Green Light

In this blog post, I investigate a symbol and motif from the class novel, The Great Gatsby.


Photo ©2005 by Brian Sawyer [CC-by-2.0]

“But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.”

Chapter 5 of the book The Great Gatsby introduces the fact that Jay Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for almost 5 years. After an awkward start to their reuniting, Gatsby finally connected with her. He moved to West Egg to be closer to Daisy, and he stares at the green light on her dock to feel close to her. Tom and Daisy don’t have a very strong relationship; Tom having an affair with Myrtle, and Daisy getting together with Gatsby. It seems that many of the characters in this story make carefree decisions solely based on emotion and their personal gratification, without thinking or considering consequences. This lifestyle was typical for the time period. The twenties were filled with increased crime rates and women changing ideals with their new liberties. It was a carefree society, and the first time in history when people lived with recreational activities and less work.

“He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way…Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far way, that might have been the end of a dock” (20-21).

For Gatsby, the green light at the end of the Buchanan’s dock is a symbol of Daisy. It seems far away and it is evident that he reminds himself of her often by looking at it.

“‘You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock’…Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance tat had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her” (92-93).

After he reunites with Daisy, Nick notes that the light is no longer an idol for Gatsby. Because they are together, the significance of the light diminishes, and the fact that the light was so far away from him doesn’t matter to Gatsby. He has Daisy now, and the light is nothing more to him now than a light.

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