When I read The Great Gatsby in my Junior year of high school, we focused on many of the major themes and topics. We covered the American Dream and the significance of the green light, discussed the upper class vs. lower class struggle, and touched on various motifs like the Eckleburg’s eyes and the Valley of the Ashes. However, when re-reading the book through the lens of our Whiteness in America class I picked up on a couple of different things than I did the first time reading. Firstly, Tom represents the ignorant White American who uses a combination of science and racism to propel themselves above all other races. He does this when he discusses the book by Goddard that uses “science” to back all of it’s claims. Deeper beneath this however is Fitzgerlad’s commentary on Immigration. Gatsby, because of his poorer (not noble) upbringing represents the immigrant in America. As he stares at the green light (that represents Daisy but also America) across the vast water, he sees something that theoretically seems so attainable but in reality is not. Gatsby has wanted Daisy his entire life, just as an immigrant strives to reach an American Dream, but neither will ever attain this goal. The wealth/race gap between the two is too large to overcome, and it all has to do with the luck of one’s birth. It all has to do with Birth Based privilege; that is the theme of West Egg vs. East Egg. No matter how much money the people on West Egg will make (see Gatsby), they will still never have the prestige and power of the people on East Egg, for a reason completely out of their control. Even lower than this are the people in the Valley of the Ashes. This is a metaphor for communities of race (the ash covers everything and makes it black) and draws parallels to a redlined black community where most all of the residents are trapped in a cycle of poverty and crime. Myrtle tries to be involved with the East Egg community but will always be treated as lower and strive to escape the reality that she exists in, no matter how futile the act may be. This gap turns out to be the root cause of Gatsby’s death, and the reason that no matter how badly he wants to be with Daisy he never could have been.

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