Understanding The Color In The Great Gatsby: Symbolism & Meanings by Chapter

Last Updated: October 24th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

When thinking of The Great Gatsby and color, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the green light at the end of Daisy’s boat dock.

man on a dock with green light in the background

There were so many other mentions of color, and author F. Scott Fitzgerald had a meaning to every color that he used in his novel.

Let’s look at the colors mentioned in each chapter and see how Fitzgerald used color to get his point across.

Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Chapter 1

White and what it symbolizes in The Great Gatsby

The main color that you see repeated frequently in the first chapter is white.

Nick describes the “white palaces of fashionable East Egg”, Tom and Daisy’s red and white mansion, as well as Daisy and Jordan’s white dresses as they sit in a room with white curtains.

What Does White in The Great Gatsby Symbolize?

White is typically considered to represent femininity, innocence, and purity, but this color does have other meanings including wealth, illusion, and glamour.

While Daisy Buchanan starts off as the innocent, next-door type girl, we do discover later in the novel that she isn’t what she appears to be. Daisy’s purity and innocence is an illusion, so the white color that Fitzgerald favors in this book is an accurate portrayal.

What Is the Significance of Green in The Great Gatsby?

Gatsby and Daisy in each others' arms with green light in the background

The second color has to be the green light at the end of Daisy’s boat dock. While at this point Nick is unaware that the light belongs to Daisy and Tom, he notices Gatsby reaching out for this green light.

The color green represents spring, freshness, vitality, and the renewal that comes when plants turn green again in the spring.

Yes, green also represents money and hope.

The reader can imagine how Gatsby has high hopes of starting over fresh, with the love of his life Daisy by his side. With plenty of greenbacks to keep her comfortable, Gatsby trembles at the thought that his long-sought-after dream is almost in his hands.

Color Symbolism in The Great Gatsby Chapter 2

Great Gatsby Color Symbolism in Chapter Two

This chapter doesn’t say much about color, but we do find three shades mentioned.

First, the Valley of Ashes. Grey or colorless, the use of this color tells the reader about the lives that the people living there lead- grey, colorless, lacking any hope for those beautiful greenbacks or anything else.

Grey also represents the moral and social decay of New York socialites.

The only real color mentioned in the Valley of Ashes are the blue eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, who represents God. Apparently, Fitzgerald believes that God has blue eyes, or that blue eyes are somehow kinder and more forgiving than other colors.

Last would be Myrtle’s dresses. She begins by meeting Tom wearing a dark blue dress. Dark blue represents feelings of melancholy, loneliness, illusions and fantasy.

Once she is at the apartment with Tom, Myrtle changes into a cream-colored dress. Now, Fitzgerald might be using the cream color as showing that Myrtle isn’t as “pure and innocent” as Daisy in her white dress. Also, the cream color is also associated with yellow, which represents false pretenses and corruption.

All of the above are true of Myrtle, so either representation is accurate.

Colors in The Great Gatsby Chapter 3

Great Gatsby Color Symbolism in Chapter Three

Several colors are mentioned in Chapter 3, with the first one being the description of Gatsby’s “blue gardens”. With this color description, one can imagine the lush, happy gardens that Gatsby maintains.

What Does the Color Blue Represent in Great Gatsby?

Blue lawns and gardens can mean blue/green, the mixing of happiness and money.

Deeper into the novel, the reader will notice Fitzgerald’s penchant for blue, such as blue lawn and blue leaves. As mentioned above, T.J. Eckleburg’s blue eyes has reference to God or kindness.

The chauffer brought Nick an invitation to the party while wearing a uniform that was robin-egg blue. Again, Fitzgerald uses blue quite a bit in his descriptions since blue has many meanings, including illusions and fantasies.

Yellow is also mentioned in this chapter as the orchestra was playing yellow cocktail music and Jordan talking to girls in twin yellow dresses. One might think that yellow means false pretenses, but in this instance, think of yellow music like the sunlight or the happiness in the two bubbly girls wearing identical yellow gowns.

Last would be the white flannel suit that Nick wears to the party. Nick is the innocent one here, not knowing anyone, what is going on, or even who his host is, let alone what he wants.

Colors in The Great Gatsby Chapter 4 

The chapter starts quiet lengthily with a list of the people who came to party in Gatsby’s mansion.

Gatsby's yellow car behind him

Gatsby picks up Nick to take him to lunch in the city, and Nick takes time to describe Gatsby’s car.

What Is the Color of Gatsby’s Car?

Gatsby is driving what is described in this chapter as a rich cream-colored car, but later in the novel, the car is described as yellow.

Yellow and cream are very similar colors and as mentioned before, yellow symbolizes illusion and false pretenses, which is very accurate. What better way to show off your wealth than drive around in an eye-popping yellow car!

Nick later meets Jordan Baker for tea. Jordan tells Nick a story about how she first saw Gatsby, when the young lieutenant and Daisy were talking in Daisy’s white roadster. Again, Daisy’s innocence is suggested by the color white.

Color in The Great Gatsby Chapter 5 

Pink and its symbol in Chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby

In this chapter, Nick has asked Daisy to tea at his house and Gatsby has plans to “drop by unexpectedly” and meet her once more.

Daisy says she wishes she could push Gatsby around in a pink cloud. Pink is representative of love and is one way Daisy is telling Gatsby that she still loves him in one way.

Purple, White, Silver, and Gold Symbolism in The Great Gatsby

Gatsby wears a white suit, silver shirt, and gold colored tie. The white suit is representative of his innocent and good intentions, while the silver shirt and gold tie symbolize his wealth.

Daisy wears a lavender dress and hat. Lavender is a lighter shade of purple, which has long been a color associated with royalty.

