The Great Gatsby Symbols
The Green Light • Everyone has something that they long and search for that is just off in the distance. That is the green light. • Literally, green means “go” (traffic light). It give Gatsby the “go ahead” to pursue his dream of Daisy.
The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg • These eyes are from a billboard that looks over Wilson's garage. The eyes are always mentioned whenever Nick is there. They look over the situation, objectively, but offer a kind of judgment on the characters and their actions. • George Wilson refers to them as “The Eyes of God” who sees everything.
Owl Eyed Man • He watches over Gatsby’s house all the time. He keeps things safe and shows Gatsby’s wisdom by his amusement in all the books Gatsby has.
East and West Egg • One of the most important themes in the novel is class and social standing. It is a barrier for almost every character. East and West Egg acts as a symbol of this in it's physical makeup. Tom and Daisy live on the East which is far more refined and well bred. Nick and Gatsby are on the West which is for people who don't have any real standing, even if they have money. The green light shines from the East Egg enticing Gatsby towards what he has always wanted. And Daisy, the woman that Gatsby has always wanted but never gets, lives on East Egg. The barrier that the water creates between these worlds in symbolic of the barrier that keeps these people apart from one another and from much of what they want.
Colors - White • White color is the most significant to the story. It symbolizes purity, innocence, and royalty, but Fitzgerald used this color to underline the inside of the wealthy people. This innocence is just a surface; they cover their dark side behind it, like Daisy. Her name symbolizes a flower: its petals are white, but its inside is yellow, not as pure (0r more corrupt) as white.
White – Daisy - Eggs • Daisy - Her name symbolizes a flower: its petals are white, but its inside is yellow. • Eggs – On the outside, they are white, but they too are yellow on the inside. The people who live in both East and West Egg are symbolic of the place they inhabit. They present a white, innocent façade, but on the inside, they are a bit corrupt, and less innocent than they seem.
White – Wealth – Upper class • The major theme in The Great Gatsby is immorality of the people in 1920’s, especially the upper class. Daisy, Tom, and Jordan are “old money” people. They wear white clothes, live in white houses, but they are immoral inside, they have no scruples.
Yellow • It symbolizes a desire for wealth, and old money. Fitzgerald attempts to illustrate that rich people are “rotten” inside, like daisies. But “noveau riche” people are also yellow inside, like Gatsby.
Gatsby gained his fortune through dealings with crime. And this exemplifies a theme of death of the “American Dream”. The immoral people have all the money, and, according to the “American Dream”, money should be a reward for honesty and hard work, not for careless selfishness and immoral behaviors.
Gold (yellow) and Silver • Gatsby and his gold tie and silver shirt: Gatsby’s clothing is representative of his money and his attempt to capture Daisy. • Gatsby’s yellow car – a symbol of the wealth that money can obtain. • Yellow (Leaves and Car) Decay, corruptness
Green • Green color is also significant. It symbolizes new money, and hope. In The Great Gatsby green is associated with Gatsby. He is a “new money” person, so he lives in a green house, surrounded by green lawn. He has a hope of repeating the past, what is another theme in the novel. Every night he reaches toward the green light on Daisy’s dock. In the end of Chapter IX, Nick, the narrator of the story, compares the green light to how America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers of the new nation.
Gray • Industrialization, dreary, bleak, lifeless • Examples: Valley of Ashes
Red • Death, abuse, violence, destruction • Examples: Tom Buchanan breaks Mrytle’s nose, etc.
Daisy’s Voice • Her voice is like a Greek Siren – It calls to Gatsby and irresistible. Her voice, according to Gatsby, is full of money. It calls to Gatsby, but it is hollow.
Cars • Status symbol, also indicates carelessness and recklessness • George Wilson wants Tom’s blue car.
Wolfsheim's cufflinks • Represents the criminal world; ruthlessness; barbarism
Time • Clock – represents time and the past • The Clock sits on the mantle and when it falls, Gatsby puts it back in place. Gatsby’s attempt to manipulate time and past is futile; he tries to “repeat the past,” but Nick reminds him “You can’t repeat the past.” Gatsby replies, “Of course you can.” • Faded Timetable – Gatsby’s focus on time, and plotting to get what he wants.
Gatsby’s Boyhood Schedule • This schedule shows the determination that Gatsby had to make something of himself in life.
Seasons • Summer – Heat – hot – boiling point – Chapter 7 brings the heat of the summer to a climax as the tension of the summer comes to a “boil.” The events of the chapter take place during August and it is “hot, hot, hot.”
Myrtle’s name • Shrub / ground cover that supports life (to indicate vitality) • “Then the valley of the ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by.”