Symbols Notes


In The Great Gatsby, flowers are a big symbol in the book, they are used to materialise the rich. Fitzgerald has named the characters in relation to the flowers, such as Daisy, Myrtle and Carraway, all from different social classes. All three characters are part of a fake relationship where one takes advantage of the other. Gatsby became friends with Nick Carraway to get closer to Daisy, he used him to execute the final parts of his lifelong dream; Daisy, a very common flower, played with Gatsby’s heart, only to throw it out and walk away; and Myrtle was the victim of Toms  temporary ‘fling’ away from Daisy. The flowers come into the book in conjunction with the relationships, especially with Gatsby and Daisy the most superficial characters in the novel: “Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch, she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.” They also progressively changed throughout the growth of the relationships, as they begin to look deeper into the person’s true personality. For example, Gatsby realises Daisy isn’t the soft, pretty person she lets on, she is, in fact, a rose. She is beautiful at first and from a distance, but as soon as you get too close, you discover the dangers it holds; the innocent flower can hurt you with one touch. “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky… and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is…” As Gatsby learnt with Daisy, you can always buy flowers but they will never live forever; he can’t just buy a life with Daisy and expect it to work out. Gatsby discovered from the flowers that money will never be able to buy everything in life because people aren’t going to be what they seem at first. Gatsby actually becomes a flower for a very temporary time, however, he can never officially become one as he’s self-made with all his natural beauty hidden behind the lies. He appreciates the ‘flowers’ a little too much that it becomes an obsession, compared to Tom who doesn’t appreciate any part of them. He just likes to collect them, objectify them, and put them on a shelf while expecting they won’t stray away occasionally. The flowers in The Great Gatsby shows the inevitable destruction of something so beautiful. “He broke off and began to walk up and down a desolate path of… crushed flowers.”


In the Great Gatsby, water represents time on numerous occasions. Fitzgerald shows how we have no control of the water throughout the book, we’ll never be able to change the time to suit our needs. However, Gatsby is persistent at trying to swim against the current, attempting to reverse time but as we all know, it is impossible to retract the time. The water shows us a clear and in-depth understanding of how time has affected the characters in the Great Gatsby. Water has arrived in many forms during key scenes in the novel, such as when Gatsby and Daisy reunite. It had been five years without seeing each other, so on the day they planned their reunion, they both had extreme emotions going on. The weather reflected their minds, as for the whole day they intended on meeting up, it was raining heavily. It became even stormier when she arrived but once the awkward air between them cleared, the rain began to retreat. ” ‘What do you think of that? It’s stopped raining.’  ‘I’m glad, Jay.’ Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy.” The sun came out while they were reminiscing old times and remembered the mutual love in each others company. Gatsby felt cleansed after the rain and gave him hope for his dream to finally come true after the long five years. Those five years were represented by the bay that lay between   West Egg and East Egg; it shows the long distance between them that is full of currents. However, it took Gatsby too long to realise he couldn’t get Daisy until he could cross the water and to walk on water is undeniably impossible. Even before he discovered his dream of Daisy was irrational, the water was giving him signs that he did not have a chance. “If it wasn’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.” When he looked across at the green light on Daisy’s dock while she was visiting one day, the mist came in heavy clouding their vision of the green light, the hope of a new beginning. He found it to be inconceivable until right before he died in a pool filled with water, it was then that he finally realised his time was up.



The colours of yellow and gold show a strong symbol throughout the novel, representing the social, and economic standings alike. Yellow is colour known for jealousy or fake and weakened gold. Gold is the superior and more successful of the two; it is used to portray the ‘old money’ characters, the ones of a higher status. The colour can immediately change your outlook on a person just because they are referenced as gold and “gold makes the ugly beautiful.” Tom belongs to the gold category, compared to Gatsby who is a strong yellow competitor and Daisy kind of hangs in the middle. Daisy has been given an opportunity to become ‘gold’ through Tom, however, she has a hearty yellow soul stuck inside of her. “Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly. That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money — that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it. . . . high in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl. . .” Gatsby wants to be ‘gold’ so bad, but even through Daisy, he would never be able to reach that high status of legal and respected success because of money. In competitions, people are heard to say ‘go for gold’ because that is the best and most successful you can get, it is much stronger than yellow. Gatsby has been trying his hardest to win the competition but he did so illegally; he attempted to corrupt the American Dream and failed “…in a moment disappeared among the yellowing trees.” All he ended with was a yellow car to show for it. It is not quite gold, just a wannabe version of it because of the corrupt way he made his gold. Nick isn’t really yellow or gold, he isn’t jealous of the gold like everyone else, he is attracted to it. He is attracted to Jordan  “…I put my arm around Jordan’s golden shoulder” and the life she lives in but doesn’t necessarily want to live it. Jordan is as important to Nick as money is of extreme value to any other man. However, Nick doesn’t want his world to revolve around the money and this is maybe one of the reasons Nick and Jordan didn’t work out.




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