Essay On My Hopes And Dreams Have Been Dashed

One of the most arresting images in The Great Gatsby is Nick’s vision of Gatsby stretching his arms out towards a small green light on the opposite shore of the bay. The mysterious, almost mystical nature of this gesture is a sure-fire sign that this green light is a symbol.

What is a symbol? It’s something that is given extra meaning beyond itself. Something that stops being simply an everyday object, and instead represents thoughts and ideas that are bigger than itself.

What are the abstract ideas behind the green light in The Great Gatsby? Read on to see where this symbol pops up in the novel, what themes it is connected to, which characters are most closely associated with it, and some ideas for essay topics on this symbol.

 

Quick Note on Our Citations

Our citation format in this guide is (chapter.paragraph). We're using this system since there are many editions of Gatsby, so using page numbers would only work for students with our copy of the book. To find a quotation we cite via chapter and paragraph in your book, you can either eyeball it (Paragraph 1-50: beginning of chapter; 50-100: middle of chapter; 100-on: end of chapter), or use the search function if you're using an online or eReader version of the text.

 

What Is the Green Light in The Great Gatsby?

Before we delve into the symbolic meaning of the green light, let's first establish what this object is in concrete terms.

The green light is a permanently lit electric lamp that marks the end of Daisy and Tom’s boat dock. It’s a way to warn boats at night or during inclement weather that there is a structure there - this is why it is always on.

Because the Buchanans' mansion is directly across the bay from Gatsby's mansion, Gatsby can always see the green light.

 

Quotes About the Green Light

In order to figure out what the green light means as a symbol, let’s do some close reading of the moments where it occurs in The Great Gatsby.

 

The Green Light in Chapter 1

The image of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock occurs for the first time at the end of the novel’s first chapter. Before we have even met Gatsby, we get a description of him stretching out his arms towards something he can’t reach - a gesture he will repeat over and over again.

...a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars. Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that it was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.

...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 the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness. (1.151-152)

 

One thing in particular is interesting about the introduction of the green light: it’s very mysterious. Nick seems not to be quite sure where the light is, or what its function might be:

  • Although physically bounded by the width of the bay, the light is described as impossibly small (“minute” means “tiny enough to be almost insignificant”) and confusingly distant.
  • Even though we find out later that the light never turns off, here Nick only seems to be able to see the light when Gatsby is reaching out towards it. As soon as Gatsby disappears, Nick is in “darkness.”
  • This vagueness and mystery is a good way for the novel to underscore the fact that this light is a symbol - it stands not just for the physical object that it describes, but for an idea within the book. What’s the idea? I’ll talk all about it in the next section of this article.

 

The Green Light in Chapter 5

We return to the image of the light exactly halfway through the novel, in the fifth chapter, when Gatsby is showing Daisy around his mansion after he “accidentally” runs into her at Nick’s house.

"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."

Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. 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. (5.117-118)

 

This appearance of the green light is just as vitally important as the first one, mostly because the way the light is presented now is totally different than when we first saw it. Instead of the “enchanted” magical object we first saw, now the light has had its “colossal significance,” or its symbolic meaning, removed from it. This is because Gatsby is now actually standing there and touching Daisy herself, so he no longer needs to stretch his arms out towards the light or worry that it’s shrouded in mist. 

However, this separation of the green light from its symbolic meaning is somehow sad and troubling. Gatsby seemingly ignores Daisy putting her arm through his because he is “absorbed” in the thought that the green light is now just a regular thing. Nick’s observation that Gatsby’s “enchanted objects” are down one sounds like a lament - how many enchanted objects are there in anyone’s life?

 

The Green Light in Chapter 9

The last time we encounter the green light is in the final paragraphs of the novel.

And 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, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning----

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (9.152-154)

 

Now the light has totally ceased being an observable object. Nick is not in Long Island any more, Gatsby is dead, Daisy is gone for good, and the only way the green light exists is in Nick’s memories and philosophical observations. This means that the light is now just a symbol and nothing else.

But it is not the same deeply personal symbol it was in the first chapter. Check out the way Nick transitions from describing the green light as something “Gatsby believed in” to using it as something that motivates “us.” Gatsby is no longer the only one reaching for this symbol - we all, universally, “stretch out our arms” toward it, hoping to reach it tomorrow or the next day.

You can read more in-depth analysis of the end of the novel in our article on the last paragraphs and last line of the novel.

