Social Themes Present In The Great Gatsby

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Set in America’s “roaring 20’s”, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel told through the eyes of a man named Nick Carraway. While showing what life was like in the 20’s, Carraway also gives insight to the lives of many people who belong to different social classes. The story follows a series of events that unfold social themes present in America then, which are still applicabe to American society today. Fitzgerald offers commentary on themes such as judgement and power through showing the different lifestyles and beliefs of the ranging social classes.

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Much like today’s American society, money plays a huge part in how the rest of society views others. As Fitzgerald dives deeper into the lifestyles of the characters, it is clear that there is a divide among the classes. Fitzgerald is careful to point out the differences between “old money” and “new money” in the wealthy class. Although Gatsby is shown to be wealthier than Tom through his extravagent parties and huge mansion, Tom is portayed to have more power in society because of his inheritance of money. Tom didn’t have to work for what he has, yet is more respected by societal classes much like Daisy’s, which judges others for where their money came from, not how much they have. Because of this, Tom feels entitled to expose Gatsby’s means of making money, “‘He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong’’. Unlike Tom, Gatsby was born into “no money”, and worked his way up into “new money”. However, because he wasn’t born into his new found wealth, society focuses on his low-class background and in their eyes, he will never be seen as equal or refined as them. In today’s world, those who inherite their money are often seen as entitled as well, because the money was handed to them, requiring no effort. Those who work for their money are seen as working class, and are often times judged for how much effort goes into making the money they do.

Throughout the book, different examples of betrayal are seen in ways often times still seen in America today. When Gatsby returns from war as a man with no money, he realizes that Daisy decided to chase her dreams of luxury and status rather than waiting for him. This is the first glimpse into Daisy’s habits of betrayal because she’s a very materialistic person. This is seen again when she betrays her marriage with Tom when chasing Gatsby’s new found wealth, leading him on to think she truly loved him. However, when Gatsby dies, she betrays his love for her when deciding to not attend his funeral and leave town with Tom, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made”. This shows that money makes people go to great extents to obtain it, including betrayal, and Daisy follows the money. This idea is relevant in today’s society, often highlighting the idea of “gold diggers” who are often times girls who chase money by dating wealthy men. Another example of this would be younger women using rich older men as a means of making money or gaining status, rather than caring about true emotion or feeling. Through the commentary from Nick Carraway and the actions desribed by Fitzgerald, the common themes present in the novel can be related to American society today.

14 May 2021

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