As Daisy walks to Gatsby’s house, Nick describes the colors of the flowers, both gold and plum colored. These represent royalty and money or gold.

Color in Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby

Color in Chapter 6 of The Great Gatsby

Gatsby invites Daisy and Tom to one of his parties.

Daisy describes a man she saw whom she liked- a man with a sort of blue nose. Blue also represents illusion and fantasies so perhaps Daisy is fantasizing about being with this man.

Gatsby tells Nick about the night he made love to Daisy as a young debutante. He describes Daisy’s white face as it reaches up towards his. Daisy and white go together like hand and glove in this novel. White shows Daisy’s innocence.

Color in Chapter 7 of The Great Gatsby

This chapter is full of color, some of which we’ve visited before.

Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan Party at a Hotel

Daisy and Tom, Nick, Jordan, and Jay Gatsby meet at Tom’s house for lunch on the hottest day of the year. Gatsby is hoping that Daisy will tell Tom that she never loved him, but she’s nervous.

Jordan and Daisy are, again, wearing white dresses as a sign of innocence.

What Color Is Gatsby’s Suit in Chapter 7?

Fitzgerald has Gatsby wear a pink suit in Chapter 7, and the movie versions remained faithful to the author’s choice. Pink symbolizes love and passion.

While Tom mocks Gatsby for wearing a pink suit (“He wears a pink suit!”), viewers agree that both Robert Redford (1974) and Leonardo DiCaprio (2013) look dashing in it!

What Does Pink in The Great Gatsby Symbolize?

In an earlier chapter, you’ve read Daisy saying she wishes she could push Gatsby around in a pink cloud, while in this chapter Gatsby wears pink.

Pink symbolizes love, passion, and understanding, but the dreamlike pink clouds could also allude to Gatsby’s hope and unrealistic dream of winning back Daisy’s love.

Other Colors Mentioned in Chapter 7

Gatsby has a yellow car, again, meaning false pretenses, but the seats are green. This signifies money and a fresh start as Gatsby is hoping that, with enough cash, he can gain Daisy’s love once more and start over.

Tom’s car is dark blue. Like Myrtle’s dress, dark blue is melancholy and illusion. The melancholy might belong to Daisy, but the illusion is all on Tom, who thinks his wife is happy and that their lives together are secure.

Color in Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby

Color in Chapter 8 of The Great Gatsby

As Gatsby tells Nick more about how he met Daisy, he describes the gold and silver slippers in her parent’s mansion. We know from those colors alone that he is talking about the people with great wealth who visited Daisy’s home.

What Does Red Represent in The Great Gatsby?

When Nick arrives back at Gatsby’s, they discover his body in the pool and a thin red circle in the water. Red often means revenge and anger, and Gatsby is on the receiving end of both.

While George’s body is found nearby, there is no color mentioned about it.

Color in Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby

green light on a dock

As Nick reminisces about his last days in New York, he wonders about how the first settlers may have felt looking out over the green breast of the new world, as well as how Gatsby must have felt as he looked out across the bay and realized that the green light marked the end of Daisy’s boat dock.

In both descriptions, green is meant not only as a sign of money, but of freshness, spring time, and life renewed.

Nick again mentions Gatsby’s blue gardens, meaning melancholy and illusion, which seems appropriate at this point in the novel.

What Color Is Mentioned Most Often in The Great Gatsby

This would be a toss-up between green, blue, and white.

Green is the color that most people remember from this novel, as it’s the color of Daisy’s boat dock, and it’s the color of money.

However, blue is also mentioned multiple times, whether it’s the blue eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, the blue gardens at Gatsby’s mansion, or the blue color of Myrtle’s dress.

White is probably the first color mentioned in the Great Gatsby. White is innocence, purity, and honesty, which are all associated with Daisy, despite the fact that she doesn’t really deserve these words by the end of the novel.

Final Summary Gatsby Color Symbolism & Meaning

Colors in the Great Gastby

The colors in The Great Gatsby are used to symbolize many different things and feelings. Some of the most important colors in the novel include:

  • Green: Green is the color of Gatsby’s desire for Daisy, as well as money and starting over, such as springtime. He sees the green light at the end of her dock as a symbol of her love, and he strives to reach it. Ironically, the green light is also a symbol of Gatsby’s unattainable dream ( See more Green Light Gatsby Quotes ).
  • White: White is the color of Daisy’s innocence. She is presented as a pure and virginal figure, and her white dresses symbolize her purity. However, Daisy is not as innocent as she seems. She is capable of great cruelty and carelessness, as shown by her lack of concern after Gatsby’s death.
  • Red: Red is the color of passion, violence, revenge, and danger. Red is also associated with Myrtle Wilson’s and Gatsby’s death. Her body is found in a pool of blood, and the color red is used to highlight the violence of her death. Gatsby is found in his pool under a thin line of red (blood).
  • Grey: Grey is the color of decay and corruption. It is associated with the Valley of Ashes, a polluted industrial area that is home to the working class. The yellow/grey dust that covers the Valley of Ashes symbolizes the poverty and despair of the people who are forced to live and work there.
  • Blue: Blue is the color of sadness, melancholy, and nostalgia. It is associated with Gatsby’s dreams of the past. Gatsby’s gardens are blue, as is the lawn. The color blue also symbolizes the emptiness of Myrtle’s life.

The colors in The Great Gatsby are used to create a rich and complex tapestry of meaning. They help to develop the characters, the plot, and the themes of the novel.

Understanding The Color In The Great Gatsby: Symbolism and Meanings by Chapter
Understanding The Color In The Great Gatsby: Symbolism and Meanings by Chapter
Color symbolism in The Great Gatsby abounds. There’s the green light on Daisy’s dock, her white dress, or Gatsby’s yellow car, Fitzgerald was saying something with color descriptions in every chapter.
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