What does the green light symbolize to Gatsby? To Nick?What makes the light so important to Gatby. Why is it also important to Nick?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The green light at the end of the dock symbolizes Daisy, but more broadly, it symbolizes Gatsby's desire to roll back time itself and start over at the point five years earlier when he and Daisy first met. Gatsby's desire, in turn, symbolizes the American Dream: the desire to start over in a new, green, Edenic place and get the story right this time around.

Gatsby chooses his mansion because it is across the water from Daisy's home. He can see the green light at the end of her dock and know that she, the object of his desire, is just across the water. He hopes that one day she will show up at one his lavish parties and that they can reignite their lost relationship.

Daisy represents desire itself to Gatsby. As Nick says after he participates in orchestrating their reunion:

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams—not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.

At the end of the book, Nick looks across the Sound where once Gatsby had gazed at the green light at the end of the dock. As Nick muses, Gatsby's desire for Daisy, symbolized by the green light, merges into the American dream itself. Nick imagines the earliest settlers gazing at the green (green meaning both young and forested) breast of the continent, much as Gatsby did the green light:

And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

The light is important to Nick because it universalizes all our desires to remake the past:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

ajacks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The green light on the end of Daisy’s dock symbolizes many things to Jay Gatsby. Naturally, it symbolizes Daisy to Gatsby as he stands on his dock looking over the water at it. Since it’s on her property, it shows how close he is to her. When he reaches out his hand towards it as he stands alone on his dock at night he reaches out his hand to it, and the narrator says, “I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it.” Unfortunately for Gatsby, the green light would never be attainable to him.

For Nick the green light represents everything that Gatsby wanted, but could never have. He says at the end, “I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

burningliar | Student

The green light represents Gatsby's hopes and dreams (i.e. Daisy)

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The Great Gatsby

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