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The Different Colorings of Whiteness: The Intra-Structural Difference and Hegemony of White Identity in F. Scott Fitzgerald''s The Great Gatsby
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As an inquiry into the intra-structural difference and hegemony of white identity in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, it is the objective of this thesis not to vilify whiteness, but to reify it—to hack it out of its unquestioned and unquestionable status of transcendence so as to scrutinize how white identity is constructed, to trace the workings of white power through the span of U.S. history, to analyze how the regime of whiteness is represented, contested, but reconsolidated within the novel, and to examine how the novel's representations of whiteness correlate with the author's literary imagination. The Great Gatsby is a suitable text for such an inquiry because all but the four black characters who only appear briefly in the novel are white. There are the leisure-class, “old money,” Anglo-American characters, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan; there is the well-to-do, middle-class character, Nick; there are the new European immigrants, Michaelis, Wolfshiem, Stella, and the Finnish woman; there are the working-class characters, George and Myrtle; and there is Gatsby, a representative of the newly rich. Although all of these characters can be considered white, especially when collectively viewed against the black characters in the novel, they are by no means equal in terms of power, privilege, or even whiteness. It will be argued that whiteness is neither a biologically determined trait of racial identity, nor purely an illusory fabrication that has no bearing on the material processes of history, but a function that acts both as a criterion according to which power is organized and distributed in the United States and as a sociopolitical signifier of that power. The plurality of variegated white identities in The Great Gatsby, as signifiers of varying measures of power, are each overdetermined by such parameters as the given character's ethnicity, political conviction, religion, gender, class, and economic interest.
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