Fitzgerald’s Use of Color in the Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby Pages: 7 (2576 words) Published: May 8, 2012
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, exposes the corruption and greed of the Roaring Twenties. Fitzgerald is able to captivate readers' attentions through his employment of color symbolism. Fitzgerald portrays important messages in the novel by his symbolic use of colors. Colors play an important role in Fitzgerald’s descriptions of the lives of Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway and many of the other characters in the novel. Fitzgerald uses the colors white, yellow, and green to express certain sentiments to the reader, commenting what is going on in the story. Fitzgerald uses the color white to symbolize purity and innocence, while yellow is used to symbolize moral decay, and death. Green is used to represent hope and dreams for the future. The reader is able to acknowledge these colors and understand the mood being expressed through their symbolism. White is one of the main symbolic colors in The Great Gatsby, representing purity, innocence, and honesty. Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker, and Daisy Buchanan are all examples of how Fitzgerald uses white to describe both personalities and social status. Additionally, Fitzgerald employs the use of the color white to depict both the environment and social context of East Egg. In the opening chapter of the novel, the narrator, Nick Carraway, describes the “white palaces of fashionable East Egg” (Fitzgerald, 5). A.E. Elmore reflects on the description of East Egg and its inhabitants in his article “Color and Cosmos in The Great Gatsby”: “the pervasively white mansion of the Buchanans, who dress in white and talk endlessly about the white race” (428). East Egg is considered to be old money and those who reside there do not wish to share their land with foreigners or even people who have recently acquired their wealth. “Civilization's going to pieces...the idea is that if we don't look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged” (Fitzgerald, 12-13) Tom Buchanan warns Nick on more than one occasion. The color white “makes more appearances in the novel than any other single color and something like three of every four are applied to East Egg or characters from East Egg, especially to Daisy” (Elmore, 428). White images are imbedded in the novel and used most frequently to describe Daisy Fay Buchanan. The Buchanans represent “the rich, old-family wing of white Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America in the era immediately following World War I. Daisy represents … Southern gentility (“Our white girlhood....Our beautiful white [girlhood]” as she calls it)” (Elmore, 430). Daisy is the character most associated with the color white. Even her maiden name, Fay, means “a white-person” according to Elmore (430). Daisy and Jordan reflect on their youth during Nick's first visit to the Buchanan residence where both women are dressed in white dresses sitting together on the couch: “Jordan tells Nick that Daisy was a girl 'dressed in white, and had a little white roadster'. This whiteness obviously carries suggestions of innocence, remoteness and inaccessibility” (Millgate, 337). When Gatsby reflects on his time spent with Daisy before he left for war, he describes how the “sidewalk was white with moonlight...(as) his heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own” (Fitzgerald, 110). Superficially, Daisy emulates everything that whiteness stands for, and Fitzgerald ensures each character take notice. Fitzgerald also employs his symbolic use of whiteness on Daisy's faithful admirer, Jay Gatsby, when Gatsby is reunited with Daisy. Gatsby's usual attire of light colored suits are replaced with “a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and a gold-colored tie” (Fitzgerald, 84). According to Kathleen Parkington, in her critical studies of The Great Gatsby , “his color scheme echoes Daisy's attributes of white” (47). He wears white to appear pure, innocent, and honest in order to appease Daisy and win her...

Cited: Eble, Kenneth E. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Criticism, New York. McGraw-Hill, 1973.
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