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Aldwin Aguilar

My teacher keeps on insisting that Jay Gatsby is black. Is he?

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Chrissa I don't think so. There is this scene in chapter 6, and they're in the hotel, (Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, Jordan and Nick) and Tom says "... and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white."
Whereupon Jordan says: "We're all white here."
Christine This is going to be long, cause I wrote a paper on what ethnicity is Gatsby.

If he is black, he is probably biracial, being black and white. He is passing-it occurs when a person classified as a member of one racial group is also accepted as a member of a different racial group. Aka he would have to be so close to looking white that there would have been no true hint of his ancestry or if people suspect, he could excuse tanning. There are the african americans you do see in the limo being driven while a white guy drives them which could show Gatsby being a passing man is now high in society, but again, there is so much symbolism in the story (there is so much symbolism in the story you could write a book on all the symbolism in this story and it would be probably longer than The Great Gatsby itself), you could argue for many ethnicities that Gatsby could be.

Look at race relations at the time, look into Fitzgerald letters to get a hint of the whole situation. At the time only those with nordic/german ancestors (or those that fit the Nordic white anglo saxon protestant type) were consider the most superior, the whole Nazi ideology didn't start with Hitler, it was around before he was (reason why many top elite businessman in the US actually threw money at him in show of support in the beginning).

Now between 1880s-1930s pseudoscience academics came up with terms to break down white people intro different groups as to try to prove who was racially better. There are debates was this as a result of immigration or was it already there and immigration was the spark that ignited it. Who knows? Personally I think its the later given race relations & history throughout the world, just me though.

Madison Grant & Lothrop Stoddard (which btw Fitzgerald basically does mention, but changes a few letters- this is ballsy because he basically critiqued the guy in the book & the same company that published Stoddard's book, published The Great Gatsby), these two were believers of this idea & many elite believed it as well. Now beside Nodric (blonde, hair, blue eyes, good build, german archetype,etc). There were Mediterranean whites (greek, Italian- black hair, tanner skin, but white nose & features) & Alpine Whites (Eastern Europe-Brown/black hair, lighter skin). Even among the pseudoscience community at the time there were debates as to which of these two were 2nd or 3rd place.

With all the research I did, I still think he would have been mixed, IMO would have been more likely he would have some mediterranean descent in him and maybe some german as well (given his original born name Gatz does come off as german). Now, because they talk about the horrors of mixing race in the story, it is highly possible (like I would say 99%) he has some "nordic" in him. It is unlikely he has blonde hair like Daisy. Look to chapter 6 for this

"It was indirectly due to Cody that Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay parties women used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed the habit of letting liquor alone."

For those that don't know champagne was used as a beauty diy treatment at the time to keep the blonde shiny & stand out. Them rubbing his hair with champagne were them trying to figure out if he had some blonde in him, something he wouldn't want to be reminded of.

As for skin color look to chapter three

"His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face."

Keep in mind even "mixing" with other white people, not of nordic descent would have been frowned upon or even cause alienation for people from rich/elite families. So for Gatsby to be mixed, high up in society, and trying to pass as being nordic white would have been an issue. If Black descent, even bigger, racial hierarchy.

If you are interested in reading the bizarre mindset by the two pseudoscience authors I mentioned, I would get a beer or a glass of whine. I remember when first reading it for my research paper and I was amazed. Not in a good way mind you.

Now in his letters to his editor/publisher though even Fitzgerald stated he never could figure out what Gatsby looked like. To sum it up, he couldn't get a grasp of his appearance, so his appearance has and can be left up to interpretation itself. This annoyed editors & publishers because they like how descriptive he was of the other characters like tom buchanan( which btw he is always shown as having dark hair in many movie interpretations when in fact he should be blonder than gatsby. Think maybe Chris Hemsoworth , he was supposed to come across as strong, big, and beautiful).

To answer your question, "Is he black though?"

I would have to say, it is possible, but no one really knows for sure, for the author didn't know. Now, for your teacher to say that he is without a doubt, is very wrong of him/her to do so. Imposing their own interpretation on the students. My professor would be appalled ( she told us like day one she is african american, Caribbean (i'm pretty sure on that one) , & Irish descent) and she did her best to tell us what were her opinions and what were facts in the story. It is up to you to decide and at the end of the day Fitzgerald was trying to make a point in talking about race. Trying to figure out what Fitzgerald was saying on race IMO is more important than what did Gatsby look like.
Elin No. At this time period, it would have been a big deal. If Fitzgerald had intended for Jay Gatsby to be black, he would have made it clear, and it would have featured prominently in the book.

