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In the novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald uses scenes of violence to criticize the socio-economic system of early 19th century America. Within these scenes, Fitzgerald utilizes his characters as literary tools to convey the inequality surrounding gender roles and social class. Fitzgerald exhibits the prejudice between gender in this society by using male characters that disrespect women. When Tom tells Myrtle that she has no “right to mention Daisy’s name” he breaks Myrtle’s nose “with his open hand” (37). Through his actions, Tom communicates that Myrtle is worth little more to him than an object. Fitzgerald suggests that women in this era hold no value other than that of a commodity to be taken advantage of. He chides the accepted precedent of men avoiding repercussions for their cruelty towards women. While Tom and Gatsby argue over Daisy at the hotel, Tom claims that Daisy “gets foolish ideas” and “doesn’t know what she’s doing” (132). Disallowing Daisy to speak for herself objectifies her, illuminating the view of women as lesser human beings. Fitzgerald suggests the ignorance of men in this era as they fail to realize their perspective of women is skewed. The use of overpowering male dominance indicates Fitzgerald’s desire to emphasize the issue of gender roles.
Fitzgerald exemplifies the discrimination of those with lower social status through characters that belong to different ranks in society. During Tom and Gatsby’s argument in the hotel, Tom calls the latter “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere” and a “common swindler” (130,134). Because of Gatsby’s lowly position, Tom views him as an inferior being. Through Tom’s demeaning tone, Fitzgerald indicates men’s distaste for those beneath them in status. Although Daisy is at fault for killing Myrtle, Gatsby admits he will take the blame for the incident (144). Fitzgerald expresses the unfair pardon from punishment that those of upper class receive, often at the expense of those from the lower class.
This treatment results in an unjust system that debilitates those who lack the means to prevent inequitable behavior. Because George Wilson believes Gatsby to be his wife’s killer, he shoots Gatsby, then kills himself (162). Fitzgerald reveals the desperation of those with a lowly status; between economic deprivation and loss, there is no way out of misery except death. Through Wilson’s inability to climb the social ladder, Fitzgerald affirms the falsity the American Dream. The wealthy benefit from the hard work of their inferiors while the poor struggle to thrive. Fitzgerald accentuates the disparity of socio-economic rank that exists between the characters of his novel. The harsh acts and biased behavior of social superiors exposes their hostility to those beneath them.
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