtly reflects a desire for more is George Wilson, a resident of the desolate Valley of Ashes. George's blonde hair, associated with the color yellow, symbolizes his longing for a better life beyond his dismal surroundings. When Tom Buchanan visits George, the latter's request to buy Tom's car underscores his aspiration for material improvement.

Fitzgerald's portrayal of yellow as a symbol of greed adds depth to the characters and highlights the corrosive impact of relentless desire for power and wealth.

Gold: The Glittering Allure of Material Possession

While yellow represents greed and desire, gold emerges as a symbol of material possession and opulence. In "The Great Gatsby," the characters' pursuit of wealth and status is on full display, and Fitzgerald employs gold imagery to illustrate their materialistic ambitions.

The opulent lives of Tom and Daisy Buchanan are characterized by their extravagant wealth, showcased in their grand mansion located in the affluent East Egg. Nick Carraway's description of their mansion, with its "front broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold," underscores their material affluence and the allure of possessions.

Even Nick Carraway, the story's narrator, is not immune to the seductive appeal of material possession. His romantic involvement with Jordan Baker, depicted with a "slender golden arm," reflects his desire to possess her as his own prized possession.

Fitzgerald's use of gold as a symbol for material wealth aligns with the overarching theme of societal decadence and the allure of the American Dream. It serves as a visual reminder of the characters' obsession with accumulating possessions and achieving social status.

The Deceptive Shroud of Yellow

In "The Great Gatsby," dishonesty and deception are recurring themes, and Fitzgerald employs yellow imagery to symbolize the characters' misleading behavior and façades.

Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic millionaire at the center of the story, is shrouded in mystery regarding the source of his wealth and his true identity. When Nick Carraway accompanies Gatsby in his yellow Rolls-Royce, the narrator senses that Gatsby is not entirely truthful about his background. Gatsby's attempt to create a façade of wealth and sophistication through his car and elaborate stories reflects the deceptive nature of the color yellow in the narrative.

Jordan Baker, another character in the story, is depicted as having "autumn-leaf yellow hair." Her physical appearance, associated with the color yellow, mirrors her dishonesty. Jordan's participation in a golf tournament scandal, where she is accused of cheating, underscores her lack of integrity and deceptive nature.

Through the use of yellow imagery, Fitzgerald underscores the theme of deception and the characters' tendency to obscure their true selves behind a façade of wealth and sophistication.


F. Scott Fitzgerald's skillful use of color imagery, particularly the colors yellow and gold, in "The Great Gatsby" enhances the reader's understanding of the story's themes and characters. Yellow symbolizes greed, the desire for power, and dishonesty, while gold represents material possession and opulence.

By weaving these colors into the narrative, Fitzgerald provides a visual and symbolic framework that deepens the reader's engagement with the characters and their motivations. The recurring patterns of yellow and gold serve as a subtle yet powerful commentary on the society depicted in the novel.

Updated: Nov 07, 2023
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Color Imagery in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby". (2016, Sep 20). Retrieved from

Color Imagery in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" essay
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