 

We’re basically saying that the green light is Gatsby’s precious, right?

 

The Meaning and Significance of the Green Light in The Great Gatsby

Like many of the most interesting symbols, the green light changes and develops its meaning through the novel. 

In the beginning, the light stands for Gatsby’s dreams, hopes, and desires to reunite with Daisy and recapitulate their beautiful month of love from five years earlier. This positive association connects with the color green. Green means go (stoplights were introduced in the 1910s-20s, so this was a relatively new association), green means spring, rebirth, and the start of new life. The positive meaning also works well with the idea of a dock light. Daisy is a beacon, pulling Gatsby out of the darkness and steering him in the right direction.

However, during the novel, Gatsby’s dream is revealed to be the delusional conviction that he could ignore five years of events and Daisy’s own personality and inner life to get what he wants. With this disappointment, the symbolic meaning behind the green light collapses. Daisy is not a magically perfect creature, but instead a fallible and deeply flawed person. The love Gatsby feels for her can only be played out as a secretive and morally questionable affair. And the green light loses its “enchanted” qualities and instead is revealed to be the not particularly reliable indicator that it actually is (suddenly, it becomes invisible in the fog).

Finally, as Gatsby’s dream is dashed, the green light stops being something that is his alone, and instead takes on a universal quality. Now it stands for the unreachable dream that lives inside all people. For Nick, life is a constant struggle between our past mistakes, experiences, and sense of reality, which pull us back and weigh us down, and the green light of unrealistic hope that drives us to think we will do better and achieve more the next day. 

The green light ends up standing for this dream of an “orgastic future” - that’s right, that means a future lived at the height of orgasm - which is constantly getting farther and farther away, and that we keep trying to grab for, despite the impossibility of reaching it.

 

According to Nick, we all keep hoping our future will just be this for every second of every day. Fedora optional.

 

Characters, Themes, Motifs, and Symbols Connected to the Green Light

Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is most closely associated with the green light. He is the one who obsessively stares at this light at the end of Daisy’s dock, dreaming of reuniting with her. He is the one who reaches his hands towards it, showing us that it is a symbolic representation of his dreams that are always just out of reach. And he is the one whose belief in the green light and its promise of a future of perfect happiness so profoundly affects Nick that Nick ends up admiring Gatsby.

Daisy Buchanan. The green light is located at the end of Daisy’s dock, and is Gatsby’s only physical sign of her before he meets her at Nick’s house. For a long time, the green light, Gatsby’s ambitious hopes, and Daisy are all symbolically one and the same. Only when Daisy has an affair with Gatsby, showing that she is a flesh and blood person with her own desires, fears, and flaws, does she separate from this idealized symbol of hope. 

Nick Carraway. Nick is the one who realizes the significance of the green light for Gatsby when he sees Gatsby stretching his arms out towards it. He is also the one who connects the green light with everyone's hopes and dreams at the very end of the book.

Society and Class. For Gatsby, just as Daisy is visible through the green light, but in reality out of reach, so is the old money contingent of wealthy Long Island society. No matter how high Gatsby rises and how rich he gets, he still can't break through that final barrier - and he can never quite grasp the green light.

The American Dream. The green light comes to represent not just Gatsby’s dream, but the aspirational American Dream that the novel shows in both its positive and negative aspects. Like this national myth, the green light is forever just out of reach, but also forever motivating feats of improbable achievement.

Symbol: Colors. That the light is green is very significant in a novel that is methodically color-coded. Somewhat in opposition to its culturally positive associations, in The Great Gatsby, green tends to be a sign of either hopeful rebirth, or sickness, greed, and death.

 

Wait, is the idea that we are constantly reaching for the unreachable happy or sad?

 

Essay Ideas and Tips for Writing About the Green Light

Now that we’ve explored the layers of meanings behind the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, you’re in a good place to think about how to write about this symbol.

 

How to Write an Essay About This Symbol

Here are some tips for how to write an essay about the role of a symbol in a novel:

  • Build from the text out. In this article, I first looked at the green light in context and discussed its meaning in the exact places where it appears, and only afterward wrote about its general significance in the novel. The same basic rule of thumb is good to keep in mind for your own essay. Work from small ideas to big ones, and your argument will be well supported.
  • Make an argument. It’s not enough to just describe the symbol and explain its possible meanings. Instead, you have to make sure that you’re making some kind of point about why/how the symbol works. How do you know if you’re making an argument and not just saying the obvious? If you can imagine someone arguing the opposite of what you’re saying, then you’ve got an argument on your hands.
  • Don’t overthink it. Sure, the green light can be said to represent lots of things: Gatsby’s dreams, Daisy, or the quest to grab the elusive brass ring. But that doesn’t mean that it also stands for world peace, environmental degradation, or Nick’s pining for his war days. In other words, watch out for stretching your symbol analysis too far from what the text is telling you.

