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

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Suggesting both color, mood, and music, blue has several meanings in The Great Gatsby.


  • A color that connotes dreams and illusions, Jay Gatsby shows Daisy his many colored shirts that monogrammed in "Indian blue" His gardens indicate the hidden boundary of Gatsby's world from that of the real one as his gardens are described as blue in Chapter Three:

In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.

  • Likewise, the chauffeur who has invited Nick to Gatsby's house wears blue. In Chapter Six after a reporter inquires about Gatsby, Nick Carraway launches into a history of James Gatz of North Dakota, whose mentor, Dan Cody, takes him to Duluth and buys him "a blue coat, six pair of white duck trousers and a yachting cap." Nick describes the young Gatsby as having "fantastic conceits":

For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy's wing.

  • Later in Chapter Six, Daisy inquires about the name of a man with a "blue nose," suggesting further illusion. Then, Gatsby tells Nick that he is going to get Daisy back as she will divorce Tom and come with him.  When Nick argues that no one can repeat the past, Gatsby counters, "Can't repeat the past?...Why of course you can!" 
  • In Chapter Seven after Myrtle is struck by Gatsby's car that Daisy has driven, the police question Tom Buchanan, asking him the color of his car. "It's a blue car, a coupe," he replies.
  • In Chapter Eight Nick and Gatsby enter his house as the "birds began to sing among the blue leaves." There is a gloom now to his illusions as Gatsby remarks, "I don't think she ever loved him." And Nick reflects,

What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity in his conception of the affair that couldn't be measured?

  • Later, Nick returns to Wilson's house where he finds Michaelis staying up through the night with the shaken husband. Michaelis is relieved when he notices a change in the room,

a blue quickening by the window and realized that dawn wasn't far off. About five o'clock it was blue enough outside to snap off the light.

  • Just then Doctor T.J. Eckleburg emerges with pale eyes in the dawn, and Wison repeats, "God sees everything."


  • In the artificial world of silver and golden slippers on dance floors that Daisy has grown up, 

All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the Beale Street Blues

  • At Gatsby's party, she sings to "Three O'Clock in the Morning," a "neat sad little waltz of that year."
  • As Gatsby carries his mattress and heads for his pool in Chapter Eight, his gardens and leaves are no longer blue, but are now the color of decay; Gatsby

shook his head and in a moment disappeared among the yellowing trees.

The color and music of blues indicate Gatsby's dreams and illusions; yellow signifies that they have been degraded by the dissolution of his idealization of Daisy.


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The Great Gatsby

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