In the novel The Great Gatsby, what does white symbolize? I know that it symbolizes purity, but I need more key points to write a full essay. Please help me

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I think that white does symbolize purity in the novel, but not in the traditional sense. Culturally, the West often associates white with innocence and chastity, which is sometimes called sexual purity. However, Fitzgerald uses white in his descriptions of the Old Money class within the novel, those characters being Daisy and Jordan. This suggests that white represents class purity; the only people who wear white and have white houses with white curtains in them are members of the wealthy elite.

While Gatsby certainly tries to emulate the elite, he is not considered to be purely one of them because of his low-class background and shady business dealings. Notice that in descriptions of his clothes and possessions, the colors are often bright and varied—in other words, not white.

Furthermore, in the apartment party from chapter 2, Myrtle Wilson changes into a dress of billowy “cream-colored chiffon.” While cream is a shade of white, it is not a pure white. This suggests that Myrtle wants to think of herself as pure class via her affair with a bona fide elite (Tom), but her working class status can’t ever be removed. She might be able to get close to “pure” white, but she will never actually be one of the wealthy elite.

Another way you could look at whiteness as a representation of purity is Tom’s tirade about the “Rise of the Colored Empires” in the beginning of the novel. Tom is infuriated at what he sees as the slipping position of the white man’s place in the world. If white actually represents the upper class in the text, then Tom could actually be expressing his anxiety about the New Money types who he thinks are encroaching on his territory of social status. This could explain why he judges Gatsby from the beginning, and perhaps why he doesn’t see him as a romantic rival until later in the text.

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Actually, I think that white does not symbolize purity in this particular book.  Of course, you are right to say that white typically does symbolize purity, but in this book I think the symbolism is turned on its head some.  In this book, I think white symbolizes impurity or is being used in some ironic way.

Take, for example, how we see Daisy and Jordan in their white dresses in Chapter 1.  But we know neither of them is pure.  I don't just mean this sexually -- I mean that they are impure at heart.  Jordan is a cheater, for example, and Daisy has married a man she does not love just because of money -- they're both sort of false people.

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