‘Gatsby’ sparks racial debates

Courtesy of Business Insider

With the formidable eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, grand parties and a foggy, blinking green light, most college students can recognize the iconic pieces of the novel, “The Great Gatsby.” In every English class, students read books about characters who pose questions on society and Gatsby is no different.

Dr. Joel Pace, an English professor, said to drink in this time in college because you’re really able to study these works of art that have done so many interesting things and raised questions.

In regards to the “The Great Gatsby,” the literary community has speculated that the question of race is a very important theme, Pace said. The idea that the great Gatsby could have been a black man is a question that has sparked much debate and controversy.

“The hope is that the next generation, the creators of art and culture, will pose these interesting questions,” Pace said. “The next generation of writers and musicians is happening right now on college campuses.”

In looking at “The Great Gatsby,” the idea that Jay Gatsby could have been a black man, started from a paper by Dr. Carlyle V. Thompson, a dean and professor at Medgar Evers College, which can be supported by Fitzgerald’s writing.

Fitzgerald describes Gatsby as pale and at that time, that term referred to the complexion of someone who was biracial, Pace said.

Also, Fitzgerald calls “The Great Gatsby” the novel of the jazz age, but does not mention Harlem at all.

“As a novel of the jazz age, and jazz music is one and the same with the Harlem Renaissance and black culture, it stands to reason that the protagonist of the novel of the jazz age could be a man who is biracial,” Pace said.

These questions, by Dr. Thompson, are particularly relevant today.

“Why is it assumed that Jay Gatsby is white?” Pace said. “[The novel] is still being taught in diverse high schools because something in the novel is reaching out across cultures and geographies. Why is this novel from 1925 still relevant? I think race is a big answer to that question. There’s more we have to learn.”

“Racism is a total construct that’s relative and not alive and well in other cultures,” he added.

Rebecca White can be reached at rebecca.white@student.shu.edu.

Author: Rebecca White

Rebecca White is from Orange County, California and is a senior majoring in Communication. She started out as the Pirate Life Copy Editor her sophomore year, worked her way up to Assistant Pirate Life Editor her junior year, and enters her senior year as Pirate Life Editor. She has been on the Dean’s List every semester and will graduate a semester early in December 2016. During her time at Seton Hall she has interned for CNBC and CupidsPulse.com, an entertainment site where she coordinates the celebrity interviews. She aspires to be a novelist while working in the publishing industry, either as a book editor or magazine editor.

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