What different roles does the color white play in The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Interestingly, in The Great Gatsby, Daisy's name carries signficance regarding the color white.  Just as her clothing and her car years ago when she first met Jay Gatsby were white and suggested innocence, the flower after whom Mrs. Buchanan is named deceptively suggests a certain naivete and dreaminess.  However, the deception lies on the exterior, for the center of the flower is gold, and as Nick observes, Daisy's voice is "full of money"--

that was in inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it....High in a white palace the kings' daughter, the golden girl....

So, despite her airy white dreaminess that enjoys the illusion of love, Daisy thrives on wealth.  This is why she married Tom Buchanan; this is why she will not leave him for Jay Gatsby and why she hides behind her husband's wealth and power after she kills Mrytle Wilson. Daisy's spiritual veneer is a gossamer and unattainable white, an airy ghost of a real soul because she is the "bad driver" of whom Nick metaphorically speaks, the type of person whose lack consideration of the impact of her actions upon others near her wreaks tragic results.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

White is the color of innocence, the color of purity. When Nick first sees Daisy and Jordan, they appear almost angelic in white dresses that "were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house." As Nick (and the reader) come to realize, people and things are not always as they appear.

Nick moved to New York to enter business. He found employment working in the bond business, and

Most of the time I worked. In the early morning the sun threw my shadow westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust.

The implication is that the business was completely honest and for the benefit of all who were involved. Any hint of corruption or illegal business deals or persons more concerned with making a fortune for themselves, regardless of the impact on anyone else, is hidden.

Naturally, the eighteen-year-old Daisy lived in a white mansion, "dressed in white, and had a little white roadster." She was (or, at least, her reputation held that she was) the sweet young thing, the virgin with no knowledge or interest in anything that wasn't proper.


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