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Analysis of the Green Light in the Great Gatsby Film

Although we are told that we should strive to accomplish our goals until the very
end, there always exists an upper limit to which it is acceptable and reasonable to pursue
what you want. For example, my brother will not devote his entire life to beat a
particularly hard level of Super Mario Galaxy. I will not waste my time saving up change
just so I can satisfy my want for a soda from the school vending machines. In these
situations, we do not continue following our desires because the rational side of our
mind tells us that such actions are ridiculous and a waste of time. In the movie The Great
Gatsby, however, the titular character does the exact opposite: instead of realizing the
pointlessness of him devoting his life to win back Daisy, he instead refuses to give up
hope as well as his dream of being with her. The film employs several techniques in order
to display the green light, a symbol of Gatsbys undying hope, in different manners. By
varying the intensity and position of the green light, the movie shows how close or how
far Gatsby is to achieving his goal of winning back Daisy, as well as how optimistic he is
towards this goal. As the story progresses, the movie also suggests the futileness of hope
and the naive nature of Gatsby as he struggles to hold on to his fleeting idealistic view of
his future with Daisy.
The green lights relationship with Gatsby is first seen in the beginning of the
movie, when Nick sees Gatsby on the dock. Nick claims that Gatsby seemed to be
reaching towards something, and as he utters these words, a green light emerges on the
other side of the dock, where Daisy lives. Here, the green light shines through darkness,
representing how Gatsby still maintains his dream to be with Daisy, undeterred by the
need for obtaining money illegally, her less than perfect self, and the eventual conflict

with Tom, all of which represent the darkness that surrounds Gatsby. The fact that light
tends to stand out more as it gets darker may suggest that as Gatsby falls due to his
deteriorating idealistic view of Daisy, or his life gets darker, his hope for Daisy
becomes stronger still, or that the green light stands out more. In terms of position,
because the green light is opposite from Gatsby, he is unable to actually reach Daisy,
showing the physical and invisible distance between the two. The film also utilizes a slow
zoom across the bay to the green light, melding into Gatsbys point of view and giving
viewers the sensation of slowly making their way to the light, much like how Gatsby
slowly makes his way towards Daisy throughout the movie and book. While at this point
the movie does not explicitly state that hope is useless in an immoral society, it does show
Gatsbys desire for a future with Daisy, which he will never obtain.
Later, during Gatsby and Daisys reunion after almost five years of separation,
Gatsby mentions that she always [has] a green light that burns all night at the end of
your dock. However, when the camera zooms closer to the bay, there is nothing at the
other end; either the green light is not shining or its glow is masked by the rain. This may
be because of Gatsby realizing that Daisy falls short of his idealistic expectations; seeing
as the green light has faded, in this moment Gatsbys optimism and hope fades as well.
Nick even states that possibly it had occurred to [Gatsby] that the colossal significance
of that light had now vanished forever, suggesting that the importance of yearning for an
almost heavenly figure has disappeared as Gatsby begins to face her true nature as a
money-loving, indifferent woman. The rain being what hides the light is also very
significant in the story. Throughout the meeting, the weather has been used to represent
Gatsbys mood and thoughts: before the meeting, it is raining because he feels nervous

about speaking to Daisy again, during the meeting the rain stops as the two warm up to
each other and he feels more comfortable, and at Gatsbys house the rain once again
appears as he is suggested to have internally realized how underwhelming Daisy actually
is to him. In this one moment, his hope has left him for the first time in the story, and he
may have finally recognized his naive optimism that he is able to truly win back Daisy.
When Gatsby arrives at Toms house for lunch, he mentions the green light to
Tom and says that he is able to see the light from his house across the bay every night.
However, the light is once again masked and diminished, this time not by rain, but by the
intense sunlight. Again, Gatsbys idealized view of Daisy as well as his dreams of the
future have faded as well. In this sequence, weather possesses a symbolic quality once
more; in this case the hot temperature and the harsh sunlight foreshadow the heated
confrontation between Tom and Gatsby later. In terms of position, Gatsby is much closer
to the green light than at the beginning of the story, but the fact that the light is not as
strong may signify that although Gatsby is physically closer to Daisy, emotionally and
internally they are quite far apart. The light having faded may also represent the idea that
Gatsby is not guided as much as he was before by this beacon, and is gradually slipping
out of his old childish ways of constantly pursuing an unrealistic portrayal of Daisy and
building his entire life on getting her. Unfortunately, at this point in the story it is too late
for Gatsby to undo the years he has spent or the identity he has built for himself, and
instead is forced to watch as his dream is crushed when Daisy abandons him for Tom
later that day.
The green light has one of its final significant moments the morning after the
death of Mrs. Wilson and the confrontation between Gatsby and Tom. In this scene,

Gatsby and Nick are at the formers house, watching the sunrise just outside the doors.
The green light shines across the bay, but once again its glow is suppressed by the
growing amount of sunlight. The camera does not even focus on the light during the
entire scene; it merely appears in the background. This may mean that the green light, or
Daisy, has lost much of its significance in Gatsbys life, being that it is not strong nor
focused enough for him to follow. Additionally, the fact that the two are at Gatsbys house
is significant in terms of position: they are farther away from the light than Gatsby was at
the very beginning of the story, or that Gatsby is farther away from Daisy than before,
and continues to be cast out to sea as he is unable to use her as a guide in his life. For
Gatsby, losing Daisy is like losing his entire world. He has longed to re-create his past
with her and is now forced to talk to Nick about it in a desperate attempt to keep it alive.
Even after the confrontation with Tom, Gatsby is unable to accept that his dream is dead,
although the green light says otherwise: since its glow has faded, Gatsby should be giving
up as well. While he has an enormous amount of potential and ambition, Gatsby chooses
to spend it all on one woman who proves to be undeserving of and unable to meet his
ideals and expectations, and instead of living out his life rich, content, and with Daisy, he
pays the price by having his hopes and dreams destroyed, his life ended, and his followers
and friends gone except for Nick.
Throughout the film, the use of altering the green lights intensity, as well as Gatsbys
position relative to the light shows his physical and internal distance from Daisy, as well
as the pointlessness of his hope and his naivete as he attempts to win her over, only for
his dreams to be crushed in the end. In the end of the movie, Nick states that Gatsby
believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It

eluded us then, but thats no mattertomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms
farther. . . And then one fine morningSo we beat on, boats against the current, borne
back ceaselessly into the past. In these few sentences, Nick captures the struggle of
human beings to achieve their goals by re-creating the past. By attempting to transcend
the past in order to achieve an ideal future, humanity is actually drawn back into the past
as people expend their energy to reach a goal that moves ever farther away. What I
learned from the fall of Gatsby is that in order to actually accomplish a goal, one must not
look into the past in order to remake what once was, but instead look to the future and
leave the past behind. Not only that, but I must also accept that no outcome or dream is
ideal; more often than not it strays far from our imagination. Only by keeping these ideas
in my head will I be able to find true happiness rather than being caught up in the past
and having a reality check, such in the case of Gatsby.

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