Is Jay Gatsby Black?

I found myself looking through some odd literary theories the other night in the electric radiance of my computer.

Among the contradictions and the clutter I chanced on something super weird. Apparently an assistant professor of American Studies claims that he has determined that Jay Gatsby was black given several factors.   Check it out if you’ve got time.

I find there’s quite a few holes in this theory.

  1. Why is his blackness never commented on by the other characters? Tom “Obvious White Supremacist” Buchanan in particular would have brought it up during his confrontation with Gatsby. The narrator doesn’t bring it up either, and as was discussed in the 8:00am class, he’s prejudiced as well.
  2.  Although the article purports that Gatsby’s love of New Orleans jazz equates to blackness, it could also be a trait of the nouveau-riche, or the non-hereditary rich, to demonstrate a “lack of taste.”
  3. “There is one open discussion of race in the novel, where Tom insinuates Gatsby is a “black” individual, but Jordan defends him saying: “We’re all white here.” Jordan, however, is known as a liar…” This is a fallacy of composition. The inference here is that because Jordan is shown to lie a few times, she must lie all the time. That is not true throughout the novel; there are instances where she tells the truth. The idea that a liar only lies is a basic misunderstanding of how lies work. If someone lied all the time, you could never be mislead to by them, because you would never take them at their word.

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One thought on “Is Jay Gatsby Black?

  1. carissa

    That’s an interesting theory….I would agree with your argument, and say that he is not black. America in the 1920’s was still very racist. If Gatsby was black (regardless of if he was rich or not) I don’t think his parties would be a big hit with all the white people. He would probably be very taken advantage of by the whites, and only blacks would show up to his parties. Just my rambling thoughts….

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