Class Conflict in the Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby, is the theme of society and class. Three separate social classes are portrayed in the novel: “old money,” “new money,” and the lowest class known as “no money. ” The “old money” class refers to those who come from families that have fortunes. “New money” families are those who made their money in the Roaring Twenties and often lavishly display their wealth. In the novel, the growing tension between the “old” and the “new” money classes are shown through Gatsby and Tom’s struggle over Daisy.
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The novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, begins the novel by sharing advice his father gave him when he was younger: do not criticize others because “all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that [he has] had” (1). Nick’s father informs his son that his advantage over most people in the world is that he comes the “old money” class. Unlike the people around him, Nick casts himself as a nonjudgmental character with regard to social class, which is opposed to others during this time period.
In this period, the Roaring Twenties, members of “new money” enjoyed the pleasures of easy money, ample drinking, and sumptuous parties; and while his fellows pranced from party to party every night, he would not become involved in their inane manners. Nick “lived at West Egg – well, the less fashionable of the two” (5) which is located directly across the bay from East Egg. Throughout the novel, Nick observes how greatly the two communities differ.
Their location, across the water from one another, symbolically shows the class rivalry because they literally opposed each other. West Egg is where the “new money” echelon lives, and East Egg does not accept them because they have neither cultural refinement nor social connections. Nick’s character is odd because he spans both worlds; he comes from “old money” but rents a house in West Egg, where the “new money” class resides. Within the novel, Fitzgerald constantly criticizes those with “new money” values by expressing their values as thoughtless and ignorant.
Daisy, who both Gatsby and Tom are drawn by, has a difficulty in understanding the structure of West Egg because she normally does whatever society expects from her – she is not used to the carelessness of the “new money” class: “Who is this Gatsby anyhow? ” demanded Tom suddenly. “Some big bootlegger? “?? “Where’d you hear that? ” I inquired. ?? “I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know. ” ?? “Not Gatsby,” I said shortly. ?? He was silent for a moment.
The pebbles of the drive crunched under his feet. “Well, he certainly must have strained himself to get this menagerie together. ” ?? A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar. ?? “At least they’re more interesting than the people we know,” she said with an effort. (6. 98-105) By juxtaposing Gatsby and Daisy, Fitzgerald distinctly reveals the idiocy of the “new money” class. Daisy comes from an environment with true values and stiff behavior, and when placed in West Egg she finds herself unable to live with such negligence.
The theme of this novel, the hollowness of the upper class, is similarly portrayed at the very end of the novel after the death of Gatsby. The day before Gatsby’s funeral, Nick goes around in an effort to assemble more people to attend the services. He goes to New York to try to get Meyer Wolfsheim, a friend of Gatsby, to attend the ceremony. Wolfsheim reflects on his friendship with Gatsby, and he claims that he “raised him up out of nothing. ” But he tells Nick that he can’t go because he can’t get mixed up” with dead men (171).
Wolfsheim is unscrupulous, selfish, and heartless, he exhibits the worst facet of “new money”. He claims that he raised Gatsby from the “gutters” and in doing so he insinuates that money is everything. “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot” (Pirkei Avot 4:1). As portrayed through this novel, money corrupts both society and class. In the end, the only people that bear happiness are those who are not deluded by riches. Ariel Haar Mrs. Saddler English 11 November 16, 2011 The Unscrupulousness of The Roaring Twenties
In his novel, The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses Jay Gatsby’s parties to present a satirical portrait of the Roaring Twenties. The U. S. faced an enormous economic expansion after World War I, which turned the 1920s into a time of easy money, ample drinking, and sumptuous parties. During this time period people were filled with optimism towards the future, but through this novel, Fitzgerald conveys a darker side of this time period. His portrait of the Roaring Twenties focuses on the hypocrisy and recklessness of the people during that time.
While attending a party at Gatsby’s house, Nick observes the luxuriousness of the party. On the outside, the parties seem to hold the fulfillment of the American Dream, but Fitzgerald harshly shows that this is not the case. At the conclusion of the party that night, Nick says goodbye to Gatsby and leaves. On his way back home he sees that Owl Eyes, a guest at Gatsby’s party, has driven his car into a ditch, which to Nick “the fact [is] infinitely astonishing” (53). Symbolically, this crash represents the reckless disregard of society during this time period.
Fitzgerald paints this scene after the party at Gatsby’s house to show that the recklessness of the parties lives on even after the matter. After the party environment dies down, Nick describes his life to the reader, presenting that he is different than most others by clearly expressing that he does more than just party. In chapter 3, Fitzgerald spends most of the pages on showing the carelessness of people’s actions during the Roaring Twenties. The juxtaposition of Nick’s lifestyle to the party lifestyle clearly emulates his bleak feeling toward the 1920s.
Yet Fitzgerald’s harshest criticism of this time period does not present itself until the last chapter. Two years subsequent to Gatsby’s death, Nick remembers back to the days shortly after his death, in which he remembers the rumors that spread, and people prowling around his mansion to search for more gossip about him: I remember the rest of that day, and that night and the next day, only as an endless drill of police and photographers and newspaper men in and out of Gatsby’s front door…The adventitious authority of [Wilson’s] voice set the key for the newspaper reports next morning.
Most of those reports were a nightmare – grotesque, circumstantial, eager, and untrue. When Michaelis’s testimony at the inquest brought to light Wilson’s suspicions of his wife I thought the whole tale would shortly be served up in racy pasquinade – but Catherine, who might have said anything, didn’t say a word. She showed a surprising amount of character about it too – looked at the coroner with determined eyes under that corrected brow of hers, and swore that her sister had never seen Gatsby, that her sister was completely happy with her husband, that her sister had been into no mischief whatever. 163)
Similar to Roaring Twenties the reports about Gatsby quickly spread and were filled mostly with lies and deceit. The fact that Gatsby was the same both dead and alive, little more than a rumor, Fitzgerald sardonically portrays the issues within the Roaring Twenties’ “new money” ideology. The Roaring Twenties was an era of great economic growth; but despite the economies success, “new money” ideology removed individualism and rationality from society in favor of carelessness.