 

Essay Topics Ideas

Here are some possible essay arguments. You can build from them as-is, argue their opposite, or use them as jumping-off points for your own interpretation.

  1. The green light is a kind of affiliation test for Gatsby. Those who imbue it with meaning like he does (like Nick) end up sympathizing with Gatsby; those who only see it as an object (like Daisy and Tom) are doomed to dismiss Gatsby also.

  2. Gatsby’s downfall starts at the moment when he stops seeing the green light as a symbol for his dreams and goals.

  3. Ultimately, the green light means far more to Nick than to Gatsby.

 

Essays: it’s not an argument unless a pigeon is pecking a chihuahua.

 

The Bottom Line

  • The green light is a permanently lit lamp that marks the end of Daisy and Tom’s boat dock.
  • The image of the green light occurs:
    • at the end of Chapter 1, when Gatsby is reaching towards it and it is very mysterious,
    • in Chapter 5, when Gatsby and Daisy have reconnected, taking the symbolic meaning away from the green light,
    • at the end of Chapter 9, when it transitions from being a symbol just for Gatsby and instead becomes a universal symbol of hope for the future.
  • The significance and symbolic meaning of the green lights shifts:
    • In the beginning of the novel, the light stands for Gatsby’s dreams, hopes, and desires to reunite with Daisy.
    • During the course of the novel, Gatsby’s dream is revealed to be delusional and unrealizable, so the symbolic meaning behind the green light collapses.
    • Finally, as Gatsby’s dream is dashed, the green light stops being something that is his alone, and instead stands for the unreachable dream of an “orgastic future” that is constantly getting farther and farther away and that we keep trying to grab for.
  • The green light is associated with:
    • Jay Gatsby, who obsessively stares at this light at the end of Daisy’s dock, dreaming of reuniting with her.
    • Daisy Buchanan, since the green light, Gatsby’s ambitious hopes, and Daisy are all symbolically one and the same.
    • Nick Carraway, who is the one who realizes the significance of the green light for Gatsby and who connects the green light with everyone's hopes and dreams.
    • Society and class, the upper echelon of which is just as out of reach for Gatsby as the green light.
    • The American Dream, which is the aspirational hope that the novel shows in both its positive and negative lights.
    • Colors, which are very significant in this methodically color-coded novel.

 

What’s Next?

Review where the green light appears to get a better sense of its context: Chapter 1, Chapter 5, Chapter 9.

Compare and contrast Nick and Gatsby to see what the different ways they relate to the green light says about them.

Decide whether Gatsby primarily treats Daisy as an object, or whether he does have a sense of her as a person and loves her for herself.

Explore the way the end of The Great Gatsby connects to its beginning through the recurring image of the green light.

Check out all the other symbols that enrich this novel.

 

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Hope is virtuousdesire for futuregood.

What's so great about hope? Hope leads to patience, courage, and joy. It makes us stable, and we are saved by hope. It is one of the three things which last: Faith. Hope, and Love

A[edit]

  • When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.
    • John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817)
  • Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate.
    • All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
    • Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto III: The Gate of Hell, line 9
  • Senza speme vivemo in desio.
  • If thy hope be any thing worth, it will purify thee from thy sins.
    • Joseph Alleine, The Solemn Warnings of the Dead: or, An Admonition to Unconverted Sinners (1804), Chapter 3, p. 44
  • For a moment hope, bright and cruel as a knife, presented itself to me. It took every ounce of strength I had to turn away.
  • This is what hope does to you when you’re not used to it. It is very like being drunk. You don’t realize how badly you’re impaired until you see the results of your spree.
  • Hope is the dream of a waking man.
    • Aristotle, as quoted by Diogenes Laërtius in The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Literally translated by C. D. Yonge; Henry G. Bohn, 1853, p. 187
    • Variant translations:
    • You ask what hope is. He says it is a waking dream.
    • The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book V, 18 speaking of Aristotle; ascribed to Pindar by Stobæus—Sermon CIX; to Plato by Ælian—Var. Hist, XIII. 29, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Know then, whatever cheerful and serene
    Supports the mind, supports the body too:
    Hence, the most vital movement mortals feel
    Is hope, the balm and lifeblood of the soul.
  • Our greatest good, and what we least can spare,
    Is hope: the last of all our evils, fear.

