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Color in The Great Gatsby
Transcript of Color in The Great Gatsby
There is science behind colors.
Colors have themes.
Characters have color palettes.
Color affects the mood.
Coincidence? I think not.
As you can see, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew what he was doing when he decided that trees should be purple and that Gatsby should wear a pink suit. He uses colors as a significant literary tool to enhance the subtle brand of symbolism he is universally renowned for.
"The Great Gatsby" is a very colorful novel.
...but F. Scott Fitzgerald doesn't fling colors around willy-nilly. He purposely manipulates color to symbolize themes in the novel, alter the reader's perception of the characters, and control the mood.
Individual Oral Presentation
IB English IV
Color is mentioned 166 times in a 180 page novel.
Red: increases heart rate, respiration rate, metabolism, and has high visibility.
Orange: increases oxygen to brain, stimulates mental activity.
Yellow: warming, arouses cheerfulness, hardest color for eyes to process. Dull yellow arouses caution, fear.
Green: color of nature, easiest for eyes to process, relaxing.
Blue: slows metabolism and heart rate, calming .
Purple: rarest color in nature, considered artificial, youth like this color (75%)
Black: gives depth to 2-D, bold.
Red represents renewal and rebirth.
White and gold represent wealth.
Pink represents fantasy and dreams.
Blue represents a crossroads.
Green represents hope.
Purple and silver represent beauty and elegance.
Yellow represents death and sickness.
Brown represents complacency.
Gray represents depravity.
Black represents dissatisfaction.
Valley of Ashes
Daisy in the rain
Nick's banking books stood on his shelf "in red and gold like new money." (4)
The Buchanans live in "a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion" with "crimson carpet." (6, 17)
Wayside garages had "new red gas-pumps." (10)
There was a "tall, red-haired young lady" drunk at Nick's first party. (51)
Gatsby's "crimson-lighted" rubies marked new identity. (67)
Port Roosevelt had "red-belted ocean-going ships" (68).
There was a "thin red circle" of blood in Gatsby's pool. (162)
Jordan and Daisy were "both in white." (8, 74, 115)
Daisy had "white girlhood." (19)
Tom's loveshack is a "long white cake of apartment-houses." (28)
Tom wore a "white shirt-front." (36)
Nick dressed in "white flannels." (41)
Probity Trust is in "the white chasms of New York." (56)
Edgar Beaver's hair is "cotton-white" and Clarence Endive wore "white knickerbockers." (62)
Gatsby's "white card" gets him out of a ticket. (68)
Gatsby wore "white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie." (84)
Daisy wears "brass buttons" while she admires the "pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate." (90)
Pammy has a "small white neck" and wears a "white dress." (117)
Gatsby's bedrooms are swathed in "rose and lavender silks" when Daisy visits. (91)
Daisy wants to push Gatsby around on a "pink cloud." (94)
Gatsby wears a "pink suit" when he thinks Daisy will leave Tom for him. (122, 142, 154)
A "pink glow" comes from Daisy's window while Gatsby stands watch. (144)
Doctor T.J. Eckleburg's eyes are "blue and gigantic." (23)
Wilson has "light blue eyes." (25)
Nick looks at the "blue honey" of the sky before joining Myrtle and Tom's party. (34)
Gatsby's chauffeur wears "robin-egg blue" when he invites Nick. (41)
Dan Cody buys Gatsby a "blue coat." (100)
Small producer has "a sort of blue nose." (105)
Gatsby observes "the blue cool limit of the sky" at Daisy's house. (118)
Daisy and Gatsby ride in the "blue coupe." (125)
Gatsby hides among the "blue leaves." (152)
Wilson watches the "blue quickening" of dawn until he decides what to do. (159)
Nick goes home when "the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air." (176)
Gatsby arrives at the "blue lawn" where his house will be. (180)
Gatsby stares at the "green light" at the end of Daisy's dock. (21, 93, 180)
The upholstery and windshield of Gatsby's car is "a sort of green leather conservatory." (64, 120)
James Gatz wore a "torn green jersey" on the beach when he met Cody. (98)
Daisy tells Nick to present a "green card" if he wants to kiss her. (106)
Gatsby and Daisy look at "the green Sound." (118)
Wilson's "face is green" when he asks Tom to sell his car. (123)
Michaelis tells the policeman that the car that kills Myrtle is "light green." (137)
Jordan's voice sounded like " a divot from green golf-links." (155)
Nick remembers "long green tickets clasped in our gloved hands" coming back West for Christmas. (175)
Dutch sailors thought of New York as "a fresh, green breast of the new world." (180)
Gatsby looks up at "the silver pepper of the stars." (20)
Myrtle selects a "lavender-colored" cab. (27)
Lucille's dress was "gas blue with lavender beads." (43)
Daisy and Jordan are "silver idols" on the couch. (115)
Gatsby, Nick, and Tom watch "the silver curve of the moon" while Jordan and Daisy get ready. (120)
Daisy was "gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor." (150)
Wilson finds "a small, expensive dog leash, made of leather and braided silver" in Myrtle's drawer. (158)
Doctor T. J. Eckleburg wears "a pair of enormous yellow spectacles." (23)
Wilson's garage is "a small block of yellow brick." (24)
Tom's apartment has a "line of yellow windows." (35)
Gatsby has a "yellow car." (123, 139, 140, 156, 160, 175)
Wilson's garage is "lit only by a yellow light." (138)
Gatsby watches the "yellow trolley" after the war. (153)
Gatsby "disappeared among the yellowing trees" to swim. (161).
