The Great Gatsby is one of the well-known works written by world-renowned author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although it was published in 1925, the book is still widely received today. The book is critically-acclaimed to perfectly depict the American dream, class inequalities, and the societal norms which existed in the 1920s.
But what really caught the interest of readers – and which has sparked numerous debates – is the green light which appeared several times throughout the novel.
Great Gatsby Green Light Symbolism: The Synopsis
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the green light symbolism, I think it’s best to first have a general overview of the story. The Great Gatsby was set in the roaring twenties and revolved around the life of millionaire Jay Gatsby. The story opens with the journey of Nick Carraway, an aspiring bond salesman, to New York City. He settles down in a bungalow in West Egg, which was right next door to Jay Gatsby’s estate. Although neighbors, they didn’t have much interaction in the beginning.
It is eventually revealed that Nick is the distant relative of Daisy Buchanan, a former flame of Jay Gatsby. Shortly after that, Nick was invited to one of the luxurious parties thrown by Gatsby at his estate. Nick and Gatsby eventually become acquainted, with the latter usually trying to impress the former. Inevitably, Gatsby and Daisy met again. And although already married, Daisy consented to have an affair with Gatsby. When her husband – who was also having an affair – found out about them, things took an interesting turn.
Throughout the novel, Gatsby is often depicted as looking into a green light which is located on the dock across his mansion. It was later revealed that the green light emanates from the mansion where Daisy and her husband lived. The green light symbolism in The Great Gatsby was so emphasized by F. Scott Fitzgerald that it even appeared at the end of the novel. Only this time, it was no longer Gatsby who was staring into the green light at the opposite dock.
Great Gatsby Green Light Symbolism: Meaning
The various chapters where the green light appeared depicted different emotions while the character stared into it. Accordingly, it appears to symbolize that the green light doesn’t have one concrete meaning throughout the novel.
Chapter 1 depiction
In the first chapter, Gatsby appears to be staring into the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He was depicted to be seen by Nick with his arms stretched toward the light.
The green light in this chapter symbolizes Daisy. Although their past love story wasn’t revealed yet at this point, Fitzgerald made it appear the Gatsby was reaching out to attain his lifelong dream – to be with Daisy. Since Gatsby was standing on his mansion while he had his arms stretched out, it also symbolized that the American dream was not enough. Being with Daisy was truly what he wanted.
Chapter 5 depiction.
In the fifth chapter, Gatsby was finally reunited with Daisy. The green light was merely mentioned by Gatsby in this chapter. At this point, it appears that Gatsby already attained his dreams. However, something didn’t seem right. This symbolized that he always hoped that Daisy would remain the same despite the years that had passed. Unfortunately, Daisy from his past is all a fiction of his imagination now.
It is also believed that the green light in this chapter symbolized how people chased after the American dream, only to be disappointed once they have already attained it.
Chapter 9 depiction.
The green light makes a final appearance in the last chapter. This time, it was Nick who was depicted to be looking into the green light. After a series of exhausting events in the big city, Nick has finally decided that he wasn’t meant for city life. He finally decided to head back to Minnesota.
Before heading home, he dropped by at Gatsby’s mansion rested on the beach. While looking into the green light, he had various thoughts about the American dream. It is believed that the green light in this chapter depicts how people go after their dreams. Despite the varying dreams of people, there will always be a struggle in the pursuit of that dream. But on a positive note, dreams will always be associated with giving people hope and inspiration to never give up.
Interesting Facts About Great Gatsby Green Light Symbolism
The green light symbolism in The Great Gatsby is so fascinating that it has been included in its movie adaptation. In 2012, the film adaptation of The Great Gatsby was received with mixed criticisms. Regardless, critics agree that the story remained faithful to the novel. This is especially true with respect to the symbolism of the green light.
As a whole, both the movie and the book would make you feel similar emotions. This is especially true in the scene where Nick finally takes a walk in the empty Gatsby estate, marveling over his friend’s unfortunate life.