Certainly Tom would have referenced it in his rage against Gatsby - Tom has already identified as racist, and would have at least alluded to this prejudice in his diatribe. As it was, he only talked about Gatsby's shady dealings.

You can read into hyper-subtle subtext if you want, but in reality it just doesn't add up and is not convincing when you read the book without making any assumptions, and just go with how Fitzgerald portrays it.

PS - I can understand a teacher suggesting that alternative point of view, but *insisting* that Gatsby is black is just tunnel vision. He or she shouldn't insist on anything, just open up various ideas and ways of analysing the text.
Karen Your teacher is not very smart then, is she? This was 1925, and if she reads the book again, she will find that the time period of the story would be very inconsistent for Gatsby to be black. Also, there is no indication what so ever in the story that he would be. If there was, I would be the first to acknowledge it- it's my favorite book, I've read it three times.
Norman No. Jay Gatsby is not black. And, by the way, neither are Tom, Nick, Daisy, Jordan, McKee, or any of the other characters mentioned by name.
Christie As stated by Emma, there was a well done article alluding to that written last year. Mostly focused on the 'other' in his bloodline. So he may not have been Black, but he could have been something else (like Eastern European) or Mediterranean (maybe Italian or Gallic back down the line), which could account for the skin tone.

I don't see how it could be inconsistent for him to be Black. There were many people of African decent that would and did 'pass' during this time, and even before. I even have some ancestors in my bloodline that could have been mistaken for White, right down to hair texture. Though this is probably not true in his case, it's not completely implausible.
Carlo Fortunato That's pretty much impossible. He was a World War I officer, and served in the same regiment as Nick Carraway. Although some blacks served in World War I, they were completely segregated.
Edward W. Your teacher is the one that needs to go back to school.
Logan What? How does that even make sense?
- He's the popular millionaire during the 20s
- People claim he's the second cousin to the Kaiser (German)
- Claims to be from San Fransisco
- Young white lady from Kentucky doesn't shy away from him

Why ignore the obvious in favor of the incredibly subtle?
Lori How sad that a teacher would make such a comment. The entire introduction to Tom, Daisy, and Jordan describes their racist views. *See Chrissa and Elin comments also*
Gemma There was an article online I saw that made a case for Gatsby being black it was quite well thought out so you might want to find it.
Theo Chungath No Gatsby is not black for the simplistic reason Fitzgerald lived primarily in France. Gatsby was supposed to represent him in many respects in this story. Fitzgerald would not write his lead character as an African and not make it a prominent aspect of the novel. Throughout the story it describes Gatsby as a young man in America with Daisy, this also supports the fact he's almost undoubtedly American white.
Courtney Is your teacher Mrs. Chen at Mira Costa?
Jailene There are professors who have written about this and it has been brought up before. I wouldn't be quick to give a definite answer seeing that it is never clearly stated. Analysts have used evidence from the novel to support their claims about him being black.
Peter Swanson Your teacher is a moron.
Rob No, but he deals with black people in his business. Therefore he is viewed as one of them hence the racist remarks made by Tom.
David Nope. When minor characters are Negroes or Jews, Fitzgerald takes notice. He wouldn't leave something like this unmentioned.
Jethro Tull As others have pointed out, much of the dialogue would not make sense if this were true. It's interesting that your teacher insists on this interpretation, though. It inspires another question altogether: why would someone need a character to be from another social group, or at least to have an identity that is vastly different from the one likely intended by the author?
LegendatyToast7 Thant doesn't even make remote sense given the time period. This is the 1920's therefore, as unfortunate as it was, Gatsby could not have been a successful millionaire at the time, and if he somehow was it would certainly have been pointed out by Nick for being different. Tom is a humongous racist also and he, if I remember correctly had some degree of respect for Gatsby, not much, until he was given reason to despise him. If that wasn't enough he claims to be related to the German Kaiser, who was obviously a white man, and at the time, if a black person and a white person got together that would be incredibly scandalous, even more so than cheating, but it's not even hinted at so they are not a multi-racial couple.
Janet Glad to hear this. It is my contention that that will be the way this is read in the next 5 to7 years.
Lobstergirl If he is black, there are things in the book that suddenly make sense now.
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