The Green Light in the Great Gatsby Essay

Key Factors

* 1920’s America “the Jazz era” – America had a soaring economy – Set in the summer of 1922. * Wealth, class, social status, love, materialism and the decline of the”American Dream” (caused by a dizzy rise in the stock markets after WW1) are all major themes * Narrated through the eyes of character Nick Carraway – educated at Yale, moves to New York from Minnesota – presumably searching for success i.e. the American Dream * The storyline is very similar to Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s own life events. * Prohibition of alcohol in America (1920-1933) meant that bootlegging/rum-running was big business. This was how Gatsby made his fortune. * Every character appears to be something they’re not. * Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure * As Fitzgerald saw it (and as Nick explains in Chapter 9), the American dream was originally about discovery, individualism, and the pursuit of happiness. In the 1920s depicted in the novel, however, easy money and relaxed social values have corrupted this dream, especially on the East Coast.

Essay Question Analysis

Explore the ways in which Fitzgerald presents contrast between the characters of Daisy and Myrtle in The Great Gatsby? Daisy Buchanan: – Her name symbolises a flower: White on the outside and yellow on this inside, this is in keeping with Fitzgerald’s use of colours/symbolism. Although white may be used throughout the novel to symbolise purity, innocence and honesty, could it be that white could mean blank, void, empty? * “The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain” * “Her voice is full of money” – “couldn’t be over-dreamed” Metaphor * “Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean towards her, an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming” * “She dressed in white, and had a little white roadster” – “white girlhood” * “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.” – Materialism * “Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.”

* “I hope she’ll be a fool–that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool… You see, I think everything’s terrible anyhow… And I know. I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.” – Materialism – If her daughter is a fool, then she’ll never get hurt. She’ll never realize that she married for money and status instead of real love, that her husband is having an affair right under her nose, that everyone sees her as silly, stupid, naive, and pitiful. If she’s a fool, she’ll never have an opinion that can be dismissed by the men in her life, and she’ll never care about anything except dresses and flowers and all the pretty things in life. She’ll be pretty enough to find a husband who can support her financially, and dumb enough never to realize how tragic life actually is. * Nicks second cousin, once removed.

* “The most popular young girl in Louisville”

* Daughter “Pammy” is rarely seen throughout the book. Though when company is over she is beckoned to perform an act. Much like Daisy.

Daisy’s Location and descriptions

* East Egg, Long Island, New York. – home to “old money”, wealthy aristocracy, tradition, old ideals and ideas * Comes from a wealthy family in Louisville, Kentucky

* The significance of ‘East Egg’ and ‘West Egg’ is the social divide between new money and old money. Daisy and Tom Buchanan are old money (their families have been rich for many generations) and so they live on East Egg island. Gatsby and Nick are new money (they’ve earned it themselves or their parents earned it through work) so they live on West Egg island.

It also represents the ideas of living in the past and present. “East Egg” represents how Daisy and Tom both live with old world ideals and ideas, and refusing to move on into the west where new things await. “West Egg” represents how Gatsby and Nick are living in the present and they try to move out of the past life and ideals. They are able to look to the future instead of being held back in the past. They are unafraid to try new things.

NICKS QUOTE ABOUT THE AMERICAN DREAM – “the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter–tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning– So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

TOM AND DAISY QUOTE – “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Myrtle Wilson – Much like Daisy, Myrtle also symbolises a plant, however, Myrtle (translated from old English) means evergreen shrub, which is a very common plant.

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“This is a valley of ashes–a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.”

“He thinks she goes to see her sister in New York. He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive.” “I married him because I thought he was a gentleman…I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”


Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Sometimes we sound like art snobs when we talk about The Great Gatsby (“Look at the use of green! Such marvelous blues,” and so forth). Honestly, it seems like there’s a little too much color stuff going on here to be coincidental. Yellow and Gold: Money, Money, Money. Oh, and Death.

