The colour green has often been used as a reference to hope throughout the storyline. Gatsby and green were interlinked as Gatsby’s entire character revolves around the hope that he had for Daisy and himself to be together once again. Green symbolizes Gatsby’s’ hope. The green light was initially referenced the first night Nick saw Gatsby. Nick saw a figure in the distance, arms reaching out to grasp something. Nick stated, “Involuntarily I glanced seaward – and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away…” Even in the first moments of Gatsby’s characters existence, the wanting of the green light was all Nick knew about him. Which makes sense as, Gatsby was entirely made up of the hope the light represented. The last reference of the green light was made when Nick said that, “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 further… And one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Which once broken down meant that, Gatsby believed in the hope that one day the past wouldn’t matter and that Daisy would be his and it would be no different than it was 5 years ago. That she never loved Tom, and that they were both the same people who fell in love so long ago. But you can’t erase the past, it is there forever. Gatsby believed that the past didn’t matter, and he was trying to push forward even though life kept pushing him backwards. He wanted to leave the past and go to the future, but the past is an impossible thing to leave.
The green light is referred to as a symbolic reference to Gatsby’s hope and as the story progressed the light became blocked by outsider influences (of which i will be discussing later in the symbolism of water). The light was clear and completely visible when the illusion Gatsby had created about his life and his hope was at its most believable point. Which for us and Nick was at the very beginning on that night when Nick had never met Gatsby. The night before the fictional story of Gatsby began. Later in the story Nick stated that, “If it weren’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay… You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” At this point, a lie Gatsby had told had been uncovered. The illusion of Gatsby had began to unravel and that’s why the light was covered, because in that moment the light wasn’t there and neither was the illusion of Gatsby.
Throughout the Great Gatsby a series of references were made surrounding Daisy and society as a whole. Society through the story was referred to several times in some way as a garden. East egg known for being filled with a variety of white wild flowers, a crisp white garden of sterile beauty. Nick described the Valley of Ashes in his ‘non judgemental way’ as, “This is the valley of ashes – a fantastic warm where ashes grow like wheat in the ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…” If every location in the novel was described as some form of garden, this was the one people were to be weary of. Grotesque being an obscure word choice, but as it means repulsively ugly and distorted. That is what the valley of ashes appears to be. An ugly place where everything is made with a filthy lot of nothing. A garden so hideous that flowers struggle to bloom. Where instead of pollen, ash pollutes the already musty air.
In the terms of illusion, Daisy and flowers intertwine as together they form the illusion of Daisy that Gatsby believed. Daisy is ironically named after a harmless, white wildflower. Gatsby surrounds himself in wildflowers all throughout the story, and we see his view of Daisy dictated and altered by the flower comparisons he uses. White wild flowers were used when the illusion of Daisy was still intact. As the story neared its end, Nick described a look on Gatsby he’d never seen. He said that, “… He found what a grotesque thing a rose is…” Meaning that the illusion behind Daisy was now gone. And now the harmless wildflower has stabbed Gatsby as it fell within his grasp.
During the story of the Great Gatsby, we have a common reference to water. Whether it’s rain, mist, a lake or a swimming pool the references are common and unless you delve into the what water signifies, you don’t really take any significant notice to it. The water in this story is a signification to time. The lake between Gatsby and the green light is the past that still stands between them. The rain when Gatsby and Daisy first meet again is the time that passed. Nick makes a reference to the mist when he says, “If it weren’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay… You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” The mist is the time of which still stands between Gatsby and Daisy. The hope is clouded by the past, and Gatsby keeps trying to go back and rewind it but that’s impossible. The past is something that we all hold onto, a thing we obsess over. The past can’t be changed, we dwell on that. Gatsby believed that the past didn’t matter, but in the end it consumed him. At the end of the story Gatsby was shot and fell into the pool, where he died. Gatsby literally died in the grasp of the past. It consumed to the point of his own extinction.
Water is shown as an illusion as Gatsby genuinely believed that he could devoid the past. The references were made to show us that the illusion of Gatsby and his hope was often impaired by the past. When the references were made it was a sign that the illusion was fading.