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Green Light in The Great Gatsby


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is an American writer whose works were never given proper appreciation to when he was alive. This was a person who died with a firm belief that he was a failure. Most of his works refer to the period of Jazz Age, the name he himself gave to the 1920s. The theme of aspiration can be traced in most of his works together with the theme of money which was very close to the writer who himself was never able to properly manage his finances. These two themes are closely interwoven with each other in his novel “The Great Gatsby” which can be referred to as a classical American novel. This work of F. Scott Fitzgerald is known for its symbolism which is very mysterious and intricate as a lot of details become observed only after thoroughly studying and considering all the events. Certain words and phrases are used in the novel not for nothing; each of them has an implication lying in the ground of it. It is worth mentioning that only the word “time” occurs in the novel 450 times. This means that Fitzgerald wanted to lay a special emphasis on the significance of time for the main character, Gatsby, who was incessantly trying to reverse and change it. Of even more importance are the colors many of which are used in the story. Their main function is to help the reader perceive the story to its full extent and to keenly feel Gatsby’s passion and yearning for something that he never had. Green light which occurs in the novel so frequently deserves special attention as it contains a number of meanings inconspicuous at the first sight.

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To begin with, green is a color of hope and dreams that are expected to be realized in future. Green light, “the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 180) is a symbol of Gatsby’s desire, his striving and constant longing for something in his life. It would be too simplistic to contend that green color means namely his longing for Daisy, though it won’t be ungrounded as Daisy really was a part of this longing and he utterly wanted to possess her. In fact, the green light is intended to mean much more than just mere desire to be with Daisy. Throughout his life Gatsby was longing for something he never had, namely “for money, for love, for the grace of renewal” (Jane Mallison, 61). His personality and even his face were unknown even to people for who he threw all those parties and he always remained in shadow: “The silhouette of a moving cat wavered across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone–fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor’s mansion with his hands in his pockets” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 20).From this citation it can be seen that Gatsby is represented as a “silhouette of a cat” who leads his own lone and solitary existence and who discloses himself to Nick, one of the few people he gives his credence to. He “emerges from the shadow” to impart his secret longings and desires to Nick and asking him for help in realization of his intentions. What Gatsby did in real life did not reconcile with the way of living he wished to have and the green color of light indicates that he craved for his, in most of the cases, subconscious desires which he was willing to share only with the chosen people.

Second to mention is that green color is used to accentuate the importance of money for the lives of characters of the novel. It is not a secret that United States dollars have different shades of green color. Representation of American dream in the novel is but evident and “some see Gatsby as an embodiment of the American dream” (Jane Mallison, 61). Gatsby’s longing for better life is an American dream itself, the dream the basic components of which are fame and richness. Money was what Gatsby’s dream depended upon, money was what was notable for Daisy and Tom Buchanans whose “family were enormously wealthy – even in college his freedom with money was a matter of reproach” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 6). Daisy is a rich person and her life is full of money, even her “voice is full of money” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 122). These quotes show that this wealthiness, repugnant and deserving reproach on the one hand, was, on the other hand, what Gatsby wished to have because it would without any doubt help him achieve what he wanted. Moreover, he knew that money was what it took to be with Daisy: “… and Gatsby was overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 150). Here green color also symbolizes growth of two kinds. Firstly, it represents the growth of nature, and secondly, which is more significant, green color of money symbolizes the desire of accumulation of this money which eventually results in the person’s growing avaricious and envious. In this case green is also representing envy; it can be regarded as a color of an extreme desire which with time develops into obsession to possess something that does not belong to you. Here we can draw parallels with Gatsby who also wished to possess Daisy who was married and belonged to her husband thus being not able to belong to Gatsby. Green color is used as a reference to money and wealthiness which partly caused Gatsby’s aversion, partly made him envious and partly was needed for him to achieve the desirable.

And finally, green light can be interpreted as a symbol of spring and new beginning. Gatsby returned to America having only one thing on his mind – to get Daisy back and restore their love to life. Here green color is a symbol of their reunion and beginning of the new life full of joy, love and happiness. At this, green color also refers to the issue of the other side of the fence where, as it is well known, the grass is always greener. People are always extremely attracted and captivated with something that is not theirs, just like Gatsby was attracted to Daisy. She seemed to be easily acceptable, only water separated Gatsby from her and his reaching out for green light at the end of her dock symbolizes the possible renewal of their relations which once used to be so passionate: “he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntary I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 21). This quotation shows that green light at the end of Daisy’s dock was shining in the darkness like a guiding light for him, leading him to reunification with his beloved. He was ready to follow this light if this was what it took to bring his love back, irrespective of Nick’s trying to dissuade him: “You can’t repeat the past.” “Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!…” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 110). This citation indicates that Gatsby was very determined in his decision to renew relations with Daisy.


All in all, it has been proved that the green light in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ”The Great Gatsby” possesses certain hidden sense. Different interpretations of it show that it can be a symbol of Gatsby’s hope and dreams, his desire to get Daisy who no longer belonged to him as well as it symbolizes money, the color of which is green in the United States, envy and the birth of new life, namely the renewal of Gatsby and Daisy’s relations, renewal which was the primary reason of Gatsby coming back to America. F. Scott Fitzgerald managed to hide all these meanings in an impressive and fascinating novel full of divergent exciting events, versatile characters and dreams which were never put into life.

Works Cited

F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Jane Mallison. Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days. McGraw-Hill Professional, 2007

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