What exactly does the green light on the dock mean to Gatsby?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) begins with the green light in Chapter I, as Gatsby "stretched out his arms in a curious way, and. . . was trembling" (26-27), and it ends with the green light, too, as "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us" (189). Thus, the green light represents not just Daisy, but the hopes and dreams of all who came and come to America in search of that American dream, including all of us who are descended from those who immigrated here. The "new world" represents a clean slate, people no longer mired in the machinations and hierarchies. They believe they can love, thrive, and fulfill all their dreams. People can reinvent themselves, as Gatsby has done, giving himself a new name and, once he finds Daisy, a quest. The green light represents all of this for Gatsby, but as he moves toward it, it recedes. The closer he gets to Daisy, the more she eludes him. The American dream, a staple of our mythology, remains intact, I think, with many believing in it no matter how elusive it proves to be.

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The Great Gatsby

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