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26 May 2015
The masterpiece of F. Scott Fitzgerald Great Gatsby (1925) sliced out the drastically changed America in the early phase of 1920s also known as ‘roaring twenties’. The economy along with society and culture underwent some significant changes that redefined the importance of United States in the worldwide scenario. Money started blooming all around. Entertainment got a new definition with jazz music. Women won their long battle for suffrage. Moreover, technology in terms of telephone, television, automobiles and others changed the pattern of lifestyle. America became more urban-centric with maximum citizens living in cities. On the other hand the hiatus between classes expanded due to massive capitalism (Luscher et al. 649). Fitzgerald captured these characteristics of the society in the characterization of the novel.
Money plays an important role in this novel since the prime conflict is based on them. Due to World War I, many people who were previously poor or not so wealthy became very much rich with ‘new money’ and some remained rich as before by inheriting ‘old money’. Simultaneously, a great deal of people lost all their fortune and struggled to survive. Fitzgerald delineated class conflict in this scenario. Nick Carraway belongs to middle-class urban society and also the neighbour of an obscenely rich person Jay Gatsby. Jay Gatsby represents the lavishness of living, a posh lifestyle and extravagant life of American Dream. Gatsby solves all problems with money, and he believes money to be an omnipotent power to conquer everything. During his military days, he met and deeply fell in love with Daisy. But Daisy married Tom Buchanan instead of Gatsby. Gatsby symbolizing ‘new money’ evolves from nothing to a very big thing with the only hope of getting Daisy back.
However, the conflict of ‘old money’ and ‘new money’ is geographically represented by two cities East Egg and West Egg connected by Valley of Ashes. Both of the cities are inhabited by eminently wealthy people of America. Tom and Daisy Buchanan lived in East Egg as they were the proud owner of ‘old money’. ‘Old money’ does not limit itself in terms of meaning to be only people who continued to be rich. It symbolizes tradition, education, value, etiquette, family background and esteemed prestige. The historical basis of American society is mostly contributed by these aristocratic classes. But at the same time, East Egg had a tendency to look down upon others who did not match their characteristics, wealth and tradition. In fact, in this novel, snobbery led Daisy to choose Tome over Gatsby.
Apart from that, in this context, Daisy sarcastically marks the subversive attitude of the society of East Egg when she mouths “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (49) in Chapter 1 of the novel. Here, by ‘she’, she meant her infant daughter. According to (Luscher et al. 649), this is a reflection of the conventional mentality of orthodoxy inherent in the people with ‘old money’. Daisy is no exception. She also wants her daughter to be subservient and homely and remains ‘fool’, in terms of innocence and attitude, to elevate patriarchal lead in the society.
On the other hand, West Egg is showered with newly bloomed prosperity and accomplishment. Most of the people worked hard (however, the morality is questionable as in the case of Gatsby) by taking advantage of the situation of a disintegrated social administration and earned enough to be considered as prestigious as the East Eggers all over the country. The quality of West Egger is they are more humane and compassionate in comparison to the East Eggers, who prefers to flaunt superficiality and arrogance to maintain a facade of aristocracy.
Jay Gatsby was an inhabitant of West Egg and in the words of Nick Carraway, a side of him is revealed that would compel the readers to consider Gatsby apart from an insolent rich, “He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced, or seemed to face, the whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself” (287). He encapsulates charisma, immense popularity and a sort of enigma through his smile. It further signifies that his being rich is very much different as his sole motivating force has been his romantic obsession for Daisy. Unlike the superfluous and materialistic approach towards the life of the East Eggers, Gatsby has never been disdainful for his being rich. He used the money to ease out the path to reach her love Daisy.
Fitzgerald explores the side of intra-class struggle through the conflict between ‘old money’ and ‘new money’ and simultaneously shows how the people having ‘no money’, that is middle and lower classes, suffer most without gaining anything.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Frank Muller. The Great Gatsby. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books. 1984. Print.
Luscher, Robert M., and Ronald Berman. The Great Gatsby And Modern Times. American Literature. 1996. Print.
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