Compulsive concern over
ethnic difference has always been a blended part of American culture; however,
at points in the history of the United States of America this concern reached
its peak. The 1920s was a period in the history of the nation during which the
concern over ethnic difference heightened in an intensive, yet explicit way.
The 1920s was the peak of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). This phase in history was accountable
for the emergence of many thinkers such as Madison Grant, who is responsible
for one of the most famous works in scientific-racism,
and -also- had a crucial role in crafting strong immigration restrictions and anti-miscegenation laws within
America. Additionally, the rise of other racial theorist is
seen within this time such as Lothrop Stoddard, famously known for The Rising Tide of Color Against
White World-Supremacy, in which Stoddard describes the perils of “coloured people,” and their
immigration to the United States. In this stage of time, with such thinkers and
writers (Grant and Stoddard) gaining influence, concern over ethnic difference
became evident on the surface of daily life. Although the prejudice of the
1920s is not remembered by most today, it had an important part in setting the
tone of this book, The Great Gatsby.

            F. Scott Fitzgerald –the
author of The Great Gatsby- is known as one of the most influential writers of
the 1920s due to his penetrating literary accounts of life in the 1920s within
America. In this masterpiece, by Fitzgerald, an awareness about ethnic
differences and distinctions constitutes a significant component of the book.
Throughout The Great Gatsby, marginalization of “nonNordic” ethnic groups plays
a key role throughout the text, which helps relate this book to the 1920s, and
provide us with a better understanding of that time period.

            Throughout the book,
ethnic minorities are not only marginalized, but they are also looked down upon,
and by being belittled, the author marginalizes them as the story continues.
Usually within the text, Tom Buchanan puts forth dull proclamations about
ethnic affiliations. Early within the story, as Nick Carraway is visiting the
Buchanan’s –in East Egg- he is surprised to hear Tom Buchanan express his
worries about the “‘The Rise of Colored Empires'” (14) which is a pseudonym for
Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White
World-Supremacy. Tom’s pessimism during dinner is used by
Fitzgerald to reveal concerns of the 1920s, and how many believe that
“civilization is going to pieces” because of advancement and independence of people
from other ethnicities. This statement by Tom demonstrates the paradigm of the time, and marginalization
along-with the dejection of minor ethnic groups within the book.

Although throughout the book there are not too many
mentions of ethnically diverse characters, when they are referred to, they are
significantly disdained and mocked no matter what social class they occupy.  The first reference to African-Americans in
this book was when Nick, accompanied by Gatsby, was crossing “Blackwell’s Island”
(72) and a particularly rare incident occurs, which he recalls years later when
he is reflecting back on the events of the story. He recalls, “…a
limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish
Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs
rolled toward us in haughty rivalry” (72). Although this was an odd scene in
the era, this occurrence displays the marginalization of the ethnically
distinct crowd. Nick demonstrates the perspective of white Americans on the
people of “colour” because Nick laughs as the “Negros” display an effort to compete
against Nick and Gatsby since these people were considered inferior, despite
their social class. Nonetheless, the discrimination and disrespect continues,
as Nick meets Wolfsheim, Gatsby’s Jewish associate, he expresses his immediate
dislike by introducing Gatsby’s “friend” in a very negative manner, “a small,
flat-nosed Jew” (73). As the story continues, Nick constantly refers back to an
old stereotype, and mocks Wolfsheim’s “expressive nose” (74). Later, he mocks
Wolfsheim’s accent (“”Oggsford”” (76)), and does not omit it from his memory
throughout writing The Great Gatsby because it was so infrequent for its
time. Nick’s encounters with such ethnologically different characters along
with his views and memories on these individuals, clarifies the hegemony of the
1920s, and the marginalization plus the put down of the ethnically unalike
societies within The Great Gatsby, too the decade.

along the book, as Tom confronts Gatsby at the Plaza Hotel, he illustrates the
way of thinking of conservative Americans of the 1920s. At the hotel, Tom
attempts to attack Gatsby with the basis of social class by stating “Mr. Nobody
from Nowhere” (137); however, because his argument is not adequate to expound
his disgust about the situation –in between Gatsby and Daisy- Tom uses
invidious ethnicity in his advantage, a device to humiliate and degrade his
rival. Tom quickly escalates the situation by converting his attack into a
racial one. Tom heightens his argument by connecting Gatsby to miscegenation,
“… next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black
and white” (137). This attempt, by Tom Buchanan, to lower Daisy’s understanding
of Gatsby by playing upon an American fear, illustrates how marginal the
African-Americans were viewed as, by demonstrating the strangeness of
interracial marriages within the text, also links this book to the principles
of the1920s.

 To wrap up, it can be seen that throughout the
1920s, even with concern over ethnic differences, ethnic minorities were
belittled and marginalized, which is done so too within the text since this
book –The Great Gatsby- reflects that era, and ethnic concerns and
racism were an important part in setting the tone of the decade. In this work
of literary art, although  concerns over
ethnic differences and the marginalization of “nonNordic” ethnic is seen
throughout this book, Fitzgerald possessed no significant notions on the
matter, rather this is the reflection of the society of the 1920s.