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Social Classes In The Great Gatsby

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Autor:   •  April 4, 2011  •  4,084 Words (17 Pages)  •  815 Views

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1.Introduction

F. Scott Fitzgerald is famous as one of the greatest authors of the twenties. He is referred to as a member of the "Lost Generation". His books deal with the idealism and the disillusion of the post-World-War-1 decade and also with the struggle of the American society to find spiritual happiness and material wealth (Di Bacco 525). Long describes Fitzgerald as "central to the American twenties" or "historian of the golden twenties". "He names the Jazz Age" (177). In his novel The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald describes the social circumstances in the USA in the 1920s with typical representatives of in this time existing social classes in the post-war decade.

Wilson can be seen as a representative of the poor people of those days. This class is widely ignored by numerous sources but so important for that time because they made up the majority.

The former poor Gatsby stands for the newly rich because he lives the "American Dream". Although he takes the illegal way he succeeds. In most historical reviews, this class is regarded as the symbol of the Twenties although it made up the minority.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan represent the established rich, the leisure class. They provide a contrast to the impoverished Wilson and the former poor Gatsby.

Fitzgerald gives the reader a good insight of how life was in the twenties through contrasting the different classes.

2.Social Classes of the Nineteen-Twenties in The Great Gatsby

The twenties are also called "The Roaring Twenties" or "The Gilded Age" because prosperity flourished in those times. Various classes existed and co-existed during this decade like I mentioned before: the established rich, the newly rich, and the poor. But, of course, there was also a middle-class.

2.1 The Established Rich: The Buchanans

People who were born into rich families, into the lap of luxury, e.g. by inheritance of family estates or savings, are called the "established rich". The source of their riches come from the time of World War I or even before. Only few really made profit in the war, e.g. people who were in the war industry. The extended family clans of those people and their business allies to a high status made up the high society.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan are part of this high society. Tom is even richer than Daisy. To Nick, belonging to the middle class, TomÃ’'s wealth appears to be beyond imagination.

His Family was enormously wealthy- even in college his free-

dom with money was a matter for reproach- but now he′d left

Chicago and come East in a fashion that took your breath away;

for instance, he′d brought down a string of polo ponies from

Lake Forrest. It was hard to realise that a man in my own gene-

ration was wealthy enough to do that. (Fitzgerald 10)

By reading Nick′s first description of Tom, one could think that Nick admires him or at least once admired him for being "one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven" (Fitzgerald 12). But you can recognize immediately that this former "national figure" is now "one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savours of anti-climax" (Fitzgerald 12), and that he deserves rather pity than admiration or envy, that one could feel when regarding Tom′s "enormous wealth" (Fitzgerald 12). In contrast to his "supercilious manner" (Fitzgerald 13) and his "arrogant eyes [that...] had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward" (Fitzgerald 13), Nick "always had the impression that [Tom] approved of [Nick] and wanted [him] to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness" (Fitzgerald 13). This contributes to his authoritative appearance with his "body capable of enormous leverage" (Fitzgerald 13), able to silence his wife with one biting retort and break the nose of his lover with one sharp blow (Fitzgerald 43). Also his voice with "a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked" (Fitzgerald 13) reveals that he treats Nick like a kind of a younger brother, for instance by turning Nick around "politely and abruptly" (Fitzgerald 14) or "literally forc[ing him] from the car" (Fitzgerald 30).

The only weak moment the reader witnesses is when he learns that Myrtle has been killed. Nick records his reaction: "In a little while I heard a low husky sob, and saw that the tears were overflowing his face. `The God damned coward!′ he whimpered. `He didn′t even stop his car.′ " (Fitzgerald 148)

But that is altogether how the narrator sees him; Tom sees himself as a refined person, who believes to know about the superiority of the Nordic race, who is "standing alone on the last barrier of civilization" and has to defend "family life and family institutions"(Fitzgerald 136). But he fails to see that his own adultery endangers such values and that his social strength only derives from his family′s wealth.

Nevertheless, Tom strikes Nick as not being able to be content with what he possesses, as he feels that Tom will "drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game." (Fitzgerald 12)

Daisy Fay was born into a wealthy family in Louisville, Kentucky. She is eighteen years old and already drives a roadster, one of the best type of cars in those days. Unlike her husband, Daisy is not that self-conscious. All that she wanted to achieve was a wealthy life, which was offered to her by Tom, and not by Gatsby - the one she actually loved. She had married Tom Buchanan, as "she wanted her life shaped now" - she couldn′t wait for Jay after the war - "and the decision must be made by some force [...]. That force took shape [...] with [...] Tom [...]. Daisy was flattered." (Fitzgerald 157)

In spite of being a charming and lovely young woman, she gives herself over to her passiveness; she allows it to happen that she lives an unhappy relationship with Tom cheating on her. But one can imagine that she longs for more attention when she asks Nick if she is

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