This is the "Instructions" page of the "The Great Gatsby- Theme Theories" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

The Great Gatsby- Theme Theories   Tags: great_gatsby, great_gatsby_themes  

Students will use important symbols and colors in The Great Gatsby to develop theories about possible themes in the classic novel.
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2011 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Instructions Print Page





There are two parts to this Theme Theory assignment. We will classify them as Color Theories and Symbol Theories. The Color Theories are your theories about what the colors associated with characters might suggest about the characters and themes in the book. The Symbol Theories are your theories about what you believe specific symbols to reveal about themes in the book.



1. For each character, create a page of notes (or half page) for keeping a log of colors associated with the characters in the book. Under each character, list any color (or color synonym) associated with the character in any way. The synonyms are not to be overlooked. To avoid being repetitive, Fitzgerald may have used many different words to demonstrate the colors, like "red" for example.  Instead of "red" he might say, "wine- colored" or "rosy." The best thing to do would be to familiarize yourself with the synonyms ahead of time to be sure you catch every color. In the early stages, you are just observing and recording. Just worry about creating your list. For example, in chapter one, Nick describes both Daisy and Jordan in this way, "They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house" (Fitzgerald).  Notice how the color white has been associated with Daisy and Jordan in the statement. At this point, you should write "white" on your list for Daisy and Jordan.

Characters to track:

Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, George, Myrtle, Nick, and Jordan.

2. After you have finished the book, go back and re-examine your list of colors. See if you notice any patterns. Then check out the tab on Color Psychology. After reading the sources under that tab, write a short paragraph for each character that draws conclusions about each character from the colors that Fitzgerald has selected for them. Your paragraph should include what you believe the colors tell about the character. Be sure to cite some direct examples for full credit.



1. Examine the following objects, names, and ideas used in The Great Gatsby. Create a half page of notes for each object to record your thoughts as you read the book. As you hear about the object as it is mentioned in the book, write a short paragraph what you believe the object to represent. Be sure to cite direct support for your claims. Remember that a symbol is an object that means something more than its literal meaning. For example, if a person in a narrative mentions seeing a dove fly in the sky, the appearance of the dove might mean more than just the literal bird. The sighting of the dove might represent a feeling of peace in the narrator, since doves are often associated with peace and good will. 

Symbols to track:

The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg

The green light at the end of Daisy's dock

The "owl-eyed" man

Gatsby's boyhood schedule

Gatsby's "dream"

East Egg

West Egg

The "Valley of Ashes"


Education (books, school)

Gatsby's Parties


1. Now it's time to consider all of the evidence you have gathered and to generate theories about themes in The Great Gatsby.  Remember that a theme is an underlying thought or idea contained in a literary work that is usually expressed in a universal statement. For example, a possible theme present in the classic fable "The Tortoise and the Hair" is, "Slow and steady wins the race." For each category below, write a universal statement that you believe to be suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. Then describe the situation or quote directly from the text to support your theme theory.

Note: No theme is right or wrong as long as you can back it up with textual evidence. Also, themes are never absolute. You should never say, "The theme is..." but instead, "A theme may be...".


Money, Friendship, Hypocrisy, Carelessness, Dishonesty, The American Dream, Knowledge


Loading  Loading...