The Great Gatsby Essay Example

F. Scott Fitzgerald elaborately depicts corruption in the Jazz Age in his autobiographical cross-section of American society: The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald accomplished this depiction with an extensive use of symbolism throughout the novel; furthermore, the symbolic meanings of colors could be considered the most significant. The use of colors such as yellow, green, and white, symbolize the common prevalence of materialism, aspirations, and selfishness in The Great Gatsby.

First, the color yellow heavily symbolizes materialism. Throughout the novel, yellow was often associated with Gatsby. This is clearly evident when Gatsby decorates Nick's house for Daisy's visit. Gatsby wore a "gold-colored tie"(Fitzgerald 84) and ordered "twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen shop" (Fitzgerald 84). The purpose of acquiring these yellow features was to impress Daisy. Since these features lacked any deeper meaning or emotion, it can be concluded that they were purely for a materialistic appeal. Furthermore, Gatsby often "chooses the yellow color to decorate himself and his house to show that he has been one member of the rich folk" (Zhang). Gatsby first lost Daisy because he was not rich, so he gained wealth to earn her back.

To show that he is now wealthy, Gatsby surrounds himself with gold. For example, when Daisy first visits Gatsby's house, she "admired the gardens, and sparkling odor of jonquils … and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate" (Fitzgerald 90). Then, Daisy continued to admire Gatsby's gold toilet seat and gold hairbrush. Throughout this scene, Daisy is falling in love with Jay's possessions, not him. Since these possessions are often gold-colored, and since yellow is the color of gold, yellow clearly symbolizes Daisy's materialistic qualities. 

Throughout the novel, it can be observed that the color green symbolizes lost aspirations, especially with regards to the green light on the Buchanan's dock. The green light symbolizes Gatsby's dream to take Daisy back as his wife. This is first seen when Nick noticed Gatsby stretching out his arm across the bay. Nick "distinguished nothing except a green light, minute and far away" (Fitzgerald 21). As Nick observed him, Gatsby seemed to be trembling as if he was trying to grab the light. Jay knows that the light belongs to Daisy; consequently, "The green light just represents Daisy, who is his lifelong pursuit and dream" (Zhang). Also, "Gatsby sees it as his dream, away from his humble beginnings, toward a successful future with the girl he desires" (Themes and Construction: The Great Gatsby). Since Jay dreams of becoming rich and acquiring Daisy, the light symbolizes Gatsby's aspirations. In addition, the green light appears again at the end of the novel. During the Gatsby's funeral, Nick mentions how "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…" (Fitzgerald 180). Although Gatsby did not achieve his goal, the green light still symbolized how new hope and aspirations. 

Lastly, the color white indirectly symbolizes selfishness and superficiality. White is most often associated with Daisy. She is depicted to be very beautiful and pure, but she is quite the opposite. As seen in the novel, Daisy wears a white dress when she meets Gatsby for the first time as well as when Nick visits her in the East Egg. Daisy's house is also covered in white "The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass" (Fitzgerald 8). Even Daisy's name resembles the color white. But Daisy is only personifying all of the upper class East Egg residents; as observed by Nick, "Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered across the water" (Fitzgerald 5).

Through the common description of being white, Daisy and the upper class are depicted to be pure and noble. However, The Great Gatsby highlights the superficiality of these impressions. Daisy is characterized to be very cold, hollow, and selfish. Her time is filled with nothing except boredom and loneliness among her luxurious possessions. Her life lacks and meaning or purpose. She fails to ever help another person when it's at her expense. For example, she never takes the blame for running over Myrtle; she selfishly allows Gatsby to take the fall. Since she exemplifies the rest of the upper class, she "represents the hollow and superficial upper class in the Jazz Age" (Zhang). And since the color white is often associated with Daisy and the upper class, it strongly symbolizes selfishness. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald provided a cross section of America in The Great Gatsby. His use of symbolism effectively provides insight not only into his own experiences, but also those of the rest of America during the Jazz Age. Recurring colors such as yellow, green, and white strongly symbolize materialism, aspirations, and selfishness.