B[edit]

  • Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
  • Providence has given human wisdom the choice between two fates: either hope and agitation, or hopelessness and calm.
  • It is to hope, though hope were lost.
    • Anna Letitia Barbauld, Come here, Fond Youth, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • For the hopes of men have been justly called waking dreams.
  • Hope! thou nurse of young desire.
  • Nature has fixed no limits on our hopes.
  • I live in hope and that I think do all
    Who come into this world.
  • That was all a man needed: hope. It was a lack of hope that discouraged a man.
  • Everything passes away — suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will still remain when the shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes towards the stars? Why?
  • The heart bowed down by weight of woe
    To weakest hope will cling.
    • Alfred Bunn, Bohemian Girl as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing.
  • Hope, withering, fled—and Mercy sighed farewell.
  • Farewell!
    For in that word that fatal word,—howe'er
    We promise, hope, believe,—there breathes despair.
  • But what is Hope? Nothing but the paint on the face of Existence. The least touch of truth rubs it off, and then we see what a hollow-cheeked harlot we have got hold of.
    • Lord Byron, letter to Thomas Moore, 28 October 1815, in Byrons Letters and Journals (1975), Vol 4, ed. Leslie Marchand

C[edit]

  • Daughter of Faith, awake, arise, illume
    The dread unknown, the chaos of the tomb.
    • Thomas Campbell, "Pleasures of Hope", Part 2, St. 23; The Pleasures of Hope; With Other Poems (7th ed. 1803), p. 67
  • Auspicious Hope! in thy sweet garden grow
    Wreaths for each toil, a charm for every woe.
  • Cease, every joy, to glimmer in my mind,
    But leave,—oh! leave the light of Hope behind!
  • There's a hope that's waiting for you, in the dark.
    • Alessia Cara, "Scars to your Beautiful" (2015), Know-It-All
  • Unlike money, hope is all: for the rich as well as for the poor.
    • Fausto Cercignani in: Brian Morris, Simply Transcribed. Quotations from Fausto Cercignani, 2013, p. 5
  • Con la vida muchas cosas se remedian.
    • With life many things are remedied.
      (While there's life there's hope.)
    • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)
  • Hasta la muerte todo es vida.
    • Until death all is life.
    • (While there's life there's hope.)
    • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)
  • I laugh, for hope hath happy place with me,
    If my bark sinks, 'tis to another sea.
  • Hope knows no fear. Hope dares to blossom even inside the abysmal abyss. Hope secretly feeds and strengthens promise.
    • Sri Chinmoy, My Christmas-New Year-Vacation-Aspiration-Prayers Part 26 (2003)
  • Ægroto dum anima est, spes est.
    • To the sick, while there is life there is hope.
    • Cicero, Epistolæ Ad Atticum, IX. 10
  • Maxima illecebra est peccandi impunitatis spes.
    • The hope of impunity is the greatest inducement to do wrong.
    • Cicero, Oratio Pro Animo Milone, XVI
  • As the days of spring arouse all nature to a green and growing vitality, so when hope enters the soul it makes all things new. It insures the progress which it predicts. Rooted in faith, growing up into love; these make the three immortal graces of the Gospel, whose intertwined arms and concurrent voices shed joy and peace over our human life.
    • James Freeman Clarke, Self-Culture: Physical, Intellectual, Moral, and Spiritual – A Course of Lectures (1880), Chapter 19: Education of Hope, p. 411
    • A variant, "As these summer days have roused all nature..." (with other minor alterations) appears as the entry for July 12 in Messages of Faith, Hope, and Love: Selections for Every Day in the Year from the Sermons and Writings of James Freeman Clarke (Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, 1895), p. 180
  • And Hope enchanted smiled, and waved her golden hair.
  • But thou, O Hope, with eyes so fair,
    What was thy delighted measure?
    Still it whisper'd promised pleasure,
    And bade the lovely scenes at distance hail!
  • Hope! of all ills that men endure,
    The only cheap and universal cure.
  • When faith and hope fail, as they do sometimes, we must try charity, which is love in action. We must speculate no more on our duty, but simply do it. When we have done it, however blindly, perhaps Heaven will show us why.

