The Great Gatsby
F.Scott Fitzgerald

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (180)

7) Fitzgerald uses several color symbols(green, gray, yellow, gold, silver, etc.) to discuss the lure and corruption of wealth. Explain how they are used in the novel to support this theme.

Yellow and Gold Represents:
Gatsby's Yellow Car
Gatsby's Yellow Car

  • Old wealth
  • Joy
  • Success
  • Although yellow and gold represent great wealth it also represents destruction.
    • The decay of morals
    • The rotten behavior of the wealthy.
    • Daisy wears a lot of yellow. Daisy in particular is unethical and corrupt. Upon first meeting her, one believes that she is pristine; however, upon further examination one sees that she has no morals. She pursues another man while she is still married. Additionally, she recklessly kills another woman.
    • Gatsby's yellow car kills Myrtle
    • T.J. Eckleburg wears a "pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose."(27) T.J. Eckleburg watches over the Valley of Ashes and witnesses Mytle's murder and Tom Buchanan's unscrupulous behavior.

White Represents:
  • Morally Unblemished
  • Scrupulous
  • Honor
  • "Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white" (pg 24). When Daisy and Jordon were younger they were both pristine; however, as they grew up they became more corrupt.
The Green Light across the bay.
The Green Light across the bay.

Green Represents:
  • Hope
  • "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us" (p. 171).
  • There is a green light on Daisy's dock. For Gatsby the green light represents his future with Daisy.

Grey Represents:
  • The Valley of Ashes which symbolizes desolation.
  • Barren decay caused by the Industrial Revolution.
  • The middle-class (George and Myrtle Wilson) live in the Valley of Ashes. Illustrates the decay of the middle class.
  • Myrtle dies among the ashheaps.


8) Compare and contrast the imagery used to depict the three major settings of the novel(West Egg, East Egg, the Valley of Ashes). What does the imagery build themes of social class distinctions and the American Dream?

- In order to understand the 3 different settings, it is important to note the time period and the general factors which link the three settings and make them supporting themes in the novel. The Great Gatsby takes place in 1920's Long Island, an era which Fitzgerald refers to as "The Jazz Age." During this time period, America was undergoing sweeping changes which conpletely altered the face of the country. Highways now connected the various corners of the country, Suburbs were seen for the first time as people could use cars to commute, and manifest destiny had finally been achieved and America's jurisdiction extended from coast to coast. The dramatic changes in the American economy caused a great number of upper and middle class citizens to take on a new attitude of materialism. However, in their race to gain material wealth, these upper and middle class people began to lose their morals and ethical standards. Now that America had seen the extension of it's borders, the American Dream had finally been achieved, from this point on, people could only make their own wealth greater than their neighbors: in some cases, by any means necessary.
- New York, where the whole story takes place, is considered to be a place where there are no rules or laws to govern the wealthy. People like Meyer Wolfsheim and other boot leggers can get rich and make their own fortunes in the city. The city is obviously another symbol Fitzgerald uses to show the decay of upperclass morals, after all it is the city where Tom Bucchanan buys an apartment for his mistress.

West Egg: considered to be the "less fashionable" region of New York, "new money" residents
- Jay Gatsby lives here. To be new money was to be stereotyped as "crooked," simply because of people like Jay Gatsby. Anyone who can make their own wealth in 1920's America was considered to be shallow and materialistic.
- Names of New Money familes were not famous or well regarded in society. These people are mainly self-made and therefore have not been around long enough to establish themselves as important in society.
- New money was not as reliable as old money.
- New money socialites often flaunt their wealth by throwing large, lavish parties and advertizing their wealth by purchasing large estates and filling them with expensive materialistic items.

East Egg: considered by society to be the "fashionable" region of New York, "old money"
- the Buchannan's live in East Egg. Fitzgerald ironically makes the east egg population believe how tasteless and classless the west egg people are, however the old money people flaunt their wealth in the same manner.
- another ironic device Fitzgerald brings out is the fact that people from all over New York attend Gatsby's parties. These old money citizens consider themselves above everyone else because their wealth is inherited and reliable, but have no moral standards to turn down invitations to west egg parties such as Gatsbys'
- the old money characters the reader is exposed to are very careless in the way they act partially because they know they can rely on the security of their good name and their vast fortune.

Valley of Ashes: the gray, industrialized region which lies between East Egg and West Egg
- The Valley of Ashes represents the fingerprint, or more appropriately the stain, which industry has left on the land. The gray, decaying valley shows the effect industry has had on society
- Even though industry has allowed for capitalism and materialism to thrive, it has come at the cost of decay. The same can be said about the morals of the upper class.
- the superficial upperclass uses the lower working classes of society to get richer. As they step on the heads of the lower class, the rich raise in height and the workers sink below ground level.
- We can see examples of this unfair advantage as Tom uses Myrtle Wilson as his mistress. Even as he continues his obvious affair with his wife, Tom uses Mr. Wilson by promising to sell his car but never following through.

9) Explain the importance of the following quote to the theme of wealth and corruption of the novel:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy. They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together" (188)

-Fitzgerald portrays the 1920’s as an era of decayed social and moral values that has been influenced by the overall wealth and greed contained within society. It is through the story of The Great Gatsby, that Fitzgerald demonstrates how the importance of wealth ultimately leads to the corruption of the American Dream. Initially the American Dream was about individualism and finding oneself, however, with the introduction of “new money” the dream had crumbled.

A distinction between old money and new money becomes a major theme to and understand of wealth and corruption in the novel.

  • West Egg- represents “new money” or the newly rich and is connected to more traditional values and ideals.
  • East Egg- represents “old money” or the old aristocracy which displays a desire and pleasure for money.

Characters, like Tom and Daisy represent the “old aristocracy” and are typically self centered careless people that revolve their lives around their social status and wealth.
  • Though they represent a couple within the story, Tom and Daisy are the epitome of how society influences the lives of others.
  • Tom and Daisy’s carelessness represents how the rich people really don’t care about anything besides their wealth.
  • It is clear that Daisy chooses Tom over Gatsby because Tom is of the “old aristocracy” and therefore is guaranteed his wealth for eternity. Whatever it was that kept them together was certainly because of the wealth Tom provided Daisy with. Daisy knows that Tom has inherited money that will last a lifetime, so she decides to without a doubt remain with Tom and leave Gatsby.
  • Gatsby is part of the newly rich crowd and is only momentarily wealthy because of his bootlegging career. Typically, new money fades and old money remains eternal, which is proven when Gatsby dies in the end because not only does he die alone, with no one there to support him at his funeral, but also without the girl. He aspired to get wealthy to impress Daisy, which ultimately failed in the end.
  • Most importantly, this quote proves that Tom and Daisy are able to escape what they do to people only because they have the monetary means to do it.
  • Society has placed a high standard on the upper class, such as Tom and Daisy by blinding them of the sincere emotional attachment that two who are in love have. They are simply drawn to each other for their title in society and for the amount of wealth they acquire.

This the main reason that Daisy does not allow herself to be with Gatsby because she is not really concerned about love, what she is truly concerned about is keeping her wealth and remaining in the upper class.