What Role Does Social Class In The Great Gatsby Play?

Updated 30 September, 2023
Social class is a prominent theme in The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald represented the upper class, middle class and lower class of people in the 1920’s era. He uses the characters to show the conflict among the high, middle, and low social classes.
Detailed answer:

In the novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author offers a critical view on the upper class and how their carelessness is caused by never being held responsible for their actions. Position in society dictates the treatment that one receives and controls the way in which one acts. Social class creates a barrier which separates the people in society preventing them from crossing over the lines and mixing with each other. Differences in social class produces conflict in relationships because of the differing views and perspectives which is shaped during upbringing. Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald shows that class is what people are defined by and there is no way that escaping the past. Tom and Daisy are portrayed to be extremely shallow, as they stay in an unhappy relationship in order to keep a certain status. Their affairs reveal that through any obstacle, they will find their way back to each other. Through Tom and Daisy’s relationship between themselves and others, Fitzgerald proves that the bond of class is far more powerful than the bond of love, as it creates stability and acceptance from society.
Social acceptance drives Gatsby to constantly pursue his American Dream but it is unattainable and elusive. He is part of the “new money” class which means he worked his way up the social ladder. Despite his wealth he is still looked down upon by the elite class who inherited their money. Through Daisy he had the ability to achieve this goal but just like his relationship, it is a failure. Gatsby is unable to ever be accepted into the elite class, adding to the idea that money can not buy class. He came from a lower class family which was not acceptable for Daisy’s family. She was alluring to him because of her mansion and he entertained the idea of being in love with her. But Daisy could not wait for him as she wanted to have her future planned. Tom was a practical choice because he will gain approval and their is equality by social class. Gatsby does not have the ability to provide her that stability and comfort in knowing that they are a part of the “old money” class. He is not deemed worthy enough to have a future with Daisy simply because he came from humble beginnings.
Thus, social class is a crucial factor that determines who one builds relationships and connections with. Tom and Daisy’s shared background allows their relationship to withstand infidelity committed by both parties. It is considered socially unacceptable to date someone of a lower class because economically the couple is not equal. Fitzgerald details how the upper class obtains unfair advantages over the hard working lower class. Money and materialism comes with high status, people are not willing to leave that behind for love. The world revolves around money because the people are controlled by it.

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