The Green Light Theory
The American existed at is prime during the 1920s, when everything changed for the United States. According to Fitzgerald, The American Dream became corrupt in the 20s and he proved in The Great Gatsby. His main character Jay Gatsby embodied the image of the corrupted American Dream, and “the novel describes the death of a romantic vision of America” (Person Jr.). Throughout the entire novel Gatsby used his wealth to his advantage to win his love back without rationally thinking about repercussions. In the end, Fitzgerald’s use of the color green to represent the hopes and dreams of Gatsby shows that attempts to recreate the past end in failure.
In the beginning of the book, Fitzgerald characterized Gatsby as a somewhat humble man who kept to himself. He had a quirky personality that had a mysterious twinge to it. Fitzgerald established one of Gatsby’s best physical features as his smile, referring to it as “one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance” (Fitzgerald 48). He portrayed Gatsby’s smile as this because Gatsby kept certain things about himself concealed. Daisy remained depicted as the epitome of a 1920s flapper during the novel. Fitzgerald emphasized, “her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes, and a bright passionate mouth” (Fitzgerald 9). These were the features of Daisy that Gatsby fell in love with. Others, however, illustrated Daisy as “vicious emptiness” (Person Jr.). This description was an “attribution to her of tremendous power over Gatsby and his fate” (Person Jr.) Though Daisy symbolized all of Gatsby’s illusions, she had her own dream, which collided with Gatsby’s dream. According to Leland Person Jr, “if Daisy fails to measure up to Gatsby’s fantasy, therefore, for his part clearly fails to measure up to hers” (Person). The dream remained a mutual failure caused by the inability to live up to someone’s expectation, destroying the dream as a whole.
In The Great Gatsby, the color green symbolizes hope and longing. For example, at the end of chapter one Nick first saw Gatsby when “he [Gatsby] stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way …distinguished nothing except a single green light” (Fitzgerald 20). The single green light
across the bay signified the restraints Gatsby had from obtaining his hopes and dreams. In order to break the restraints, Gatsby became rich (through illegal means) to get closer to Daisy. He vowed, “‘I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before’…he talked a lot about the past” (Fitzgerald 110). What Gatsby did not know was that Daisy was not the same person he met five year prior or possibly never was who he thought she was. Nick claimed that “there must have been moments that afternoon [when they met at Nick’s house] when Daisy tumbled short of his [Gatsby] dreams” (Fitzgerald 95). This foreshadowed why their love affair was a failure.
Gatsby’s attempts fail in the end because Daisy was not the same girl he met before the war. He did not realize that “people are not what they are, but what they used to be” (Witkoski), according to Michael Witkoski, so he cannot recognize Daisy as who she was at the time they met again. Nevertheless, “Gatsby’s love life is also a sign of declining morality” (Criticism of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby). His way of attempting to win back Daisy through money occurred immorally. Everything he did as for her; “the house was originally built to impress Daisy with his so-called wealth… a corrupt way of ‘winning love’” (Criticism of the American Dream in The Great Gatsby). On the other hand, Gatsby did not actually love Daisy. He only loved the idea of her from his past because according to Leland Person Jr, “Gatsby scarcely apprehended or loved the real Daisy; she was always an enchanted object” (Person) to him. It was almost as if she existed as just eye candy for him. The blame was not all on Gatsby though because Daisy is also at fault. Leland Person Jr claimed, “she, too, seeks a lost moment from the past” (Person). She contributed to the failed endeavors made by Gatsby. She gave him false hopes and her uncertain feelings brought an end to Gatsby’s dreams. The green light had gone out forever for Gatsby.
In the end, Fitzgerald’s use of the color green embodied the hopes and dreams of Gatsby demonstrates that efforts to restore the past end in catastrophe. Gatsby ends up dying alone without getting back with Daisy. She abandoned him when Tom whisked her away to prove that Daisy was always his, before Gatsby’s death. Gatsby’s efforts were not enough to bring back what once was. He never heeded Nick’s warnings, and completely disregarded him in a stubborn way. Gatsby should have listened when Nick stated, “you can’t repeat the past” (Fitzgerald 110). The greatest moments of the past need to be left as just happy memories created for nostalgia.