Author F. Scott Fitzgerald

Color in The Great Gatsby

The idea that women are meant to represent purity and virtue was popular during the 1920s. Women were mere accessories for men to use to display wealth and superiority.Many iconic authors use symbolism and motifs in their novels as a way to unveil the hidden personas of their characters, Author F. Scott Fitzgerald did just that in his novel The Great Gatsby. He employs the motif of color to expose the role of women in the 1920s society as seemingly innocent and as a commodity.

The vitality of wealth and money is most emphasized with the use of gold and silver to describe Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker. On the hottest day of the summer, Daisy invites Nick and Gatsby to lunch with her, Tom, and Jordan at her home in West Egg. Nick observes that “Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses…” (chapter 7, page 61) The narrator has shown a clear distaste for the money-hungry throughout the novel, by comparing Daisy and Jordan to silver idols, Nick implies that they are simply decorations to be exalted, like one would admire a trophy. This comparison is meant to rid the women of their humanity and to materialize them. Later on in the scene, the two women get ready to go to the city while Nick and Gatsby have a moment alone. In the short conversation, Nick comes to understand what kept men so infatuated with Daisy, “[her voice] was full of money that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it…high in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl. …” (chapter 7, page 65) The color gold represents luxury and wealth, and that is what Daisy is to these men, a monetary obsession. Gatsby sees Daisy as the ultimate prize, proof of a higher social standing. Fitzgerald’s use of the term “golden girl” is seen throughout the novel, many times referring to Daisy, to enforce that even the audience depicts Daisy as an object of wealth, propelling the theme of the hollowness of the upper class.

White is another color repeatedly used in the novel in association with women to reveal the ironic nature of people so corrupt hiding behind an innocent and pure facade. Nick makes his first visit to West Egg to have dinner with the Buchanans along with a young professional golfer, Jordan Baker. Nick, unfamiliar with the two women, attempts to gain a better insight of their character, “[s]ometimes [Daisy] and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter, that was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire.” (chapter 1, page 7) Nick observed how, though they spoke quite a lot, words like “unobtrusively”, insinuates that the conversations are of little substance. The comparison of empty conversations to the white clothes the women wore, “as cool as their white dresses…” , is used by Fitzgerald to expose the superficiality of Daisy and Jordan. Further on in the novel, after Gatsby’s death, Nick describes West Egg as a night scene by well-known Spanish Renaissance artist, “El Greco”. The narrator describes the painting for the reader, “[i]n the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress.” (chapter 9, page 97) Nick illustrates a drunken woman having to be carried out on a stretcher, calling out the hypocrisy of the West Egg population. The white evening dress in contrast to the laughably drunken woman wearing it shows the irony of someone caught in a dishonorable act attempting to come off to the world as upstanding and respectable. The innocence illustrated by the white evening dress is deceiving, a cover up for the immorality and superficiality.

F. Scott Fitzgerald used color to objectify the very morally bankrupt women of the Jazz Age. The colors gold and silver symbolize materialism, luxury, and the toxicity of wealth, characterizing Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker as hollow and ultimately deceiving. White represents innocence and delicate beauty, but when associated with the women in the story, the color develops a new layer of meaning, superficiality, and emptiness.