D[edit]

  • "Hope" is the thing with feathers —
    That perches in the soul —
    And sings the tune without the words —
    And never stops — at all

    And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
    And sore must be the storm —
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm —
    • Emily Dickinson, Poem 254 in The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1960), edited by Thomas H. Johnson
  • I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.
  • Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and hope.

E[edit]

  • Hopes have precarious life.
    They are oft blighted, withered, snapped sheer off
    In vigorous growth and turned to rottenness.
  • Because I do not hope to turn again
    Because I do not hope
    Because I do not hope to turn
    Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
    I no longer strive to strive towards such things
    (Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
    Why should I mourn
    The vanished power of the usual reign?
  • Although I do not hope to turn again
    Although I do not hope
    Although I do not hope to turn
  • I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
    For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
    For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
    But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

    Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
    So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
  • The only hope, or else despair
    Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre —
    To be redeemed from fire by fire.
  • L'espoir ne fait pas de poussière.
    • Hope raises no dust.
    • Paul Éluard, "Ailleurs, ici, partout" (1946)

F[edit]

  • To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.
    • Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology (1968)

G[edit]

  • Always believe in your dreams, because if you don't, you'll still have hope.
  • The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the HolySpirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man.
  • While there is life there's hope (he cried,)
    Then why such haste?—so groan'd and died.
    • John Gay, The Sick Man and The Angel, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Bei so grosser Gefahr kommt die leichteste Hoffnung in Anschlag.
    • In so great a danger the faintest hope should be considered.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Egmont, II, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Wir hoffen immer, und in allen Dingen
    Ist besser hoffen als verzweifeln.
    • We always hope, and in all things it is better to hope than to despair.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Torquato Tasso, III. 4. 197, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Hope, like the gleaming taper's light,
    Adorns and cheers our way;
    And still, as darker grows the night,
    Emits a brighter ray.
  • In all my wanderings round this world of care,
    In all my griefs—and God has given my share—
    I still had hopes my latest hours to crown,
    Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down.
  • The wretch condemn'd with life to part,
    Still, still on hope relies;
    And every pang that rends the heart
    Bids expectation rise.
    • Oliver Goldsmith, Captivity, Song, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
    Less pleasing when possest;
    The tear forgot as soon as shed,
    The sunshine of the breast.
    • Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1742), Stanza 5

H[edit]

  • Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
    • Václav Havel, Disturbing the Peace (1986), Chapter 5 : The Politics of Hope
  • Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope; and few are reduced so low as that.
    • William Hazlitt, Characteristics, in the manner of Rochefoucauld's Maxims (1823), No. 34
  • Beware how you take away hope from any human being.
    • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in his valedictory address to medical graduates at Harvard University (10 March 1858), published in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. LVIII, No. 8 (25 March 1858), p. 158; this has also been paraphrased "Beware how you take away hope from another human being"
  • Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall;
    A mother's secret hope outlives them all.

I[edit]

  • I suppose it can be truthfully said that Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.

J[edit]

  • I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes, indeed, sometimes fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy.
    • Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 8 April 1816, as published in Memoir, Correspondence, and Miscellanies, from the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (2nd edition, 1830), ed. Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Vol. 4, p. 271
  • When we realize the degree of agency we actually do have, we no longer have to "hope" at all. We simply do the work.
  • Casey Maddox wrote that when philosophy dies, action begins. I would say in addition that when we stop hoping for external assistance, when we stop hoping that the awful situation we're in will somehow resolve itself, when we stop hoping the situation will somehow not get worse, then we are finally free — truly free — to honestly start working to thoroughly resolve it. I would say when hope dies, action begins.
  • A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope doesn't kill you, nor did it make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems — you ceased hoping your problems somehow get solved, through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself — and you just began doing what's necessary to solve your problems yourself.
  • In all the wedding cake, hope is the sweetest of the plums.
    • Douglas Jerrold, Jerrold's Wit, The Cats-paw, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • When there is no hope, there can be no endeavor.
    • Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 110, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness and captivity would, without this comfort, be insupportable.
  • Yet it is necessary to hope, though hope should always be deluded, for hope itself is happiness, and its frustrations, however frequent, are yet less dreadful than its extinction.
  • Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.
  • The triumph of hope over experience.
    • Samuel Johnson, in reference to an unhappily married man remarrying immediately after his wife's death, as quoted in James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), Vol. 2, p. 82
  • It's the hope for all the hopeless in the worst of trying times.

