Symbolism in the Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Yellow, The Great Gatsby Pages: 6 (2525 words) Published: April 7, 2008
Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

In the novel The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald there are many different kinds of symbols used. Fitzgerald uses colors and material luxuries as the two main symbols in the novel. The author uses these symbols most frequently in the novel. The symbolism is carefully incorporated within the novel which makes it hard to detect at first glance. Within these symbols Fitzgerald mainly expresses feelings and the American Dream. Fitzgerald uses colors like an artist in his novel. Each color represents a different feeling or has a different meaning. He uses the color yellow to symbolize moral decay and death, the color white to symbolize innocence, and the color green to express hope. Fitzgerald's use of the color green the most compared to the other two colors. Although these are not the only colors that Fitzgerald uses for symbolism, they are the ones that he uses in the novel that have a significant meaning the most. The one color that stands out in the story with the symbol of moral decay is the color yellow. Fitzgerald writes "The lamp-light, bright on his boots and dull on the autumn-leaf yellow of her hair" (18). 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 times that Tom does that might prove that he is heading for a moral decay. First of all Tom is having an affair with Myrtle Wilson. Second he does not like Gatsby, and several times he tries to prove that Gatsby is not who he says he is. Tom doesn’t like Gatsby so much that he even hires a detective to prove Gatsby is a fake. The automobiles in the story especially Gatsby’s Rolls Royce is yellow "His station wagon scampered like a yellow brisk-bug . . ." (Fitzgerald 39). Gatsby's car was referred to many times in the book, but it was always referred to as "The yellow car" (Fitzgerald 157). Fitzgerald is trying to point out the significance of the color every time he mentions Gatsby’s car. Yellow is also used most frequently when there is a death. When Myrtle died they laid her on a table in the garage, which was lit only by a yellow light in a swinging wire basket overhead. Wilson, Myrtle’s husband, was in a dazed state, and kept referring to Gatsby’s car only as the "Yellow car" and "That big yellow car" (Fitzgerald 141). The accident later leads to Gatsby's demise after Wilson thinks finds out whom the owner of the car is. The yellow color of Gatsby’s car also symbolizes decay of corruption; therefore Gatsby’s car is like a bright yellow star in the sky that once was lit bright and is now about to disappear. In his passage, Daniel Schneider discusses Gatsby’s “meticulous attention to detail ... [compliments] the personage” of himself and the things he possess that symbolize him (13). Just before Gatsby was shot by Wilson, Gatsby decided he is going to take a swim in his pool. He had not used the pool all summer. The chauffeur helped Gatsby fill up an air 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" (Fitzgerald 161-162). The use of yellow in this passage is another example of that color symbolizing death because not too long after Gatsby was shot. The next color that Fitzgerald uses as a symbol in his novel is the color green. It is used in the novel as a symbol that represents different choices Gatsby makes during his life. The color green also represents Gatsby’s dream and goal. “The green element in this novel is taken from the green light at the end of the dock near Daisy's house. The color itself represents serenity, as in everything is perfect” (Schneider 14). This warns Gatsby that he should not pursue his dream for getting Daisy back, because his chance has passed and everything is as it should be. This is shown...
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