Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

Francis Scott Fitzgerald author of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel, is one of the greatest pieces of literature out there. But, perhaps, it is best remembered and spoken about for its color symbolism.

For example, at the end of the novel, green color symbolism is used to depict the limitless promises of an unachievable dream that the main character, Gatsby, pursues until the very end.

The main reason why color symbolism in The Great Gatsby is a highly studied topic is due to the fact that the writer also happens to be a painter. Naturally, he has used various colors to make this literary work extremely visual.

Let us study some of the most symbolic representations of different colors in The Great Gatsby.

Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

Almost every chapter of Fitzgerald’s novel uses colors in their purest shades to give readers an insight into the different characters’ lives. Naturally, to fully fathom these colors mentioned, readers must also first understand the situations within which they are used.


Green grass letters spelling the word envy

Green has been mentioned around 18 times in the novel. Traditionally, green is associated with wealth, growth, and spring. It is also used to convey envy. Thus, Gatsby is shown to be an envious character as he is jealous that Daisy belongs to another man (Tom).

Green is also used to represent the power of money which Gatsby has plenty of. Until the end, Gatsby is hopeful that he can win Daisy with this power of money.

Another area depicting green color symbolism in The Great Gatsby is the green car which is called the “death car’. Michaelis describes the car that kills Myrtle as light green, though it’s yellow. The witness of the tragic accident towards the end of the novel is actually not even sure whether the ‘death car is indeed green or yellow in color’ – so experts believe this to be representative of the fact that only money brings death.

Perhaps the greatest and most important representation of green color in The Great Gatsby is the green light mentioned at the end of the novel, which is used to depict that Gatsby remains a dreamer throughout. This color represents an orgastic future or romantic reunion which Gatsby continues to believe in. Sentences such as ‘tomorrow we will run faster and stretch our arms wider’ also reinforce this belief.


Gold nugget on a dark surface

Golden, brass, or gold is used nearly 15 times in the novel. Traditionally, these colors symbolize wealth and riches, particularly old wealth. So gold and green used in the book contrastingly symbolize old wealth and new riches (gold for Daisy and her husband Tom’s old wealth and green for newly acquired Gatsby’s wealth). Tom himself is also believed to be gold, while Gatsby is green.

Jordan, another character in the story, is also represented with gold (‘I rested my arm on Jordan’s golden shoulder’ or ‘with Jordan’s golden arm’). The color is again used to represent old money.

In chapter 7, golden tea is served at the grey tea hour, which indicates the turning light. Gold turning to yellow is often used through sentences like yellow press or yellow cocktail music to symbolize beauty, old money, and sometimes, negativity.


White flower symbolizing purity and innocence

Daisy is, of course, the golden girl, but the author has also used white (49 times) to show the fairness and innocence of her character. In fact, Fitzgerald used white color symbolism very effectively to portray Daisy‘s character.

Experts who have studied the novel in depth use the example of an egg (white on the outside, yellow inside) to explain the Daisy character. She seems pure and innocent on the outside, but inside, she is yellow and corrupt.

White is also vital to the novel as it is used to portray beauty, cleanliness, wealth, laziness, purity, and virginity.


Red danger skull warning sign

Red color symbolism is also to be found in The Great Gatsby.

Red and gold books, a wine-colored rug, a crimson room, a pink suit, a red circle on water, etc., are used to depict richness, elegance, danger, tastelessness, and death, respectively.


Gloomy black skies representing impending doom

In The Great Gatsby, black wheels represent mourning, black wreaths show nervousness, and black rivulets mean sorrow.

Black is also used to symbolize injury and gloomy settings. Words like black morning and black beach show gloominess or impending doom, and Tom’s black eyes are used to represent hostility and anger.

In Conclusion

The Great Gatsby is one of the most visual pieces of literature, and many different colors are used repeatedly for its different characters. For example, white is used for Daisy as Gatsby continues to think of her as his innocent bride, whereas she is actually yellow or corrupted. Gatsby, on the other hand, is mostly linked with green, representing envy and money, but there is also blue, representing Gatsby’s hopes and illusions.

Fitzgerald has used color symbolism in The Great Gatsby to literally paint a vivid canvas that will be discussed, appreciated, and remembered for centuries.