The end of The Great Gatsby compares the green light with what Dutch sailors saw when they first reached this continent. Why does the author make this comparison, and what is he saying about...

The end of The Great Gatsby compares the green light with what Dutch sailors saw when they first reached this continent.

Why does the author make this comparison, and what is he saying about Gatsby by making it?

Expert Answers
andrewnightingale eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick's reference to the significance of the colour green with regard to the Dutch reads:

" ... I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes — a fresh, green breast of the new world."

The Dutch who are mentioned here were immigrants who ventured into the New World to find a better life. They had undertaken a long and arduous journey at great risk in order rebuild their lives, start anew. As such then, the word has great symbolic significance: it is a symbol for a fresh start, a metaphor for something new and untarnished, it is an image of hope.

F. Scott Fitzgerald uses this symbol to signify Gatsby's hope - his dream for a new life with Daisy. Just as the Dutch aspired to a fresh start, does Jay wish for a new beginning with Daisy. The light represents all that he longs for, and his most profound and most overwhelming desire is to once again be with Daisy. This is the reason why Jay had worked so tirelessly, even risking capture for indulging in illicit practices, to become exorbitantly wealthy, so that he may achieve this dream. Nick calls Jay's mission to achieve this ideal, Gatsby's quest for the holy grail - Daisy.

Because of this great passion, Nick expresses great respect for Gatsby because he has, "some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life." He admires Gatsby for his:

" ...extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again."

Nick sees Jay reaching out to the green light across the bay one evening:

" ... he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward — and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been the end of a dock."

The fact that Jay seemed to be trembling signifies how important achieving his dream is to him. It has become an overwhelming romantic ideal, and this is how F. Scott-Fitzgerald wishes to portray Jay Gatsby: a besotted, romantic idealist who will do anything to achieve an almost impossible goal. He is an individual who naively believes that he can recreate the past, irrespective of the current reality.  

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The green of New York and the green light are associated with creative power and the power of dreams. The notion here is that for Gatsby, as for the Dutch, this place offers a possibility of a self-made paradise, the fulfillment of dreams.

Nick says that the Dutch must have seen "a fresh, green breast of the new world" that "once pandered to the last and greatest of all human dreams..."

The dream is one defined by wonder and possibility. Gatsby's story is defined similarly. In him, the sense that destiny and intentions were identical is presented in a character of grand vision, abundant confidence, and overarching hope.  

He is a believer, arrived at the place where his dreams can take root. When he sees the green light that marks Daisy's home, he has found his paradise, guided by destiny, and he believes that what he has longed for in dream can now become true. 

This is the "orgastic future" that Gatsby believes in.

hardy167 | Student

To the Dutch, the land was their hope and a new beginning for them where they could make their dreams come true, just like the green light was for Gatsby.  

Read the study guide:
The Great Gatsby

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