K[edit]

  • Δεν ελπίζω τίποτε. Δεν φοβούμαι τίποτε. Είμαι λεύτερος
    • I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.
    • Nikos Kazantzakis, epitaph, adapted from The Saviors of God (1923)
  • So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
    Sweet Hope! celestial influence round me shed
    Waving thy silver pinions o'er my head.
  • Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.
  • The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
    Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
    Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face,
    Lighting a little hour or two—is gone.

L[edit]

  • L'espérance, toute trompeuse qu'elle est, sert au moins à nous mener à la fin de la vie par un chemin agréable.
  • Hope is a timid thing,
    Fearful, and weak, and born in suffering;
    At least, such Hope as human life can bring.
    • Letitia Elizabeth Landon The New Monthly Magazine (1834) 'The Future' page 303. Re-used in 'Ethel Churchill' Vol. I, Chapter 31
  • Hope is love's happiness, but not its life;—
    How many hearts have nourished a vain flame
    In silence and in secret, though they knew
    They fed the scorching fire that would consume them!
  • Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it.
  • One's thoughts turn towards Hope.
    • Leonardo da Vinci, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938), X Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations, as translated by Edward MacCurdy; by the side of this passage is a sketch of a cage with a bird sitting in it.
  • If you've lost your faith in love and music, the end won't be long
  • One only hope my heart can cheer,—
    The hope to meet again.
    • George Linley, Song, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Races, better than we, have leaned on her wavering promise,
    Having naught else but Hope.

M[edit]

  • Vita dum superest, bene est.
    • While life remains it is well.
    • Mæcenas, quoted by Seneca, Epist., 101, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Our dearest hopes in pangs are born,
    The kingliest Kings are crown'd with thorn.
    • Gerald Massey, The Kingliest Kings, as reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 375-78
  • Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.
  • Hope proves man deathless. It is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.
    • Henry Melvill, in "The Advantages of a State of Expectation" in Sermons by Henry Melvill, B. D (1844), edited by Charles Pettit McIlvaine, Sermon X, p. 113
  • So, cutting the lashing of the waterproof match keg, after many failures Starbuck contrived to ignite the lamp in the lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole, handed it to Queequeg as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then, he sat, holding up that imbecile candle in the heart of that almighty forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst of despair.
  • And the young gay people in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias and the Richmond, Minnesotas who are coming out and hear Anita Bryant in television and her story. The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone.
    • Harvey Milk, A version of his staple "Hope Speech," quoted in Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk (1982), p. 363
  • Where peace
    And rest can never dwell, hope never comes,
    That comes to all.
  • What reinforcement we may gain from hope;
    If not, what resolution from despair.
  • So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
    Farewell remorse: all good to me is lost;
    Evil, be thou my good.
  • Toutes choses, disoit un mot ancien, sont esperables à un homme, pendant qu'il vit.
    • All things, said an ancient saw, may be hoped for by a man as long as he lives.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, Book II, Chapter III
  • Hope against hope, and ask till ye receive.
  • Oh! ever thus, from childhood's hour,
    I've seen my fondest hopes decay;
    I never loved a tree or flower,
    But 'twas the first to fade away.
  • And tho't that the light-house look't lovely as hope,
    That star on life's tremulous ocean.
    • Thomas Moore,"The Lighthouse", as reprinted in Melodies, Songs, Sacred Songs, and National Airs (1821), p. 64.
    • Variant: I thought that the light-house looked lovely as hope, ...
      • As rendered in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
  • With a mind not diseased, a holy life is a life of hope, and at the end of it, death is a great act of hope.
  • A hopeful sinner is closer to the mercy of Allah than a hopeless worshipper.
    • Muhammad Mizan al-hikma, Volume 10, Page 504, Tradition 7109

N[edit]

  • A leader is a dealer in hope.
    • Napoleon I of France, Napoleon : In His Own Words (1916), Ch. V : Concerning the Fine Arts
  • Hope, in its stronger forms, is a great deal more powerful stimulans to life than any sort of realized joy can ever be. Man must be sustained in suffering by a hope so high that no conflict with actuality can dash it — so high, indeed, that no fulfilment can satisfy it: a hope reaching out beyond this world.

