Symbolism

The green light

A photo of green light dots

Nick first sees Gatsby stretching his arms towards a green light at the end of Daisy's dock. Here, the green light is a symbol of hope.

After meeting up with Daisy in chapter five, the light ceases to be the emblem it once was:

quote
the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever... now it was again a green light on a dock.

This symbolises the destruction of Gatsby's dream. By the end of chapter seven Gatsby is watching over nothing.

Nevertheless, at the end of the novel Nick's final thought is that the human race will continue to strive for the unattainable.

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Gatsby believed in the green light

Green also has connotations of life, growth and fertility, as in the Dutch sailors' discovery of the "fresh, green breast of the new world", suggesting that hopes and dreams for the future are necessary for life.

Colour

In addition to green representing hope and vitality, other repeated references to colours have symbolic significance.

ColourSymbol
Grey The hopelessness of the valley of ashes described in chapter two is emphasised by the predominance of grey.
White White is frequently mentioned in descriptions of Daisy. At the age of eighteen she was "dressed in white, and had a little white roadster". White has connotations of purity and innocence, and the use of this colour in connection with Daisy relates to Gatsby's idealised view of her, although she is not as innocent and pure as he thinks she is.
Yellow and gold Yellow and gold are associated with money and might be seen to symbolise materialism and its destructive nature. Gatsby's station wagon is "like a brisk yellow bug" and his showy car is yellow; at the party there are two girls in twin yellow dresses; Gatsby wears a gold-coloured tie to meet Daisy. Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's advertisement features a "pair of enormous yellow spectacles" and it is the yellow car that knocks down Myrtle.