Does Gatsby appear in the motifs violence, colors, race, and sports?  If so, where does the motif appear in The Great Gatsby?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is replete with color imagery and Gatsby is greatly involved with this:

  • White - Normally symbolic of purity, this color's connotations are inverted in this novel as it signifies just the opposite, impurity and loss of innocence.  Gatsby's involvement with this color is that he chases Daisy as almost an ideal like the maidens in the Arthurian legends, perceiving her as perfection.

In Chapter 8, Fitzgerald writes of Gatsby's visit long ago to Daisy's house:

...he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail....

Her name suggests the appearance of this purity, but at the center is yellow, a symbol of corruption.

  • Gold - This is probably the color most associated with Gatsby.  His car is gold/yellow, representing his riches and corruption, both.  In his library, the leather books are bound in red and gold.
  • Rose - Symbolic of romance, Gatsby wears rose-tinted spectacles, but in Chapter 8, in remembrance of his romanticized first visit to Daisy's house, rose, among other colors, is mentioned:

All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the "Beale Street Blues" while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers [money] shuffled the shining dust.  At the grey tea hour [decadence] there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low sweet ever, while fresh faces drited here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor.

  • Green - As previously mentioned, Gatsby looks from his lawn across to East Egg (symbol of the wealthy elite) as the green light at the end of Daisy's pier.  His car is upholstered in green, as well, connoting his love of money.
  • Gray/Ash - Gatsby drives through the Valley of Ashes and is affected by the death contained in this area.  On one drive with Nick in Chapter Four, Nick narrates,

Then the valley of ashes opened out on both side of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by.  (This passage presages the tragedy to come) 

In his disillusionment in Chapter 8, Gatsby "shoulders his mattress" as though carrying a cross, and heads for the pool.  Nick narrates a passage containing several color images:

He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.  A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.



teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The motifs of violence, colors, race, and sports appear in The Great Gatsby.  Violence is seen through the tension between social classes.  For example, it is seen directly when Tom punches Myrtle at their gathering and it is seen indirectly when Meyer Wolfsheim enters the story and the suggestion of black market activities is made.  Colors abound throughout the novel, most notably the green light that reoccurs from across the bay.  Early in the novel, Tom mentions race, and his prejudice is tied directly to his prejudice based on class.  Finally, sports (and sportsmanship) is most directly seen with Jordan Baker and the controversy over her truly winning golf matches.

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The Great Gatsby

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