About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1164 |
6 min read
Published: Aug 31, 2023
Words: 1164|Pages: 3|6 min read
Social class is a concept that has been around for centuries, merely defined as a division of society based on social and economic status. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a story about the difficulty of changing one’s future and repeating one’s past. In the novel, the society that makes up New York’s social classes are defined as the elites, who are the ones born into wealth, the newly rich, who’ve only recently gained wealth, and the working class, who are making a living based off of jobs they hold. However, there are many in the novel who hide their true identity through appearances. It is easy to just put on a fancy dress and act sophisticated, but it is not so easy to be accepted into the hierarchy. In The Great Gatsby, repeating the past proves to be an elusive endeavor, as characters grapple with the complexities of their social class, appearances, and the underlying realities they face. Many who are born into it have generations of money that will always back them up, whereas the others, the newly rich and the working class, have money worth losing.
This paper will explore the way social class can either influence or contradict appearances through expectations of popularity and materialistic items. Being wealthy and from a high social class comes with the expectation of having a celebrity status, which influences the way the characters present themselves. Jay Gatsby, a main character in the novel, was a part of the newly rich class, even though he had always dreamed of being part of the elite social class. Because Gatsby was not part of the highest social class, he did anything and everything he could to make it seem as if he was. He threw weekly over-the-top parties that took place in his mansion in West Egg. However, one of the main reasons why Gatsby threw so many parties is for the slightest hope that his love, Daisy, would drop by. He intended every party to be of her liking because she, of course, was considered one of the elites. Even though every one of his parties seemed almost perfect, he was constantly worrying about what she would think of him and even mentioned to Nick how he felt as if “she didn’t like it” or “she didn’t have a good time” (109). He wanted to make himself look more appealing by showing that he was popular and worthy of her love. Gatsby spent his life trying to impress others and gain their approval, that he never really focused on who he was on the inside: someone in search of love; his life was spent trying to impress others, which essentially was a life of waste.
However, despite the fact that Gatsby was very popular and had hundreds attend his parties, in reality, he rarely had any true friends. Gatsby was a well-known person, but very few actually knew what he was like. Nick, for example, was neighbors with Gatsby but didn’t meet him or know what he looked like until “he had been actually invited” to one of his parties and had an unknowing conversation with Gatsby, where he told him how he “hadn’t even seen the host” (41, 47). The rest of the people who attended Gatsby’s parties were not his friends; most of them didn’t even know who he was, and the ones that did know him, didn’t know him in a way where they were able to call him randomly or hangout on a daily basis. The ones that knew him either did business with him or they met him at another party. “People were not invited” to Gatsby’s, “they just went there” (41). They cared more about Gatsby’s wealth than they did Gatsby himself. The relationship between Gatsby and his guests was merely a relationship because of what each one could get out of the other: Gatsby got the satisfaction of being seen as popular, while the others got the satisfaction of being a part of the wealthy.
Consequently, no matter how many people showed up at his parties, none of them attended his funeral, except for Nick, Mr. Gatz, and the “owl-eyed” man. In Nick’s eyes, all the people who attended his parties but refused to make an appearance at Gatsby’s funeral “were a rotten crowd” because they failed to appreciate Gatsby for who he was (154). Although Gatsby was seen as one of the more wealthy, his current social class contradicted where he actually came from. Gatsby put on an alluring persona to everyone he met because he felt that status was everything. He was always so hung up on trying to impress everyone, especially Daisy, because he felt that approval by others indicated success. He did everything he could to become wealthier. However, there was no amount of wealth that could’ve bought his entry into the highest social class, that is, the one he needed to be born into. The only honest relationship that Gatsby had was his friendship with Nick. He wasn’t trying to impress him because he knew that Nick had no care about those sorts of things, he liked Gatsby for Gatsby. When he met Daisy, he was “a penniless young man” (149): he was not born into wealth, he essentially came up from nothing. Gatsby was born as James Gatz, the son of poor farmers, but through his aspirations to be a part of the upper class, he transformed himself into the ideal that he envisioned to be, Jay Gatsby.
Nick was the only character who knew the truth about Gatsby and still decided to stand by him because he “didn’t want to leave Gatsby” and he knew that “at any moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders” (153, 149). Nick believed that despite all of the lies Gatsby told, he was “worth a whole damn bunch put together” (154). Nick was the only one who saw Gatsby for who he really was, not who he wanted to be. He had respect for Gatsby because he knew what he wanted and stopped at nothing in order to get to where he wanted to be.
In conclusion, the rank of a person’s social class in the society formed in The Great Gatsby is defined as where the characters came from and how much money they’ve acquired. However, the rank of one’s social class does not define who they are as a person, it just defines the way society views them. Gatsby, for example, was viewed as this all popular rich guy, when in reality, no one knew his real story–he was judged merely by appearance. Gatsby was an expert at hiding his identity through a mask of expectations and standards, which begs the question: who really has the ability to know what someone has been through based off of their appearance?
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