The Colour of Magic
Colours surround us. It has the ability to stir emotion, and change feelings as colours change. Not only in everyday life, but also through the written word, colours play an important role in our imagination. Colours affect the mood and emphasize the importance of events in a novel. The concept of colour symbolism is prominent in The Great Gatsby. White, yellow, blue, and green affect the atmosphere of scenes through association with a specific mood. When analyzed, the frequent use of colour and its relevance can be identified.
The colour white and light tones are associated with purity, innocence and compassion. This idea is holds true in the novel when Nick describes the room in Toms house where Daisy and Jordan are introduced. He describes the room as bright (13) and the windows as gleaming white against the grass (13). The dresses Jordan and Daisy are wearing are also described as white (13). On page 24, Daisy and Jordans girlhood is described as beautiful [and] white. Childhood represents innocence and because the colour white is associated with it, white becomes a representation of innocence. The affect the colour white creates is the impression of a pure, clean environment, and that Jordan and Daisy are the same. In the text, there is no prior discussion of Toms house or Daisy and Jordan, which causes the reader to believe they are pure and good.
Yellow is a representation of falsity and corruption of events or characters in The Great Gatsby. The significance of yellow is to show, through imagery, that not everything is as it seems. In the beginning of the novel, Daisy and Jordan are wearing white dresses, giving the illusion of purity. With the progression of the storyline, Daisy and Jordans clothes slowly change from white to a golden yellow as the characters impurities are revealed. The colour yellow is also present in descriptions of Myrtle. Myrtles dress in the party scene is described by Nick as cream coloured (33). With the influence of the dress, her personality had also undergone a change (33). When Myrtle wears the yellowish dress, every aspect about her person changes into something fake. In Myrtle, the colour yellow is a clear representation of dishonesty because she pretends to be something she is not. The effect the colour yellow has on the description of characters is to point out the dishonesty in their nature. Yellow is also a symbol of corruption. Gatsbys car is the car that killed Myrtle and is described as a yellow car. A big yellow car (133) and again on page 134: It was a yellow car. The reason the word yellow is repeated is to accentuate corruption in the actions of Daisy after the accident. When Myrtle was struck, instead of stopping to see if she was alive, Daisy accelerated away from the scene. In this way, it seems fit that the car was yellow. It is true that yellow is associated with Daisy because the flower is surrounded by white petals, with a yellow center. The white petals represent her innocent and pure appearance, and the yellow center represents how at the core, she is a dishonest.
The colour blue in The Great Gatsby is associated with false appearances. False appearance plays a vital role in the novel in several key places. In the description of Gatsbys guests in the gardens on page 41, In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. The sentence is describing a party at Gatsbys house. Until this point, Gatsbys parties were believed to be high class occasions where friends of Gatsby came because there was no evidence to say this was untrue. However, in the middle of the sentence, this belief is changed when the party guests are described as moths, only coming for the alcohol. The significance of the discovery surrounding the guests is that blue, the colour of the garden, represents the illusion that the guests are friends of Gatsby. The colour of Wilsons eyes are blue (28). This is significant because he believes Myrtle is faithful. Through his blue eyes, he sees a false image of what is happening in reality. Another instance where the colour blue is associated with Wilson occurs after Myrtle dies. Wilson noticed a change in the room, a blue quickening by the window.(151) and the change he noticed was that Myrtle was cheating on him.
The colour green is associated with hope and goals. At the end of the dock in front of Tom and Daisys home is a blinking green light. Gatsby spends a significant amount of time focusing on the green light. Nick writes that Gatsby stretched out his arms toward the dark waters(25). He reaches towards the light because he is reaching toward his dreams of a fantasy life with Daisy. The light represents Daisy as he remembers, or the Daisy he wants to remember. Even if his memories of Daisy are from the past or completely made up, in Gatsbys mind the light is the perfect Daisy. Another reference to green and hope is found when Nick returns home to the West. The train tickets that Nick has for his return trip are green (166). After Gatsbys death, Nick is disgusted with life in the East. He realizes that life on the East Coast is impossible for Westerners because they possessed a deficiency that we had in common that made inadaptable(167) to Eastern life. He then returns home to his middle west (167) with hope that he can settle into a normal life.
Colour adds to the emotion of situations. As seen in The Great Gatsby, colour is a way to correlate events to create a common meaning. White is the colour for purity and innocence, yellow the colour associated with dishonesty and corruption, blue represents false appearances, and green signifies hope. Fitzgerald included colour in the book to help define situations and characters and shape how interactions between the two play out.