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The Great Gatsby Color Analysis: White

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Will Kohns

on 6 May 2013

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Transcript of The Great Gatsby Color Analysis: White

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald Will Kohns WHITE White: The Meaning Represents Innocence
Childhood Represents Class
Old Money "Their house was even more elaborate than I had expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay" (Pg. 6) From the very beginning of the story, white is being used to describe the grandiose house that Tom and Daisy live in, immediately associating the color with the high way of life they live. "The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be... utterly submerged." (Pg. 13) By the "white race", Tom is referring the sect of the upper class that inherited their money, who are commonly known as "Old Money", and he is afraid that the people who worked for their money will raise to their social level. The fact that white is used to describe this old social class is evident of its meaning in this story: the Old Money. "[Their inconsequential conversation]... was as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of desire." (Pg. 12) Yet again, the use of white is to portray class, leisure, and haughtiness. This fits in perfectly with what white represents in this book. Fitzgerald used white here to show how easy these women have it and how they don't ever have to work a day in their lives, because they can have inconsequential conversations that are as "cool as their white dresses." "Our white girlhood was passed
here. Our beautiful white-" (Pg. 19) Here is the first time when white is used to convey innocence. Fitzgerald uses white here because white is supposed to be a pure color, yet unblemished by the world. This may be the first time in the story that white is used to represent innocence, but it will definitely not be the last. "Dressed up in white flannels I went
over to his lawn a little after seven [.]"
(Pg. 41) The reason Fitzgerald uses white here is because white is the color of old money, and Nick wanted to make a good first impression on his upper-upper class neighbor. White represents the high class here, and it fits right in with its usual meaning. "High in a white palace the king's
daughter" (Pg. 120) Here, the king's daughter is Daisy, and white is
used to portray both class and innocence. It represents
class because of the nobility associated with a castle, and
innocence because the palace also acts as a fortress, keeping her "high" away from the plebeians down below.
This is a unique example as it incorporates both
meanings of white. "Taking a white card from his
wallet, he waved it before the
[policeman's] eyes" (Pg. 68) White represents nobility; the ability to ignore laws
because of ones social stature. This matches up to the previous mentions as it connotes class through Gatsby's
ability to wave off the policeman with impunity. "When we came into the station he was next to me, and his white shirt-front pressed against my arm, and so I told him I'd have to call a policeman, but he knew I lied." (Pg. 36) This passage was spoken by Myrtle about when she first met Tom. The color white is used to show the upper class, and to show how obvious it is to people who are in the lower class who the uppers are. For instance, Myrtle had seen Tom for under ten minutes, but the white shirt told her that he was upper class, so she had the affair with him to get up there too. This is similar to the other examples because it shows the distinction between the lower and upper class. "She dressed in white, and had a little white roadster" (Pg. 74) This citation is discussing Daisy at eight-teen, when she was in the prime of her youth. White is used to convey the innocence of the younger years of Daisy. Fitzgerald uses white in this context because white is a very pure color and conveys innocence. "Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses" (Pg. 115) In this passage, Jordan and Daisy are being characterized as gods, languishing on a couch. White is used here to portray the haughty upper class again. Fitzgerald probably used white here to allude to the togas worn by the Greek gods. This citation was unique because, out of all the references to white, it was the only one that alluded to deities. "His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that once he kissed this girl...His mind would never romp again" (Pg. 110) White here represents innocence, but in a different way: It represents the loss of Gatsby's innocence; his childish ways with women when he kisses Daisy. This is the only quote that represents the loss of innocence rather than the presence of it. "We're all white here" (Pg. 130) This utterance by Jordan to Tom, when he condemns "black and white" marriage, goes deeper than skin color. By saying "we're all white here", Jordan equates Gatsby, a man of "New Money" with the rest of them, the "Old Money." White here represents the higher class. This is an interesting quote, as it is the first time that Gatsby is brought into the same class as the people of old money, but other than that this use of white is consistent with the overarching theme. "Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans." (Pg. 5) White is being used here to convey the difference between West Egg and East Egg. This is the first time that white is used to compare the two eggs to each other. Fitzgerald used white to contrast the 'unfashionable' mansions of West Egg and the 'Fashionable' Palaces of East Egg. "The sister, Catherine, was a slender, worldly girl of about thirty, with a solid, sticky bob of red hair, and a complexion powdered milky white." (Pg. 30) White is used here to to represent class, but it is used to cast a bad light on those who try too hard to be classy, as shown through the disconcerting and unnatural appearance of Catherine. Fitzgerald uses white to show how pale and vampiric her appearance that she thinks is so 'fashionable' really is. This is one of the rare times that white is used in a negative way to show class. "Gatsby indicated a gorgeous, scarcely human orchid of a woman who sat in state under a white plum tree." (Pg. 104) White is used to connote high class. This woman is so high above everyone around her that even the tree shading her is of the color of high class. Fitzgerald decided to use white here to connote grace and surrealism. This quote is unique because its one of only two instances where white is used to allude to the supernatural. THESIS STATEMENT: Throughout The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses white to portray innocence and class. He uses white several times while talking about Daisy and children because white is a pure, innocent color, but Fitzgerald also uses white to talk about palaces and "Old Money" to portray the upper-upper class.
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