First off, we’ve got yellows and golds, which we’re thinking has something to do with…gold (in the cash money sense). Why gold and not green? Because we’re talking about the real stuff, the authentic, traditional, “old money” – not these new-fangled dollar bills. So you’ve got your “yellow cocktail music” playing at Gatsby’s party where the turkeys are “bewitched to dark gold” and Jordan and Nick sit with “two girls in yellow.” It seems clear, then, that Gatsby is using these parties to try to fit in with the “old money” crowd. And it doesn’t stop there; when Gatsby is finally going to see Daisy again at Nick’s house, he wears a gold tie. Nick later mentions the “pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate,” which may seem weird (since last we checked, colors didn’t have a smell) until we remember Nick’s description of New York as “a wish out of non-olfactory money.”

Odor then is associated with gold, and non-odor with money. The difference? Perhaps the same distinction as Daisy’s upper class world and Gatsby’s new-found wealth. While Gatsby buys a yellow car to further promote his facade, he’s really not fooling anyone. Lastly, we’ve got Daisy, who is only called “the golden girl” once Gatsby realizes that her voice, her main feature, is “full of money.” Yellow is not just the color of money, but also of destruction. Yellow is the color of the car that runs down Myrtle. The glasses of Eckleburg, looking over the wasteland of America, are yellow. This dual symbolism clearly associates money with destruction; the ash heaps are the filthy result of the decadent lifestyle led by the rich. White: Innocence and Femininity. Maybe.

While we’re looking at cars, notice that Daisy’s car (back before she was married) was white. So are her clothes, the rooms of her house, and about half the adjectives used to describe her (her “white neck,” “white girlhood,” the king’s daughter “high in a white palace”). Everyone likes to say that white in The Great Gatsby means innocence, probably because 1) that’s easy to say and 2) everyone else is saying it. But come on – Daisy is hardly the picture of girlish innocence. At the end of the novel, she is described as selfish, careless, and destructive. Does this make the point that even the purest characters in Gatsby have been corrupted? Did Daisy start off all innocent and fall along the way, or was there no such purity to begin with? Or, in some way, does Daisy’s decision to remain with Tom allow her to keep her innocence? We’ll keep thinking about that one. Blue: This One’s Up For Grabs

Then there’s the color blue, which we think represents Gatsby’s illusions — his deeply romantic dreams of unreality. We did notice that the color blue is present around Gatsby more so than any other character. His gardens are blue, his chauffeur wears blue, the water separating him from Daisy is his “blue lawn,” mingled with the “blue smoke of brittle leaves” in his yard. His transformation into Jay Gatsby is sparked by Cody, who buys him, among other things, a “blue coat.” Before you tie this up under one simple label, keep in mind that the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg are also blue, and so is Tom’s car. If blue represents illusions and alternatives to reality, God may be seen as a non-existent dream.

As for Tom’s car…well, you can field that one. Grey and a General Lack of Color: Lifelessness (no surprise there) Then there is the lack of color presented in the grey ash heaps. If the ash heaps are associated with lifelessness and barrenness, and grey is associated with the ash heaps, anyone described as grey is going to be connected to barren lifelessness. Our main contender is Wilson: “When anyone spoke to him he invariably laughed in an agreeable colorless way.” Wilson’s face is “ashen.” His eyes are described as “pale” and “glazed.” It is then no coincidence that Wilson is the bearer of lifelessness, killing Gatsby among yellow leaved trees, which we already decided had something to do with destruction. Green: Life, Vitality, The Future, Exploration

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Last one. We’re thinking green = plants and trees and stuff, so life and springtime and other happy things. Do we see this in The Great Gatsby? The most noticeable image is that green light we seem to see over and over. You know, the green light of the “orgastic future” that we stretch our hands towards, etc. etc. We can definitely see green as being hopeful, as being the future, as being vitality and freshness. Right before these famous last lines, Nick also describes the “fresh, green breast of the new world,” the new world being this land as Nick imagines it existed hundreds of years before.

The new world might be green, but when Nick imagines Gatsby’s future without Daisy, he sees “a new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…like that ashen fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.” Nick struggles to define what the future really means, especially as he faces the new decade before him (the dreaded thirties). Is he driving on toward grey, ashen death through the twilight, or reaching out for a bright, fresh green future across the water?

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