Colors In The Twenties

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The Roaring Twenties, the era of vivacious dancers, jazz music, extravagant parties, and living the American – dream. All of these things are well represented by bright and vibrant colors, all being associated with a different time and object. In the 1924 modernist novel, The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, color is used to convey specific themes and traits to represent each character’s life. To begin, the color green demonstrates the theme of hope for one’s future. Next, the color gold represents greed and yearning for money. Finally, the color white stands for one’s innocence and sophistication. All in all, color is a significant part of The Great Gatsby, helping develop different themes to represent the lives and traits of each character described in the novel.

To start, the color green helps exemplify the theme of longing for a new beginning, reaching out to an upcoming future through the green light which is shone upon the water visible for many to see. The color green is shown all throughout the one of the main character Jay Gatsby’s life, giving him a sense of hope to obtain his love Daisy Buchanan. To Gatsby himself, this green light represents Daisy, as she“always has a green light that burns all night at the end of [her] dock.” (Fitzgerald 91). This green light inspires and has an influential impact on Gatsby to achieve his goals of making enough money to win back his lover Daisy Buchanan. The green beaming light across the doc helps shows the dream – like qualities that Gatsby and wealthy people radiate. The main character Nick Carraway imagines the appearance and personality of Gatsby as he“[glances] seaward […] distinguish[ing] nothing except a single green light […] when [he] look[s] once more for Gatsby he ha[s] vanished […]” (Fitzgerald 21). This quote shows that this green colored light helps show the dream like persona Gatsby emits that others want, but can only be obtained by being wealthy. Finally this green light is a motivator to Gatsby to reach for his goals and to continue on in life even when things do not work. Carraway explains Gatsby’s influence and impact he has on those around him, while “Gatsby believe[s] in the green light […] It elude[s] us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther”(Fitzgerald 180). Gatsby believes and sets his life around this green light which pushes him to go further in achieving his dreams and help give others a reason to go after what they want in life, just like he does. All of these examples of the green light shone upon the water help show different ways of how a character can dream for what they want, reaching out to meet their goals in life.

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To continue, the color gold represents old wealth, wanting and longing for any opportunity to increase one’s social status using money. Starting off, gold can be shown within social status, judging others based on how extravagant their lives truly are. At Gatsby’s parties, wealthy men and women flaunt“ […] a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. …’ (Fitzgerald 144). This shows how those with money are concerned to have more because of their surrounding peers, never wanting to be judged on what someone does not have. Next, gold represents how wealth can “buy” happiness, turning the bad into good. The affect of money surrounds those living in New York, and the sense of money envy enters lives while “opening the rest of the windows downstairs, filling the house with grey-turning, gold-turning light’ (Fitzgerald 152). Gold contrasts between the good and bad, just how money can consume one’s life, either negatively or positively affecting it. Lastly, the color gold is seen describing Gatsby’s shirts, helping to represent its corruption and the poor affect money has on him. Gatsby comes down to his party “in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and golf – colored tie […]” (Fitzgerald 84), subtly showing off his poorly earned wealth. To become rich, Gatsby does what he needs to do, leading him to the life of bootlegging, where gold can show his wealth and riches, but were earned in a corrupt and illegal way. To conclude, the color gold shows how wealth can negatively affect one’s life, trying to gain wealth, never being satisfied with what is being rightfully earned.

Finally, the color white stands for outer front facing innocence and impressing those higher in society. To begin, Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker often wear white, which represents their innocence to when people first meet them. As Nick Carraway first sees Jordan and Daisy, he notices that they look like “ silver idols weighing down their own white dresses’’ (Fitzgerald 115). This quote shows that Daisy and Jordan are influenced by their white dresses, seemingly nice, but are weighed down by poor choices made in both the past and present. Next, when one wants to make a good impression on a fellow peer, they might wear white to show innocence and purity on someone who is new to their life. Nick wants to make a good impression on his wealthy neighbor, so he “dress[es] up in white flannels […]” (Fitzgerald 41). The author uses white to show how Nick wants to seem nice, impressing his high class neighbor to seem that they are equals. Lastly, white can show the loss of innocence when being associated with negatively influential people. Gatsby’s “heart beat faster and faster” as he knows that things will never be the same as “Daisy’s white face came up to his own” (Fitzgerald 117). In this quote, Gatsby steps over a bridge of innocence and purity, flinging the lead of an influential woman, who is influenced by the power of white and its representation of outer righteousness. In conclusion, the color white can be used to lead someone to believe of one’s purity and innocence, but does not cover one’s inside truth that can come out through a white “mask” projected over someone.

The novel The Great Gatsby is an example of how color is used to communicate specific themes and lifestyle traits to represent how each contrasting character acts during the Roaring Twenties. Again, green demonstrates the theme of hope for one’s future. Then, gold represents greed, longing to be wealthy. Finally, white stands for innocence and sophistication. The Roaring Twenties is a time where color is seen all throughout New York, from clothing to billboards or lights shining throughout the night’s sky. The Great Gatsby is a novel in which color can be seen in one’s life, affecting personality traits and show a deeper meaning to something seen in everyone’s everyday lives.  


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