Throughout the 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald imagery is used to convey messages and to help the audience remember specific events, ideas and or characters from the text. The book would have significantly less meaning without it. One of the images that I will be focusing on in this essay is the use of color in the novel. Color imagery is essential, and are in the novel because all of the colors that he uses portray a specific idea.
The use of these colors are scattered through the entire novel to help the readers get a better grasp of certain topics as well as a better understanding of the novel as a whole. Other extremely important images are the Valley of Ashes, as well as the East and West Egg comparison and their deeper meaning over just being located on either side of the Valley of Ashes.
Three major colors that are used throughout the novel to symbolize greater things, are the colors white, yellow, and green.
Fitzgerald uses these color white to symbolize many things in the novel. Daisy is portrayed in the novel to always be wearing white, which is supposed to symbolize purity, innocence, and even virginity in most cases, but in The Great Gatsby the color white represents false purity and wealth “She was dressed in white and had a little white roadster.” (Fitzgerald 79). Shortly after we find out that Daisy is not the “white” person that we/ Gatsby thinks she is. As she is willing to stay with Tom Buchanan instead of choosing Gatsby, the person she truly loves, for the sole fact being that Tom lives in East Egg, the part of town that comes from old money, and because of this Tom has a lot of money which is enough of a reason for Daisy to choose him over Gatsby.
A lot of the times Daisy even uses the wearing of white and being innocent as a gateway to act careless and even like a child sometimes “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together…” (Fitzgerald 187). Just like the above example she utilizes her “innocence” in a way to make everybody around her think that she is pure and knows no better more or less. She does this because she knows that since she comes from old money and since her husband, Tom is so wealthy as well that she is practically untouchable once she retreats back to her estate/money. Even the protagonist of the story, Jay Gatsby is fooled by her love towards him.
Another twist Fitzgerald puts on the color white, which should symbolize innocence is when Gatsby was pulled over by the police for speeding, but instead of actually getting a ticket or in any trouble he got let off the hook by “taking a white card from his wallet, and waving it before the man’s eyes” (Fitzgerald 68). Once again the color white is brought up in this case as the image of the “white” card to show how something like speeding, or more importantly how something like breaking the law can just be reversed and that person, Gatsby in this case is deemed innocent for something (Samkanashvii). Almost like how Daisy would act careless and do things she shouldn’t but dress in white to make herself look or seem innocent even though she fully knew what it was she was doing.
The color green comes up quite a few times in the novel and is seen as one of the more important pieces of Imagery that the text has to offer. An obvious thing that comes to mind when we think of green is money and that is one part of the color green in the novel but it goes deeper than that of just money, it represents the way of how Jay Gatsby is thinking. As early as chapter one we see this, when Gatsby is standing out on his lawn in West Egg and reaching out to the faint green light in the distance, which is located at the end of the Daisy’s dock out in East Egg. The green light symbolizes Daisy in Gatsby’s mind, because for the entire book and his life, his life long goal, his american dream was to be together with Daisy. So in his mind as long as he just keeps reaching for it eventually he will be able to hold it in his hand. The harsh reality of that was just how small, far away, and unattainable his dream really was, just like how far and dim lit the light was at the end of Daisy’s dock. (Zhang 38)
Another monumental point for the color green as well as just a realization for both characters in the novel is during chapter 5, after Gatsby shows Daisy all around his house and points out all of his riches then says “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’ Daisy put her arm 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.” (Fitzgerald 121-122). The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, aka his dream to be with Daisy which had felt so far away felt like it had finally vanished, the reason being that what he always wanted, which was Daisy, was now sitting in his house with him.
Daisy on the other hand was sobbing after seeing him boast about all of his riches due to the fact being that she finally realizes that he is trying to woo her over with how rich he has become and with all of these nice and expensive thing he now has. Unlike what Gatsby thought earlier in the novel, which was that he felt he needed to become rich and extravagant in order to win over the woman of his dreams, Daisy felt the complete opposite way. She had everything she could want in terms of money and status and wealth. She lived in East Egg where all the people come from old money, they don’t have to work and have everything they could ever imagine (Lin-lin). Daisy actually loved Gatsby for being the nice and caring man that he was.
The color yellow was used very widely throughout the text and refers to and symbolizes corruption and greed, as well as being fake. From the death or Myrtle in the yellow Rolls-Royce, to the illegal drinking of the two girls both dressed in yellow dresses, who weren’t as stunning or impressive as Jordan in her GOLD dresses. It all comes back to the fact that Gatsby would do ANYTHING to get wealthy so that in his mind he could win back the woman of his dreams, Daisy Buchanan. Since he was in the mob and had ties to any and everything he wanted. That also meant anything he wanted would be and could be taken by force and whenever he wanted. Everything that he had, from his lavish lifestyle, to his house, to his high end cars were all gained through greed and corruption (Seiters).
The fakeness of the yellow come from the fact that all the people who had old money over in East Egg all consider their money to be from the real deal, the good ol fashioned gold coins, not they fake dollar bills in which these “new money” people are rising up with now a days. Like stated above, when Gatsby throws his huge house party and all of the guests are showing up and Jordan, one of Daisy’s friend who comes from old money is dressed in what is described as a “slender golden arm(s)” (Fitzgerald 19). This is pointing out that whatever she’s wearing is golden, which is authentic and most likely very expensive as well, compared to where when the “two girls in yellow dresses” (Fitzgerald 15) walked into his party and were noted to not be as stunning as the golden dressed Jordan. This is showing their comparison of the two and showing that yellow in a sense is just a fake gold, kind of how the color yellow itself looks next to something gold, washed out, and duller (Zhong 42).
Last but not least comes the symbolism between the West Egg and East Egg locations, as well as the Valley of Ashes between them and the significance of the Eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The difference between the West Egg and East Egg cities are the fact that the people that come from the East Egg side all come from old money, which means that they have liked with that money for generations and no nothing else but luxury and are all brought up in mostly ivy league colleges as well. Examples of this would be people like Daisy and Tom Buchanan as well as her friend Jordan Baker. West Egg on the other hand are still wealthy, without a doubt but they all come from new money, which means they most likely didn’t go to an ivy college, or even college in general, but it also means that they worked personally for their money and have accumulated their money in their lifetime, and didn’t depend on inheritance like the people of East Egg. Jay Gatsby is a prime example of somebody who comes from new money, which is why he lives in West Egg (Lin-lin).
The Valley of Ashes is the area between West Egg and East Egg. It is the area in which all of the people of the lowest class reside. Its made up from and get the name Valley of Ashes because all of the garbage and unwanted things from New York City are burned wind up getting deposited into the industrial area between the West and East Egg. The Valley of Ashes symbolizes the difficulty and unfortunateness that comes from living in the area. All of this happens under the fading, nevertheless watchful eyes of T. J. Eckleburg, a pair of fading glasses that is painted on an advertising billboard. The billboard watches over the Valley of Ashes and it thought to symbolize God staring down upon this area and judging the American dream, as well as American society for everything they are doing in terms of chasing wealth and power by any means necessary, even if it means the people who are less wealth than them have to suffer so that the rich can get richer and live happier (Seiters).
The novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1925 is a book that is still read today and appreciated for its amazing work, and use of imagery and symbolism. From the way he describes everything with a color, like he were a kid painting a portrait, to the descriptions of the lavish living of the people who lived in West and East Egg, down to the harsh living conditions of the people living in the Valley of Ashes. Everything he describes, he describes it like that for a reason and it makes it so everything in the novel is essential to another part of the story, as well as gives the reader a better understanding of certain topics so that they can then have a better overall understanding of the novel and the messages the novel is trying to offer.