Skip to Content

What are the colors of The Great Gatsby?

What are the colors of The Great Gatsby?

The colors used in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby serve as important symbols that convey deeper meanings and reinforce major themes throughout the novel. Fitzgerald uses color to represent ideas such as wealth, social class, romantic aspirations, and more. By analyzing the specific colors that stand out in The Great Gatsby and how they are used, it is possible to better understand the novel’s characters and overarching messages.


The color green takes on several symbolic meanings in The Great Gatsby. Most notably, green represents Gatsby’s unrelenting hope and optimism for the future. Gatsby’s extravagant mansion is described as having “a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock” (Fitzgerald, 26). This green light represents Gatsby’s hopes and dreams centered around his love for Daisy. Gatsby stares longingly at the green light each night as it glows from across the bay where Daisy lives. The light is always just barely out of his reach, but he continues striving toward it anyway. Here, green embodies Gatsby’s unflinching optimism as he pursues Daisy despite the obstacles in their way.

Green also symbolizes Gatsby’s longing to recreate the past. Gatsby wishes to relive his beautiful memories with Daisy from five years earlier and develop an even better future together. The green light represents this desire to restore what once was and make it greater. Gatsby’s insistence on repeating the past is conveyed through the ever-glowing green light. Additionally, green alludes to Gatsby’s links to criminal activity to earn the fortune he uses to try and win over Daisy. He likely made his money through underground work like bootlegging,symbolized by the “green breast of the new world” (182). Overall, green stands for perseverance, resilience, and Gatsby’s inability to let go of the glory of the past.

Color Meaning
Green Hope, optimism, repeating the past


The color white in The Great Gatsby represents innocence and purity. For instance, Daisy Buchanan is often depicted in white, which highlights her innocent charm and femininity. When Nick Carraway first visits the Buchanan residence, he finds Daisy and Jordan Baker dressed all in white on an enormous couch. Daisy’s white dress reinforces her ethereal aura and beauty. Her outward innocence and sweet demeanor contrast starkly with her immoral choices and careless actions as the story unfolds. Daisy’s superficial purity gives way to recklessness and poor morals as symbolized by the stripping away of white later on. Overall, white serves to accentuate Daisy’s initially bright, idealistic, and angelic appearance that later proves false.

White also symbolizes emptiness and nothingness. The Valley of Ashes is described as a dreary, solemn place where “ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” These ashen hills represent the moral decay of society and spiritual emptiness of the wealthy. Though the Valley contains white ash, it lacks any true life or color. White thus becomes equated with lifelessness and barrenness in this setting. When combined with other bleak details, white paints a distressing picture of spiritual and emotional vacancy. The large presence of white ash paired with dim gray imagery amplifies the sense of despair and moral corruption in the Valley of Ashes.

Color Meaning
White Innocence, purity
White Emptiness, nothingness


The color gray appears several times throughout The Great Gatsby as a reflection of the drabness and decay associated with city life. It often evokes depressing emotions related to gloom and sadness. For example, Nick observes the dilapidated gray ashes that stretch out before him when he arrives at the Valley of Ashes. He is immediately struck by the ominous, gloomy pall that surrounds the place. The prominence of gray establishes a somber, oppressive mood linked to the moral and economic ruin of the setting. Similarly, New York City is portrayed as a crowded, dirty, miserable gray place through imagery like “gray cars” and “gray buildings.” Gray symbolizes the loss of hope and lifelessness resulting from wealth pursuit in the city. By intertwining gray details with the Valley’s vast emptiness, Fitzgerald crafts a tangible atmosphere of despair and meaninglessness.

Gray also represents drudgery, plainness, and boredom in the novel. Nick’s house in West Egg is described as a small gray bungalow, depicting a simple, dull living space compared to the lavish mansions nearby. The modest gray dwelling embodies Nick’s social position on the fringes of the new rich class along with his distaste for their extravagance. His plain gray house acts as a gray space between the black and white extremes of the immoral, flashy elite and the pure, simple Midwest where Nick came from. Overall, gray symbolizes gloom as well as the mundane dullness of everyday working life in The Great Gatsby.

