The Great Gatsby Depicts a Society
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”The Great Gatsby depicts a society which exists in a state of confusion and moral chaos.’ Discuss.
The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald set during the 1920s about a man named Jay Gatsby through Nick Carraway’s eyes, and is considered one of the great pieces of American literature of all-time. The Great Gatsby shows a society that is in an immoral and crazed state. Jay Gatsby himself shows the corrupt American society and lifestyle. Affairs and cheating display the unethical aspects of the community. Materialism and the desire for possessions cause people to dispose themselves of values. The inaccuracy of the American Dream leaves the society confused and complicated.
In deeper analysis of the novel, Gatsby is not all that ‘great’ and in some ways is typical of the society of the time. He has one goal in life: to rewrite the past and get Daisy back, the woman of his dreams. But in order to do this, he relies on gaining material wealth through illegal and unethical means. Gatsby admits to Nick that he is, “…in the drug store business,” secretly meaning that he is a bootlegger, an underground seller and distributer of illegal alcohol. He receives continuous calls from his associates in Chicago and Philadelphia, hotspots of alcohol production. The society Gatsby wants to be a part of is based on money and power, not faith and love. Although Gatsby may claim all his actions are in order to reach out and grab his true love, he becomes accustomed to his lavish lifestyle and class in society that he sees nothing wrong with his activities. Gatsby shares a seedy relationship with Meyer Wolfsheim, a gambler and allegedly a man who fixed the 1919 World Series, who together, “…bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter,” shady businesses that seem to corrupt Gatsby. Gatsby becomes close to Daisy, a woman who is already in a marriage.
Adultery is a common occurrence in this civilization. There are numerous amounts of examples, including Gatsby and Daisy, Tom and Myrtle, Mrs. Claud Roosevelt and ‘Owl Eyes’ and Hubert Auerbach and Mr. Chrystie’s wife. The fact that both the man and woman in the cheating relationship do not consider what is right and also their other partner gives an image of what the society was like during the ‘Roaring Twenties’, careless and crazy. Tom shows his frustration after he learns of Daisy’s love for Gatsby, saying, “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out.” He is trying to claim what is morally correct and defend the sanctity of marriage, while at the same time is in a relationship with another woman. Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, wife of George Wilson, is like one of his prized possessions, and, “he turned up in popular restaurants with her and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomever he knew.” Despite her not being his actual wife, he still did not mind parading her around and showing her off in particular areas. Many of the adulterers were also quite wealthy and prided themselves on their belongings.
Materialism was a desire that many had in the society shown in The Great Gatsby. This was majorly due to a lack of morality, a sense of right and wrong and so materialistic items and wealth become people’s main focus and aspirations. Money is lavishly spent on clothes, cars and other assets, which is quite wasteful and those who might need it are not considered. Daisy is a woman who left her love because he was poor and has married a rich man whom it seems she does not truly love. Her sense of materialism comes hand-in-hand with her careless lifestyle, as she, “…smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into [her] money or [her] vast carelessness.” Gatsby’s parties are a collection of luxurious items and activities along with vulgar and outrageous behaviour of people. Almost all of the attendants at the parties do not know the host personally, and so are merely there to take part in the abundant festivities and take advantage of Gatsby’s belongings. These participants of Gatsby’s parties, “…conducted themselves according to the rules of behaviour associated with amusement parks,” defying moral principles and codes of action and rather are focused on indulging themselves in the celebrations. Some people used materialism as a way of gaining their so-called American Dream.
The American Dream is a false myth that disrupts the society. The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States that says there are opportunities for success and prosperity for everyone, and through hard work you can become wealthier and more successful, or whatever you want to be, regardless of race, identity, gender and social statues. Achieving the American Dream and your goal in life is truly dependent on social class and wealth, and limits a person to what they can actually achieve. George Wilson struggles to make a living despite his hard work and his good actions, as he believes, “God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing…” and so displays correct ethics. Gatsby turned to illicit activities in order to make his fortune to try and get his own American Dream. Tom was born into his money through his family (old money) and ensures that very few new ‘members’ are allowed in this exclusive ‘club’. The fictitious American Dream represents a society that is unequal and dysfunctional.
Jay Gatsby, adultery, materialism and the American Dream all portray how The Great Gatsby depicts a society in a situation of bewilderment and ethical anarchy. The inability of most of the characters in the novel to realise their relatively immoral behaviour makes Fitzgerald’s tale all the more tragic of a potentially great nation in the throes of acute moral decay.