Abstract

Although countless scholars have approached the subject of racism and racialization in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 masterpiece The Great Gatsby, few have identified a common theme hinted at by Tom Buchanan in his dramatic rant when he declares, “Civilization’s going to pieces . . . the idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged”—namely, the difference between “looking” and witnessing. Throughout the novel, in fact, the many white characters’ physical sight of race and their witness to racially hostile situations are the dramatic device through which they acknowledge and boast of their white supremacist beliefs. This article explores the connection between race, sight, and witnessing in Gatsby, and interrogates the significant role of white characters’ witnessing of race and racialized characters’ moments of witnessing throughout the text. Ultimately, it aims both to continue the extensive work concerning pernicious white supremacy in The Great Gatsby, as well as propose a new direction for this conversation by identifying the ability of Fitzgerald’s characters of color both to witness situations and to act in them.

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