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Climbing The Social Ladder Essay

1817 words - 7 pages

Over the centuries, several social barriers have fallen away. In the 1920’s, some of those barriers were just beginning to crumble. Women were given the right to vote and some people were able to become wealthy based on their skills and ideas and not solely on their background. Even though these obstacles were starting to fade, completely defeating social barriers was still a struggle. Jay Gatsby’s final dream, in The Great Gatsby, is to overcome the class barriers and marry Daisy Buchanan. He is able to gain wealth, but he does not gain entry into her social class. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the problematic nature of class structure in America during the 1920’s through Jay Gatsby’s struggle to ascend the social ladder.
In the 1920’s class structure was changing and people had to adopt to a new way of life. According to Cynthia Rose, editor of "A New Era … an Economic Revolution of the Profoundest Character.", it was an era of optimism for many people who were able to secure good paying jobs because of the booming economy (Rose). However, there was a divide in the upper class between the people with “old money” and those with “new money”. The people with “old money” had grown up with wealth. The newly rich had to adjust to the upper class. Actors, people involved in the media, and bootleggers are all examples of the types of people who belonged to this class. In the novel, the two social classes also have very different ways they spend their time. Many of the newly rich have large parties, while those with old money are more conserved, like the Buchanans (Fitzgerald 10).
New industries presented unprecedented opportunities for an emerging class. It was a new era for Americans. People were becoming rich overnight. Rose states, “Industrial productivity soared during the decade… New consumer goods, from antifreeze fluids to wristwatches, flooded the market…Nowhere was the confidence in American economic growth more clear than in the frenzied building that dominated the decade” (Rose). In the novel, both Gatsby and Wolfshiem take advantage of the booming economy. They are both bootleggers who gained their money illegally (Fitzgerald 78). Other people of the 1920’s gained their money through acting. The film industry was just beginning and created much success for those involved with it. Another way people made money was through the stock market. According to Cynthia Rose’s article, “Brokers and Suckers”, much of the 1920’s economy was based on salesmanship and investments. Many bonds were sold to new investors in the 1920’s, and as the stock market improved even more people were willing to take the risk. Rose continues, “One estimate claims the number of people owning stocks rose from half a million to fifteen million in the two decades before 1928” (Rose). New techniques allowed for greater profits on the part of the investor. One method that investment companies used was to let small investors combine their holdings with others...

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