by Michael Hall
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald brilliantly uses a color scheme that symbolizes different aspects of the story.
The color white is used in the novel to represent innocence, or perhaps the appearance of innocence. It is used as a cover to conceal what is truly behind the scenes. This can be seen on a broad scale just with the color of the white mansions (5). From the outside they appear innocent, but on the inside they are corrupted. For example, Daisy and Tom’s mansion used to be owned by an oil man, and oil of course is black (7). Also, Daisy is the character who most associates with this color. From her white dresses, to her white cars, Daisy puts on a veil to hide who she really is (74). The name Daisy, of course, comes from a flower which is white on the outside, yellow on the inside, and is supported by a green stem, all of which is symbolic. But we finally get to see through this veil at the end, which is portrayed symbolically when Gatsby’s father spills his milk (167).
The color green is used in the novel to represent envy and jealousy. We first see the color green in the description of Gatsby’s house which is covered in ivy, which symbolically means that jealousy has overtaken him (5). Gatsby also is obsessed by the green light from Daisy’s house across the bay (21). We see green pop up again with Gatsby’s hot, green car seat just before he lets his jealousy get the better of him in New York (120). Also, we see George Wilson’s face turn green which symbolizes the jealousy he has of his wife’s lover. And we finally see green in the death seen in which Wilson kills Gatsby from the grass (162). This symbolizes how jealousy has caused both his and Gatsby’s death.
The color yellow is used in the novel to represent greed and the lust for the artificial or dream world. When Gatsby’s yellow car kills Myrtle, this symbolizes how her greed and obsession for an unattainable dream destroys her. This is shown again in the form of a swinging yellow light over Myrtle’s lifeless body (138). But the greatest image of yellow in the story is the aura of artificial yellow light surrounding and within Gatsby’s mansion, especially during his parties. This shows how Gatsby prefers to live his life in the artificial light, which of course is fake, or illusory. However, this dream world Gatsby creates has its limits. No matter how bright is mansion or dream world will be, it eventually ends in the darkness of the night.
The color blue in the novel is used to represent reality. This is shown in the color of the Billboard’s eyes which sees the world as it really is (23). When the dust finally settles, Wilson’s blue eyes also see the real blue world through his blue window (159). The fact that Gatsby dies in a pool is symbolic of how reality will always trump the dream (162).
The colors gold and silver represent wealth for obvious reasons. The story shows how wealth can be used for many purposes. We see how wealth can better the mind when we see Nick’s books on the shelf (4). But we also see how wealth can lead to greed and excess in the form of banquets, parties, and luxurious decorations within the mansions.
The color black foreshadows death in the novel. Both of the characters who die in the shadow are at one point linked to a black wreath (36, 88). A wreath, of course, is an arrangement of flowers used to honor a deceased person. But the fact that the wreath is black not only represents that they both will die, but that they will die without honor.