F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby As Criticism Of American Society

1787 words - 7 pages

    In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald criticizes American society in the 1920?s for its tendencies to waste, advertise, form superficial relationships, and obsess over appearances. The work has been praised for both its brutal realism and its keen depiction of the age that The New York Times referred to as the era when, 'gin was the national drink and sex was the national obsession'(Fitzgerald vii).  ' . . . indifference is presented as a moral failure - a failure of society, particularly the society of the American east to recognize the imperatives of truth and honesty and justice? (Gallo 35). 

            F. Scott Fitzgerald criticizes the wasteful tendencies of American society.  He uses the valley of ashes to refer to this ugly aspect of American society.  The valley of ashes is a bleak area situated between the West Egg and New York City, 'where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air'(Fitzgerald 23).  This unpleasant wasteland is located right along the roadway and train route between the eggs, home of the lofty aristocrats, and New York City, the exciting and fashionable metropolis where many of the nations wealthiest people live, work, and entertain themselves.  'There is no essential difference between the moneyed wastelands of New York City and Long Island and the valley of ashes,' (Gallo 49)   Referring to an eye doctor's billboard in the valley of ashes, Nick, our narrator comments:

 Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice  in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal  blindness or forgot them and moved away.  But his eyes dimmed a little by many painless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground. (Gatsby 23)


    Fitzgerald employs this section on the valley of ashes and Dr. T.J.Eckleburg?s billboard to criticize American society and values.  He is portraying the American habit of using up what is useful or has value and leaving the waste products behind.  His symbol is that the wood (valuable) was used to build a fire and then the ashes (waste products) were left behind.  The valley of ashes was once a flourishing town, but was used until it was no longer valuable and was thus abandoned (like ashes after all the wood has been burned).  Gatsby?s parties were also a form of social commentary in Fitzgerald?s The Great Gatsby.  Gatsby?s acquisition and disposal of fruit (and rinds) in such large quantities is another example of society?s using up the serviceable and leaving the superfluous behind.  The actions of Tom and Daisy also illustrate this tendency to ignore the waste products and obstacles.  ? . . . Daisy accidentally runs down and kills Myrtle Wilson.  Completely unnerved, Daisy speeds away . . . ?they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their wealth or their vast...

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