The Green Light That Tried to Make Dreams Come True: Green Light Symbolism



A quote from Fussell says, “You can have anything you want you just can’t have everything you want.” This quote is saying that people want a lot in life, but one simply cannot have everything they desire. There will always be something a person cannot have. This directly relates to the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzegerald because the main character, Jay Gatsby, is a fairly young man who grew up poor on a farm with his parents. This childhood made Gatsby decide to change his life, he did some illegal business in order to become rich, and it worked. Although he could use his rich privilege to have anything he wanted in life such as big houses, expensive clothes, tasteful parties, or any other materialistic items,the one thing he truly wanted was to have Daisy back in his life. She was the woman he fell in love with right before he went into the military and she married someone else who had more money than Gatsby. When he found out she married someone else he was devastated since he thought they would end up married to each other. Relating to the quote, Gatsby can have anything he wants materialistically in his life, but he cannot have everything he wants because Daisy is hesitant about their past relationship and about trying again in the future with him. Throughout the novel, a green light at the end of Daisy’s dock is mentioned. The green light symbolizes Gatsby’s love for Daisy although he may never be able to physically have her again. 

Firstly, Gatsby’s fantasy of a relationship with Daisy will live on as long as he keeps looking at the green light at the end of her dock. The first quote that shows this is on page one hundred, “Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.” This quote is after Gatsby tells Daisy that he can see her dock’s green light from his house. Nick thinks that now Gatsby has Daisy’s attention and company the green light may no longer matter to him. This was the complete opposite for how Gatsby felt because for him, dreaming of Daisy and dreaming of being with her was better and more satisfying than actually having her in real life. That is exactly why Gatsby continued to yearn for Daisy and gazed at her green light still. Another example of Gatsby’s fantasy living on for as long as he looks at the green light is on page 180, “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” This quote happens in the novel after Gatsby was shot and killed by George. Nick was talking about his sense of hope that came from the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He truly believed he would be able to have Daisy for the rest of his life by gazing at this green light. As soon as his dreams started to become a reality for Gatsby, he died. This is proof that the green light magic, per say, died right alongside Gatsby. These two quotes help to show how Gatsby’s relationship fantasy with Daisy only lived on for as long as he looked at her green light. 

Next, Gatsby uses the green light to show his affection towards Daisy throughout the novel. The first quote for this is on page twenty, “He stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily, I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away, that might have been at the end of a dock.” This quote was the first time Nick technically met Gatsby and he was reaching outwards for a green light in the distance. This is when Nick realizes that although Gatsby has money and any material possessions that he wants, he still wants something, or someone, more. He also realizes that it was the light at the end of Daisy’s boat dock, so he inferred that Daisy is what Gatsby truly wants in life. Another quote to show this is on page 180, “As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.” This example in the novel is after Gatsby died. Nick was thinking about the parties Gatsby had thrown all of the time and how people only showed up for Gatsby’s money, instead of showing up simply for him. This quote is saying how the green light was the only thing keeping Gatsby’s hopes and dreams about Daisy alive. These examples elaborate on what the green light meant to Gatsby and how it kept his affection for Daisy strong over years of wanting to recover what they once had. 

Finally, the symbolism of the green light relates to Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy. The example of this is on page 92, “If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.” This quote is from when Gatsby talked to Daisy for the first time in years as he was showing her around his enormous mansion. This is also the first time in the novel where Gatsby actually admits that the green light does belong to Daisy and that she is what he wants. Since Gatsby has been in love with Daisy since a few years ago when they had first been together, he had no shame in admitting to her that he basically stalks her boat dock all night long sometimes. He also seems to think that because she is there with him she wants to be with him. This example shows how Gatsby is obsessed with Daisy and acts like she is a material possession that he wants in his life.

In conclusion, the green light that is mentioned throughout this novel is an important symbol for the main character, Gatsby, because it represents his love for Daisy and his hope for his future with her. His hopes and dreams for Daisy can only live on as long as he looks at the green light at the end of Daisy’s boat dock. This light shining represents his hope for the future with the only person he wants although she seems to be impossible for him to physically have which is why he dreams about her. Without the green light, he may have given up on his dream of being with Daisy or even given up on himself. Gatsby uses the symbolism of the green light to show his affection towards Daisy and to show the people around the both of them that he cares for her and wants her in his life. The green light also shows how Gatsby is a stalker because he is obsessed with Daisy and the idea of being married to her. When Gatsby was shot and killed, the green light symbolism died with him. He also believes that because he is proud enough to tell Daisy that he stalks her boat dock all night sometimes that it is not wrong as well as when she talks or hangouts with Gatsby it means she wants to be married to him. All in all, the green light is the most important symbol in the novel.