The Great Gatsby as a Criticism of American Society
In the novel The Great Gatsby, author F.Scott Fitzgerald criticizes American society through the eyes of his narrator Nick Caraway, as he watches the downfall and pathetic lives of what most consider achievers of the American Dream.Fitzgerald’s criticism of American Society is more prominently proven by his Harsh view of America’s materialistic standard of living, the tragic death of Gatsby, the negligence displayed by Gatsby’s friends, the reveal of Gatsby’s innocent childhood, and Fitzgerald’s personal life experiences.All lead the reader to see Fitzgerald’s unforgiving blow towards American Society.
Fitzgerald first introduces the mysterious Gatsby through the thoughts of Nick Caraway who bluntly states “Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn,” (Fitzgerald 2) which sets the stage for a larger attack that demonstrates the affect of materialism on American Society.
Gatsby is known throughout the city for his phenomenal parties at his large mansion in West Egg.The narrator Caraway later rambles for two pages uttering a long list of insignificant names that are only made insignificant due to the lack of information and anonymous nature of them all. “But I can still read the gray names, and they will give you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him. ” (61) Through this list Fitzgerald demonstrates the fakeness and lack of direction in Gatsby’s party goer’s lives.This is also displayed in the novel by the vast amount of alcohol use at Gatsby’s parties even though it was illegal during the 1920’s. Gatsby himself was at one time a bootlegger which allowed him to obtain so much money, but the very people that drink his alcohol look down upon him for it showing the hypocrisy of the American high class at the time.
Nick Caraway then goes on to compare Gatsby’s party scene to a Greco painting that displays how unglamorous the life of the wealthy really is. The night-vignette Nick paints of the East as a drunken woman carried on a stretcher is an image symbolic not only of the East but also of the West, for it signifies the plight of all these Middle Western Easterners (or Eastern Middle Westerners): their isolation, their loneliness, their anonymity. ” (Bloom 62-63) In the painting nobody seems to care for the woman in the white dress on the stretcher as her lifeless body is dragged out of the party. Fitzgerald goes out of his way to demonstrate to his audience how the high class life which most Americans strive to achieve is a life simply an pretentious show full of fakes and materialism.In The Great Gatsby characters such as Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Myrtle, and Wilson demonstrate further Fitzgerald’s criticism of American society due to their outlandish personalities and bizarre lives. The character Jordan in the novel describes these kinds of people as bad drivers stating to Nick, “You said a bad driver was only safe until she met another bad driver? Well, I met another bad driver didn’t I? ” (Fitzgerald 177). Jordan uses the driver metaphor as a way to describe to Nick how a dishonest and awful person is fine until they meet another person who mirrors them.
This connection will cause their abnormal personalities to clash, just as two bad drivers in a car crash unable to swerve out of the way. Tom and Daisy are both great examples of “bad drivers” and are couple caught up in their own materialistic bubble. Gatsby lives his life trying win the love of Daisy, but in order to do this Gatsby must acquire money in order to accommodate Daisy’s love for her “artificial world,” (Fitzgerald 151). Daisy ends up killing Myrtle accidentally in Gatsby’s car, and Tom tells Myrtles husband that it was in fact Gatsby who was driving the vehicle.This leads Wilson, Myrtles husband, to go to Gatsby’s estate, murder Gatsby and then kill himself. “It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the Gardner saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete. ” (Fitzgerald 162).
Ultimately, the wealthy Gatsby ends up dead never reuniting with the woman he lived to impress. The holocaust the novel refers to is symbolic of the death of Gatsby’s fantasy life in which money can by him his love Daisy and his friends. After the killing is complete to people thought of to be Gatsby’s friends flee before the funeral. But she and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them. ” (Fitzgerald 164). This quote supports the idea of the false reality most Americans during the 1920’s lived in. Tom and Daisy break away from the holocaust and simply move on with their pointless lives making others clean up the mess they left.
Nick Caraway and his judgmental narration ultimately allow one to see the flaws and corruption of American society as he responds to the events of Gatsby and Wilson’s death, and Tom and Daisy’s actions following the casualties.After the murder of Gatsby and suicide of Wilson, the book then goes into Gatsby’s funeral service where none of his so-called thousands of friends are present. By describing his vacant funeral Fitzgerald once again criticizes American society. Nick frantically contacts people around town trying to get them to attend Gatsby’s funeral service on of who is Meyer Wolfsheim. He creates an excuse stating, “I cannot come down now as I am tied up in some very important business and cannot get mixed up in this thing now.Wolfsheim declares this as if Gatsby’s death is unimportant which also demonstrates how in American Society people may appear to be close, but in the high class American Dream world it is usually it is for their on social and narcissistic benefit. The only people present at his funeral were Nick, a drunkard, and Gatsby’s father.
By killing off Gatsby, one of the most admired millionaires who threw the best social gatherings die alone Fitzgerald further criticizes American society by showing the distortion of reality and carelessness of Gatsby’s “friends. In the novel there is a scene in which Nick discovers writings of Gatsby when he was a young boy. This reveal of Gatsby’s childhood makes his downfall greater because it allows the reader to relate to the innocent boy Gatsby once was, and how American Society ultimately corrupted him and led to his death. In a book he had when he was a boy it states normal activities one would do. GENERAL RESOLVES No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable] No more smokeing or chewing Bath every other dayRead one improving book or magazine per week Save $5. 00 [crossed out] $3. 00 per week Be better to parents (Fitzgerald 173).
Gatsby is first introduced to the reader as a mysterious and wealthy man who has ultimately achieved what Americans would consider success due to his vast amount of money and contacts. Fitzgerald on the other hand reveals Gatsby to us slowly throughout the novel and then one comes to see how truly pathetic Gatsby’s life really is. The diary presents Gatsby as a young boy that simply wants to better himself.As Gatsby grew however American societies never ending obsession with the material changed hopes directed him in a downward spiral. Fitzgerald’s life very much mirrors that of Gatsby and Nick which gives great insight into how he obtained his opinion of American Society. His wife Zelda is very much like Daisy because she also was drawn to the materialistic life style. Fitzgerald had to win her heart by making big money from his novels, and when he was successful Zelda finally fell in love with him.
Both Gatsby and Fitzgerald were very wealthy and both enjoyed throwing and attending parties.Alcohol is prominent in The Great Gatsby and in the lives of Fitzgerald and Zelda who were both described as alcoholics. Fitzgerald was once a young innocent boy like Gatsby and cleary was also corrupted by American society and the false American Dream of materialism. Like Nick Fitzgerald has seen how unglamorous high class society can be. Both Nick and Gatsby derive from different aspects of Fitzgerald’s personality and he has shaped his opinion of American Society by a first hand upper-class experience.Fitzgerald became very critical of the way he was living and in The Great Gatsby criticizes what many American’s strive all their lives to achieve. The title of the novel The Great Gatsby appears to make Gatsby the star of a disturbing sideshow which is exactly what he was.
The novel displays American society as a circus and Fitzgerald criticizes it harshly. The novel shows the Carelessness and lack of meaning in the lives of the wealthy. And how American Society has the ability to corrupt innocence and get in the way of what was once the American dream, simply bettering oneself.