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White in The Great Gatsby

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Catherine Roh

on 10 April 2014

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Transcript of White in The Great Gatsby

The color white is traditionally correlated with innocence, purity, and morality. It also carries connotations of cold, isolation, and sterility exemplified with snow and hospital gowns. White is often used to contrast light versus dark ("The Color").
White Analysis
Old Money
"Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg" (Fitzgerald 5)
White represents "Old Money" prevalent in East Egg in comparison to "New Money" in West Egg. Old Money is described as white since they are all purely rich, being born into the wealth.
“'We’re all white here,' murmured Jordan” (130)
Following Tom's aggressive response to Gatsby and Daisy's affair, Jordan comments that everyone is white, implying their belonging to the same class, wealth, and race, and therefore showing social acceptance of even Gatsby, who is "New Money."

“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” (8)
When Nick visits Tom's house for the first time, he meets the two women dressed in white flaunting off their ease and contentment with their wealth and status, though this is only a facade as both individuals mask their corruption.
Catherine Roh, Jini Jeon
Period 8
White in The Great Gatsby
Desire for Wealth
"The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty, with a solid, sticky bob of red hair, and a complexion powered milky white" (Fitzgerald 30)
Unlike Daisy who is often mentioned in the novel to have a naturally white complexion, Catherine, who is not of Daisy's wealth, has to rely on make-up and unnatural products to create herself white, to reach high status.
"Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before, and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream-colored chiffon" (30)
Myrtle believes her affair with Tom Buchanan will help her gain wealth; however, she cannot make herself wholly white but is only able to wear cream, a color similar but not congruent with white, showing that her hopes are in vain.
Social Status
"Taking a white card from his wallet, he waved it before the man’s eyes" (Fitzgerald 68)
The white card represents a sense of separation between social classes and sets Gatsby above even the law that is prevalent for all others.
“When we came into the station he was next to me, and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm… All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever” (36)
Myrtle accepts Tom's advancement after noticing his white clothing, realizing Tom is of certain wealth and class. She desires to experience the American dream through Tom's abilities and affluence.
"Dressed up in white flannels I went over to his lawn a little after seven..." (Fitzgerald 41)
Fitzgerald depicts Nick's desire to make a good first impression on his wealthy neighbor by using the color white, a symbol of high social status.
"Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans." (115)
In this quote, the two women are compared to wealthy gods, their white dresses acting as a proof of their affluence and a place above others.
False Purity
"I see [West Egg] as a night scene by El Greco... In the foreground four solemn men in dress suits are walking along the sidewalk with a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress... Gravely the men turn in at a house--the wrong house... and no one cares" (176)
By referencing El Greco, Nick comments on the unrealistic and superficial West Egg (New Money), too preoccupied with themselves and their royalties to genuinely care about others. They may be rich, as portrayed by the white evening dress, but they are tainted by the greed and obsession that grows with their increasing wealth.
"On the white steps an obscene word, scrawled by some boy with a piece of brick, stood out clearly in the moonlight..." (180)
The obscene word written on the white steps to Gatsby's mansion reveals the dishonesty and irony behind Gatsby's rise from poverty to immense wealth, a twist on the traditional definition of white that is purity.

False Innocence
Works Cited
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1925. Print.

"The color white."
Empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com. 2014. Web. 5 Apr. 2014.
"She was dressed in white, and had a little white roadster..." (Fitzgerald 74)
Daisy was courted by many in her hometown due to her innocent beauty and wealth; however, her purity is betrayed when she marries Tom Buchanan for his wealth over her true lover, Jay Gatsby.
"His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy's white face came upon his own" (110)
Gatsby is astounded and mesmerized by Daisy's beauty and wealth in comparison to his lack of affluence and worth.

Social Status
"Jordan's finger, powered white over their tan, rested for a moment in mine" (Fitzgerald 116)
Jordan, known for being dishonest and lying in her games, powders her guilty hands white creating a facade of false respect and honesty.
“Our white girlhood was passed together there. Our beautiful white--” (Fitzgerald 19)
Fitzgerald uses the color white to describe Daisy’s childhood innocence implying that the innocence was merely a part of her past, and now no longer present.
"High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl..." (120)
Daisy is covered and protected by the white, pure castle from the corruption beyond it. However, Daisy herself is not described as white, but as golden, tainted by wealth, hiding under the pretense of innocence.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's
The Great Gatsby
delves into the truth of the American dream behind the facade of innocence and purity. The wealth flaunt their corpulence with a shining white appearance while others strive to mimic the purity of the upper class. However, the symbol of white eventually reveals the corruption and the false purity by the characters’ vain attempts to hide unfeigned intentions.

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