The Great Gatsby – Symbol

Yellow and Gold

Yellow and Gold are two colours used repeatedly throughout The Great Gatsby,  Yellow is a cheaper version of the colour gold, which symbolises money, the upper class and materialism but yellow is a ‘fake’ gold. In the context of the book, yellow represents the failure of The American Dream. At the start of the book, when Nick sees Daisy and Jordan “they were both in white” representing their purity, honesty and the ‘innocence’ of the upper class but as the book goes on them and things around them begin to become associated with yellow – “Two girls in twin yellow dresses”, “it was a yellow car… big yellow car”, “yellowing trees” .  Gatsby’s extravagant parties are often filled with “yellow cocktail music”, those that attend the parties show up uninvited, gossiping, excessively drinking showing the classlessness of the upper class. Yellow represents their dishonesty, fakeness and the impurities of the upper class, the flaws and the reality of The American Dream. People strive to have the same wealth and live the lavish lifestyle of the upper class  – it’s part of The American Dream, they want their lives to be filled with gold, “golden turkey”, “gold toilet” and “golden slippers” as it’s seen as perfect but as they start to live the dream their life turns yellow and are poor in friendships and relationship as everyone is fake and dishonest showing the untold truth of The American Dream. The American Dream is purely materialistic. Using yellow and gold helps us understand the upper class (Gatsby, Tom, Daisy and Jordan) and how easily their lives and The American Dream can be perceived as perfect but as you take more notice and become more involved, their lives are filled with lies and friendships and relationships based off wealth which is the reality of The American Dream. Yellow is used to symbolise materialism and is an illusion to peoples fakeness whereas gold is real and can’t be faked as it’s pure and the only thing that is real in The Great Gatsby is their money.


Flowers in The Great Gatsby are used to represent somebodies inner ugliness but is portrayed as beautiful. Daisies are one of the main flowers used throughout The Great Gatsby, Daisy’s name is symbolic as it represents the illusion that she is pure and innocent on the outside (daisy petals are white) but she is materialistic and fake to the core (centre of daisies are yellow which is a fake gold). Daisy’s voice “sounded like money”, which is her desperation and desire for wealth alongside social position. Daisies are ephemeral (they are short lived) and common just like Daisy’s love for Gatsby, it grows and then it dies like nothing ever happened and if it wasn’t for Gatsby’s obsession, Daisy would be just another upper-class woman which is all she is. Roses are used many times throughout the book, roses appear perfect and beautiful because that’s what we perceive them to be but it’s not till you look closely, you realise roses can hurt as they have thorns. In the beginning of the book, Daisy refers to Nick as  “an absolute rose” as Nick appears perfect and untouched as he is new to the world of the upper class, he’s not used to being surrounded by wealth so therefore seems untouched like a rose but as time goes on Nick starts to show an uglier side of him – his judgmental side sticks out like thorns on a rose. The illusion that Nick is rose shows that he appears sincere and honest but as we see more of Nick is judgmental side shows through. Daisy is also referred to as a rose when Gatsby realises what “found what a grotesque thing a rose is”, Daisy was Gatsby’s rose, he was so invested in her and her beauty symbolising a rose but it wasn’t till he was close enough to ‘touch’ her, that she hurt him just like thorns on a rose. If Gatsby hadn’t made Daisy the centre of his ideal world, he would have realised what a rose really is – beauty that hurts. When Gatsby and Daisy meet again, they’re surrounded by flowers “for at two o’clock a greenhouse arrived from Gatsby’s”, but there were no daisies as to Gatsby there was only one daisy in his life – Daisy but there was also no roses as Daisy is Gatsby’s only rose, she’s the only thing that can hurt him. Flowers were used to represent purity and ugliness in The Great Gatsby.

Green Light

The green light is at the end of Daisy’s dock is what Gatsby gazes at from his own representing the “unattainable dream”, the dream that they could one day be together. The green light is just a light at the end of the dock, on all the time to warn boats that there is a structure in the water but to Gatsby, the green light is the illusion, is the hope, that as long as the light shines, there is a chance. “He stretched out his arms towards the dark water, in a curious way… involuntarily I glanced seaward and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of the dock” – Nick, Gatsby reaching out for the green light, reaching out for hope, reaching out for Daisy could never go past just an unattainable dream as it’s not realistic. The light is so close that he can almost touch it – he is so close to Daisy, she’s just across the bay but the possibility of them being together is so far away which is why Gatsby can’t quite grasp the light. The 5 years they spent apart is what creates the distance between Gatsby and the green light, it’s the past, too much has happened in the 5 years – Daisy got married, had a child and Gatsby changed every aspect of who he was, he’s no longer the same person who met Daisy 5 years ago. When Gatsby realises that he and Daisy could never be together, that too much time has past, he stops believing in the green light and their future. “Gatsby believed in the green light… It eluded us then, but that’s no matter” – Nick, Gatsby believed that as long as the green light shined, that he and Daisy could be together but he stopped believing, he couldn’t see a future with her, he lost hope, he stopped dreaming and the illusion was gone. The green light eluded Gatsby from the beginning but that’s all it ever was, an illusion, it could never be any more than that as it was just a green light.  Nick says that the green light “had seemed as close as a star to the moon”, stars are millions of miles aways from the moon but seem so close when you look up to the sky like they are all right next to each other just like Gatsby thought the green light was so close, like he could almost touch it but it was so far away just like the possibility of him and Daisy ever being togeather – it is too far away. The green light is the symbol of hope and possibility for Gatsby’s future with Daisy but is an illusion that it is not possible.

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