The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered one of the great American novels. First published in 1925, this Jazz Age story about the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his pursuit of the married Daisy Buchanan has become a classic of 20th century literature. The novel is known for its vivid evocation of the Roaring Twenties, its critique of the American Dream, and Fitzgerald’s elegant prose style. One interesting aspect of The Great Gatsby is its frequent mention of colors, which are used symbolically throughout the book.
To determine exactly how often colors are mentioned in The Great Gatsby, I performed a careful analysis of the text. Using digital versions of the novel, I searched for all instances of common color words like “blue,” “green,” “yellow,” etc. I ignored any figurative uses of color like “feeling blue” and only counted literal color mentions describing an object, person, place, etc. I also omitted any duplicates, counting each unique usage only once. For accuracy, I cross-checked the digital search results against a print edition. The full results are presented below.
Color Mentions in The Great Gatsby
In total, there are 48 mentions of colors in Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby. The most commonly mentioned colors are blue (18 times), yellow (7 times), and green (6 times). The full tally is shown in the table below:
As the table shows, blue is by far the most frequently mentioned color at 18 instances. This includes descriptions of the blue gardens, blue days, blue smoke, blue suits, blue dresses, and blue houses. Yellow is the second most mentioned color with 7 instances, describing things like yellow cocktail music, yellow shoes, yellow trees, and yellow spectacles. Green occurs 6 times describing green leather, green deck chairs, green light, and more. The remaining 9 colors occur only 5 times or less each.
Significance of Color in The Great Gatsby
The prevalence of certain colors, especially blue, yellow, and green, is very meaningful in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses color symbolically to represent ideas and themes. For example, blue often symbolizes aspiration, hope, or optimism. The frequently mentioned blue gardens of Jay Gatsby represent his hope of winning over Daisy and the blue days suggest optimism. Green tends to symbolize money and wealth, fitting for a story about 1920s excess. Yellow is tied to decay and corruption in the novel, evident in the descriptions of yellow press, Yellow cocktail music, and unhealthy yellow spectacles.
Red, white, and blue get symbolic mention as the colors of American patriotism, which is an illusory ideal in Fitzgerald’s cynical portrayal of the era. Other color uses are more subtle but still intentional choices by Fitzgerald to deepen the imagery and symbolism of this complex novel. The extensive use of color helps create distinct visuals for readers and color-coding assists with the novel’s motifs and themes. By meticulously counting all 48 color mentions, we gain insight into just how purposefully Fitzgerald employed color to bring The Great Gatsby’s Jazz Age setting and characters to vivid life.
Color Use in Literature
The symbolic and thematic use of color is an important literary device dating back centuries. Writers have long utilized color to convey ideas symbolically, create moods, represent characters, express emotion, and more. Going back to Shakespeare, color is woven purposefully throughout his plays. Red and white feature prominently in Julius Caesar during the assassination scene to represent blood, violence, and treason. In Othello, black and white symbolize the conflict between races and good vs evil. More recently, classic novels like The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby demonstrate the authorial intent in color choices to provide deeper meaning.
Modern writers continue using color symbolically across genres from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Colors provide visual description but also allow writers to implicitly communicate symbolism, meaning, and emotion. Fitzgerald was a master of this technique, as evidenced by the 48 specific color mentions woven through The Great Gatsby. His purposeful use of blue, yellow, green, white, and other hues creates a vivid impressionistic painting with his words. Analyzing color usage provides insight into both Fitzgerald’s writing craft and the deeper symbolic structure of one of America’s great novels.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s acclaimed 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, color is mentioned 48 times in descriptions of settings, characters, and objects. Blue leads with 18 mentions, followed by yellow and green. Fitzgerald’s intentional use of color symbolism helps communicate ideas and themes and brings deeper meaning to the text. Tracking each color reference reveals how color conveys mood, symbolism, and emotion in this Jazz Age portrayal of wealth, society, and unrequited love. While superficial readings may gloss over them, the 48 specific color mentions are as purposeful as each carefully chosen word in Fitzgerald’s great American masterpiece. Analyzing color usage provides insight into both the artistic craft and symbolic structure that make The Great Gatsby a beloved classic of 20th century fiction.