Why do you think Fitzgerald uses flower imagery in the novel?"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his novel, "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald employs colors to convey impressionistic images.  Yellow, traditionally the color of evil, is used strategically by Fitzgerald with the most salient example as the yellow car of Gatsby's, the death car, which contrasts with the white car Daisy has driven when she first meets Jay Gatsby.  Interestingly, her name is a flower, a flower which has both these colors contained in it, but at its center is yellow, the color of corruption and sin.  So, while the reader has the first impression of Daisy through the eyes of the infatuated Gatsby as an innocent debutante, fresh, young, even somewhat naive--the "golden girl" of his dreams--the reader later learns of her self-serving nature as she rejects Gatsby, even betraying him as the driver of his yellow "death-car."  Like flowers that are ephemeral, the love of Daisy for Gatsby withers and dies.

Other flowers are employed in Fitzgerald's novel, as well. For instance, at one of Jay Gatsby's parties attended by dissipated and sordid and dissolute people, one actress stands in sharp contrast to the other guests as she is described in her refinement and rarity, like the flower which symbolizes her:

Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree.

After Gatsby has died, Fitzgerald uses the rose, a symbol of love and passion, when Nick ponders why Gatsby died:

He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered when he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how the raw sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.

In this passage, the passion that Gatsby thought was love--earlier when he kissed her "she blossomed for her like a flower"--had withered and he saw Daisy for her cupidity and selfishness, the "raw sunlight" (yellow/corruption,evil ) on "the scarcely created grass" (new money of Gatsby).

Like Gatsby's American Dream, the flowers symbolize a transitory beauty and the mere illusion of what does not really exist.  A tragic figure, Jay Gatsby realizes the illusion before he dies.


Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The use of imagery to convey meaning and purpose in Fitzgerald's work is quite deliberate.  The use of flowers, in particular, helps to illuminate the idea of "life and death" or the inevitable decay associated with something beautiful.  Daisy, the source of Gatsby's love, is a white flower with a center of yellow.  The white pedals of "purity" conceals a center that could reflect something else because like all flowers, its pedals is shed with only its center remaining.  The symbolism could be that at the core of Daisy's existence is something corroded and corrupt, something heinous despite its appearance.  The notion of flowers help to bring to light this idea of something being ugly, but concealed by an aesthetic of beauty.  Like the invocation of roses possessing thorns, something painful within something beautiful, Fitzgerald uses flowers to symbolize his belief that the Jazz Age represented something transitory, passing, and far from permanent as the tide that washes away those monuments built upon a firmament of sand.  The fading and duplicitous imagery of flowers helps to enhance this theme.  Bearing this in mind, I think you can find more examples of how flowers represent this transitory nature of life feeding into death.

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The Great Gatsby

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