This essay argues that The Great Gatsby may be fruitfully read against African American models of identity formation of the late teens and Twenties. Like Gatsby, passing and Americanization fiction render racial and national identity theatrical. Gatsby's parties, given minimal attention in Fitzgerald scholarship, miniaturize the process of identity formation that characterizes the novel as a whole. Theatrical modes of identity formation are not limited to the novel's parvenus, however: showing how even the novel's elite are fully implicated in the culture of imitation, Fitzgerald refutes the possibility of any identity as "the real thing."


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