O[edit]

  • Years from now, you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.
  • I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
  • Et res non semper, spes mihi semper adest.
    • My hopes are not always realized, but I always hope.
    • Ovid, Heroides, XVIII. 178

P[edit]

  •  Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
  • But Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has?
    • δὲ βλεπομένη οὐκ ἔστιν ἐλπίς ὃ γὰρ βλέπει τίς ἐλπίζει.
    • Paul of Tarsus, Romans 8:24
  • We can never enter upon the path to virtue unless we have hope as our guide and companion.
    • Pelagius, in "Letter to Demetrias" as translated by B. Rees, in Readings in World Christian History (2013), pp. 206-210
  • Nam multa præter spem scio multis bona evenisse,
    At ego etiam qui speraverint, spem decepisse multos.
    • For I know that many good things have happened to many, when least expected; and that many hopes have been disappointed.
    • Plautus, Rudens, II. 3. 69; Mostellaria, Act I, scene 3, line 71
  • Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
    Wait the great teacher, Death, and God adore;
    What future bliss He gives not thee to know,
    But gives that hope to be thy blessing now.
  • Hope travels through, nor quits us when we die.
  • A man's hope measures his civilization. The attainability of the hope measures, or may measure, the civilization of his nation and time.
    • Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (1938), part 3, Section 6, Ch. 22
  • For hope is but the dream of those that wake!
    • Matthew Prior, Solomon on the Vanity of the World, Book III, line 102
  • Our hopes, like tow'ring falcons, aim
    At objects in an airy height;
    The little pleasure of the game
    Is from afar to view the flight.

Q[edit]

  • Et spes inanes, et velut somnia quædam, vigilantium.
    • Vain hopes are like certain dreams of those who wake.
    • Quintilian, VI. 2. 27

R[edit]

  • Life and hope for the world are to be found only in the deeds of love.
    • Bertrand Russell, Political Ideals (1917), Chapter V: National Independence and Internationalism

S[edit]

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest. ~ Alexander Pope
All hope abandon, ye who enter here. ~ Dante
There’s no hope without endeavor. Hope has no meaning unless we are prepared to work to realize our hopes and dreams. ~ Aung San Suu Kyi
Nature has fixed no limits on our hopes. ~ Björk
Hope knows no fear. Hope dares to blossom even inside the abysmal abyss. ~ Sri Chinmoy
Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies. ~ Frank Darabont
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre —
To be redeemed from fire by fire. ~ T. S. Eliot
Always believe in your dreams, because if you don't, you'll still have hope. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. ~ Václav Havel
Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope; and few are reduced so low as that. ~ William Hazlitt
Hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness and captivity would, without this comfort, be insupportable. ~ Samuel Johnson
Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords. ~ Samuel Johnson
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope. ~ Hellen Keller
Hope proves man deathless. It is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity. ~ Henry Melvill
I never loved a tree or flower,
But 'twas the first to fade away. ~ Thomas Moore
A holy life is a life of hope; and at the end of it, death is a great act of hope. ~ William Mountford
Hope, in its stronger forms, is a great deal more powerful stimulans to life than any sort of realized joy can ever be. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it. ~ Barack Obama
Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be. ~ Barack Obama
Hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting. ~ Barack Obama
No human being can truly be imprisoned if hope burns in your heart. … A true revolution of the spirit begins in each of our hearts. ~ Barack Obama
Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up. ~ Barack Obama
Hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? ~ Paul of Tarsus
Hope humbly then; with trembling pinions soar;
Wait the great teacher, Death, and God adore;
What future bliss He gives not thee to know,
But gives that hope to be thy blessing now. ~ Alexander Pope
A man's hope measures his civilization. The attainability of the hope measures, or may measure, the civilization of his nation and time. ~ Ezra Pound
HLife and hope for the world are to be found only in the deeds of love. ~ Bertrand Russell
Have Hope. Though clouds environ now,
And gladness hides her face in scorn,
Put thou the shadow from thy brow, —
No night but hath its morn. ~ Friedrich Schiller
Hope is a lover's staff; walk hence with that
And manage it against despairing thoughts.
Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear. ~ William Shakespeare
The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope:
I've hope to live, and am prepar'd to die. ~ William Shakespeare
This tree is our symbol. Our affirmation of Life, and everyone in this town gives part of their water rations to keep it alive. We've learned, administrator, that hope is a powerful weapon against anything, even drought. ~ Star Trek: The Next Generation

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