Color Meaning
Gray Gloom, despair, decay
Gray Plainness, boredom


In The Great Gatsby, yellow symbolizes wealth and money, specifically new money gained through corruption and immorality. The nouveau riche class is represented by the yellowy gold color associated with their gaudy mansions and lavish possessions. For instance, Gatsby’s enormous Gothic mansion is lit up by hundreds of yellowy windows at night. The bright golden glow reinforces the house’s splendor and luxury while hinting at the illegitimate means used to attain Gatsby’s great wealth. Yellow thus becomes equated with the self-absorption, materialism, and hedonism of the newly rich.

Yellow also symbolizes destructive pursuit of wealth in the novel. Gatsby’s yellow car attracts crowds of fashionable New Yorkers to his parties, showing his exploited status as their temporary source of amusement and entertainment. Additionally, Myrtle Wilson’s first corrupt encounter with Tom Buchanan involves her running to caress his yellow car in an alleyway. Their affair then transpires among gilded yellow objects like gold dressing tables, linking the affair’s debauchery to garish yellow details. Overall, yellow represents the morally decayed lives of the wealthy elite who prioritize material extravagance over human relationships and fulfillment.

Color Meaning
Yellow Wealth, new money
Yellow Corruption, immorality


Blue is used to represent ideals, dreams, and fantasies in The Great Gatsby. Gatsby stares longingly at the green light on Daisy’s dock as it is framed by the blue waters of the Long Island Sound. The blue water represents the dividing line between reality and Gatsby’s imagined future with Daisy. He idealistically gazes at the green light across the blue expanse, dreamily envisioning the way he wants life to be. Additionally, T.J. Eckleburg’s enormous blue spectacles billboard over the Valley of Ashes. Behind the lenses, the eyes’ retinas have faded away to gray nothingness, reflecting how the abstract ideals imposed by society’s collective gaze have proven false and empty. Overall, blue symbolizes the fantastical beliefs and imaginary possibilities that tantalize yet elude Gatsby.

Blue also represents beauty and its elusive, ephemeral nature in the novel. Daisy’s enchanting allure is described through blue details like her bright blue lawn and pale blue robe. Her voice is full of money like the jingling of blue glass beads. The color helps capture Daisy’s radiant charm and magnetism that so captivates Gatsby. However, the blue gradually fades as Daisy’s facade crumbles and her shallow emptiness is exposed, showing beauty’s fleeting impermanence. Similarly, Gatsby’s fantastical parties overflow with music, laughter, and other blue-tinted joys of the moment that cannot last. Fitzgerald’s blue symbolizes the alluring yet fleeting nature of beauty, dreams, and enchantments.

Color Meaning
Blue Ideals, dreams, fantasy
Blue Beauty, enchantment


In summary, Fitzgerald uses colors like green, white, gray, yellow, and blue to craft symbolic meanings related to themes of idealism, wealth, purity, corruption, enchantment, and despair. Gatsby’s ever-glowing green light encapsulates his relentless hopes and dreams. White represents initial innocence that gives way to emptiness and nothingness. The dreary gray settings evoke gloom and monotonous drudgery. Yellow embodies the gaudy extravagance of the newly rich as well as their moral decay. Blue symbolizes the allure of imagined ideals, fantasies, and ephemeral beauty. Analyzing the colors embedded throughout the book provides deeper insight into the characters’ motivations and Fitzgerald’s central messages about struggling to fulfill American dreams in the prosperity of the 1920s.

The Great Gatsby’s colorful symbolic palette adds nuance and deeper meaning that continues to intrigue readers nearly a century after its release. Examining the selective use of colors reveals the complex themes woven into Fitzgerald’s deceptively simple 1925 novel.