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Fitzgerald Scott The Great Gatsby
The Use of Colors in The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald uses a lot of colors in "The Great Gatsby" to underline his ideas.
Golden stands for
1) richness, but also
2) happy or prosperous: golden days, golden age
3) successful: the golden girl of tennis
4) extremely valuable: a golden opportunity
At Gatsby's parties even the turkeys turn to gold. "..turkeys bewitched to a dark gold" (p. 41).
Jordan Baker - the golden girl of golf - is associated with that color. "With Jordan's slender golden arm resting in mine" (p. 44); "I put my arm around Jordan's golden shoulder" (p. 77).
With a few sentences Fitzgerald throws a light at the turbulent months while Daisy is waiting for Gatsby during the war. "All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the »Beale Street Blues« while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the grey tea hour ..." (p. 144). Here even the dust in the rooms, usually grey, is shining, while the usually golden tea is served at the grey tea hour. We find that contrast between golden and grey once more in "we went about opening the rest of the windows downstairs, filling the house with grey-turning, gold-turning light" (p. 144).
Silver represents jewellery and richness.
In The Great Gatsby the moon or moonlight or the stars are often silver: "the silver pepper of the stars" (p. 25); "The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales" (p. 48); "A silver curve of the moon hovered already in the western sky" (p. 114).
Sometimes the gold at Gatsby's house turns to yellow. Thus the richness is only a cover, a short sensation, like the yellow press for the more offensively sensational press. "now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music" (p. 42). In contrast to the golden girl Jordan, her admirers are only yellow. "two girls in twin yellow dresses"; "»You don't know who we are,« said one of the girls in yellow, »but we met you here about a month ago.«" "... we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow" (all p. 44). Remarkably Daisy's daughter has old and yellow hair: "Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair?" (p. 111).
Gatsby has two important experiences in his life before the story starts.
(1) Dan Cody with his yacht (p.96) "that yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world."
(2) Daisy Fay. She wears white clothes and has a white car.
White stands for
1) morally unblemished
2) honorable '
"High in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl" (Daisy, p. 115). When Nick Carraway visited the Buchanan he met two young women, of course Daisy and Jordan "They were both in white" (p. 13). Even the windows at Daisy's house are white "The windows were ajar and gleaming white" (p. 13). "Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white" (Daisy and Jordan, p. 24). "they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight" (Daisy and Gatsby, p. 106). In a El-Greco-like picture at the end of the novel "four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress" (p. 167). "His heart beat faster as Daisy's white face came up to his own" (p. 107).
Fitzgerald uses the color white for the real West, although he doesn't even mention the name of the color. "When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow" (p. 166). At the end of the novel ["the party was over" (p. 171), like the end of the Jazz Age at the Great Depression 1929] somebody soiled Gatsby's house. "On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight, and I erased it" (p. 171). A couple of years later Jerome D. Salinger uses this metaphor and Holden Caulfield erases at the end of The Catcher in the Rye (salinger Rezension) an obscene word, written at the wall. But time changes: Fitzgerald just called it "obscene", twentyfive years later Salinger named it.
Green stands for a variety of meanings, but Fitzgerald used it mainly for "not faded", like in "a green old age", or for hope. "I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light" (p. 25). This green light is across the sea where Buchanan's house is supposed to be. Gatsby said: "»You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock«" (p. 90); "Now it was again a green light on a dock" (p. 90); "...when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock" (p. 171); "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us" (p. 171). Later the whole water between Gatsby and Daisy gets green "On the green Sound, stagnant in the heat,.." (p. 112). Once (as far as I found it) Fitzgerald used "green" for envious or jealous: "In the sunlight his face was green" (George Wilson, p. 117).
Grey is often used for neutral, dull, not important. "grey little villages in France" (p. 48); "The grey windows disappeared" (at Gatsby's house, p. 91); "... a grey, florid man with a hard, empty face" (p. 97) about the portrait of Dan Cody in Gatsby's bedroom. Gatsby's ideal is grey and empty. The Wilsons, living in the valley of ashes, appear in grey, except for Myrtle, when she enjoys the company of Tom Buchanan. Wilson "mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity – except his wife, who moved close to Tom" (p. 28). The only way for Myrtle to get out of the grey seems to be Tom Buchanan.
Blue is the color of being depressed, moody, or unhappy.
Therefore a lot of things aroung Gatsby are blue. "In his blue gardens men and girls came and went" (p. 41). Although a lot of people are in and around his house, his gardens (plural!) are blue. "... ghostly birds began to sing among the blue leaves" (p. 144), of course in Gatsby's gardens. "So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves" (p. 167). After Myrtle's death George Wilson and Mr.Michaelis are in a blue mood. " ... a blue quickening by the window, and realized that dawn wasn't far off. About five o'clock it was blue enough outside to snap off the light" (p. 151). The most unhappy place is the graveyard: "He had come a long way to this blue lawn" (Carraway at Gatsby's grave, p. 171). Arguably, "this lawn" means the lawn at Gatsby's house. It is mentioned at the beginning of that paragraph (p. 170). Anyway, the lawn at Gatsby's house is an unhappy place as well.
Sometimes Gatsby comes up with the color pink. "the luminosity of his pink suit under the moon" (Gatsby, p.136). When Gatsby and Daisy are finally together, "there was a pink and golden billow of foamy clouds above the sea" (p. 91).
Red associated with live, joy, love, shame, and rage.
The inside of Buchanan's home is in red. "We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colord space" (p. 13); "Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light" (p. 22).
A variety of colors
To impress Daisy Jay Gatsby brings up a pile of shirts "and covered the table in many colored disarray ... in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms of indian blue" (p. 89).
Work cited: Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin, 1988.

Fitzgerald Scott The Great Gatsby
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© by Herbert Huber, Am Fröschlanger 15, 83512 Wasserburg, Germany,  8.11.2011