What Is The Main Conflict In The Great Gatsby?

Updated 30 September, 2023
The theme of social class is a source of the main conflict in The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the characters to show the conflict among the high, middle, and low social classes in 1920’s America.
Detailed answer:

First, Fitzgerald showed conflict between the upper class, Gatsby vs. Tom. In The Great Gatsby, the upper class can be separated into two categories: Old Money and New Money. Old Money is the people who have inherited their money from generations before. New Money is people who were born into the middle-class or a poor family and worked their way up to being wealthy. Gatsby represents new money while Daisy and Tom represent old money. Tom is more reserved, old-fashion and spoiled. He also has some bad traits like being toxic, abusive and a racist. Gatsby is more with the new, rich lifestyle. He throws parties and has a huge mansion. Gatsby grew up in extreme poverty and he probably struggles in that way since he hasn’t had his wealth for his whole life.
Second, Fitzgerald shows conflict between the middle class and upper class, Nick vs. Gatsby. In the beginning of the novel, Nick said the advice his father gave him when he was younger, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” He is saying how Nick has an advantage over most people because they come from Old Money. Nick is conflicted throughout the novel about his feelings towards Gatsby. At first, he sees Gatsby as such a great person but through most of the novel, Nick is not sure what to make of him. Gatsby tells lies and half truths about his life and how he acquired his wealth.
Finally, Fitzgerald shows conflict between upper class and low class, Tom Buchanan vs. George Wilson. Tom and Wilson have very little in common. Tom is a rude rich man who shows no respect to others, while Wilson is a very respectful poor man. Wilson is very humble. They are very much alike in being deeply attached to their wives. Both are shocked when they find out their wives have been having an affair. Tom’s mistress was Wilson’s wife. When George discovers that Myrtle is having an affair, he does not know it is with Tom. George is a hardworking man who does not feel entitled to have an affair and that also stems back into the money. George is probably too busy making a living to do any of the things like Myrtle and Tom are doing.
To sum up, social class is a major conflict in The Great Gatsby. From old money to new money to the most poor, Fitzgerald represented conflict with all of them.

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