The 1920’s were a time of social and technological change. After World War II, the Victorian values were disregarded, there was an increase in alcohol consumption, and the Modernist Era was brought about. The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a perfect presentation of the decaying morals of the Roaring Twenties. Fitzgerald uses the characters in the novel--specifically the Buchanans, Jordan Baker, and Gatsby’s partygoers--to represent the theme of the moral decay of society.
Tom Buchanan epitomizes the advent of moral uncertainty of the Modernist Era. Upon Tom’s introduction in the novel, Fitzgerald makes his lack of morals very evident. When Nick goes to have dinner with the Buchanans and Jordan, he learns something new about Tom. Jordan tells Nick something she believed everyone knew.
“Why--” she said hesitantly, “Tom’s got some woman in New York.”
“Got some woman?” I repeated blankly. (Fitzgerald 15)
Nick is astonished at this information. He finds it hard to believe that Tom, with a beautiful wife and child, would be having an affair with some woman in the city. Miss Baker thinks “everybody knew” about the affair, yet Daisy is still with Tom. Being too ignorant to make herself believe it’s true, Daisy is willing to stay in the marriage, even when she is presented with an opportunity from Gatsby to escape. Daisy is willing to stay with Tom just because he has “old money,” and that shows how important it is to her. Everyone else’s morals are just as bad as Tom’s because they know about what’s going on and know that it’s wrong, but they don’t say anything about it. Later in the story, when Wilson is looking for the driver of the yellow car that killed Myrtle, he also suspects that person of having an affair with her. Nick asked Tom what he said to Mr. Wilson the day Gatsby got shot, and Tom responded with the following: “He was crazy enough to kill me if I hadn’t told him who owned the car . . . That fellow had it coming to him” (178). Tom’s ignorance and lack of responsibility are strikingly obvious from this. He is too scared to face the truth and blames everything on Gatsby. As Nick stated, “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (179). Nick describes Tom and Daisy perfectly here. They have no sense of responsibility, and they think they can do whatever they please because they have their money to hide behind. Their morals have atrophied so much that they hardly have any at all.
Jordan Baker characterizes the social acceptance of dishonesty during the Twenties. When Nick first meets her, he thinks he recognizes the name from something, but he can’t remember what. “ . . . There was a row that nearly reached the...