The Airedale that Tom buys for Myrtle has a "brown washrag of a back." (27)
Jordan waves a "brown hand" when she claims that she can't tell Nick about her conversation with Gatsby. (52)
Gatsby wears a "caramel-colored suit" when he tells Nick his background. (64)
Jordan has "gray, sunstrained eyes." (11, 58,
The cab Myrtle chooses has "gray upholstery." (27)
A "gray old man" sells Tom the Airedale. (27)
Gatsby and Nick discuss "some wet, gray little villages in France" they saw during the war. (47)
The people who attended Gatsby's parties have "gray names." (61)
Dan Cody was "a gray, florid man." (100)
Daisy's collar is a "gray haze" of fur. (108)
Daisy starts dating again at the "gray tea hour." (151)
Henry C. Gatz has a "gray beard." (167)
All the cars in Louisville have the "left rear wheel painted black as a mourning wreath" in Daisy's absence. (9)
Myrtle needs to buy "a wreath with a black silk bow for mother's grave." (36)
The singer's tears had "an inky color." (51)
Nick takes shelter under "a huge black knotted tree" while Daisy and Gatsby talk in his house. (88)
The Buchanans wait for their car "in the soft black morning." (107)
The last of the party goers run up from "the black beach." (109)
Stella has "black hostile eyes." (170)
A "motor hearse, horribly black and wet" takes Gatsby's body. (174)
Gatsby is generally associated with pink, gold, white, blue, and green - dreams, mystery, wealth, and hope. He is by far the most remarked upon and complex character in the novel. His luminous pink suit is a famous symbol, as his obsession with the green light at the end of Daisy's dock.
Daisy is primarily associated with white, purple, and metallic colors - wealth and beauty. She is the "golden girl" in the "white palace," wears "golden and silver slippers," and carries "a little golden pencil" around with her. (105, 120, 121)
Colors associated with Jordan are originally white, gold and gray - wealth and depravity. However, as Nick's perception of her changes, the gold becomes brown - complacency. Her "slender golden arm" becomes a "face the same brown tint as the fingerless glove on her knee." But her "gray, sunstrained eyes" remain the same. (11, 43, 177)
Myrtle is associated with brown - complacency. She essentially does whatever Tom says so she can have money. She wears "brown figured muslin" and owns a dog with "a brown washrag of a back." (27) Much like the Airedale, she is nothing more than a pet.
George Wilson pale yellow and gray - sick and depraved, in this case probably more in the monetary sense. His morals are sound until Myrtle's death and his consequent discovery of her affair. Then he goes crazy. He has blonde hair and owns a "small block of yellow brick" among the Valley of Ashes. (23, 25)
This is a common practice among authors, but Fitzgerald takes it to an extreme. He mentions the same color excessively in order to fully set the stage and overwhelm the reader with sensory overload.
"Under the dripping bare lilac-trees a large open car was coming up the drive. It stopped. Daisy's face, tipped sideways beneath a three-cornered lavender hat, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile...A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek, and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it to help her from the car." (85)
"Under the dripping bare orange-trees a large open car was coming up the drive. It stopped. Daisy's face, tipped sideways beneath a three-cornered orange hat, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile...A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of orange paint against her cheek, and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it to help her from the car."
"In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars...On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced backed hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold...The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music." (39-40)
"In his brown gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars...On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced backed hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched in to dark brown...The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing brown cocktail music."
"This is the 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." (23)
"This is the 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 transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of red cars crawls through an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the red men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight."