Class Structures in the 1920’s
The emerging inequitable class systems and antagonisms of the nineteen twenties saw the traditional order and moral values challenged, as well as the creation of great wealth for few and poverty for many. The Great Gatsby, written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, explores the causes and effects of the unbalanced class structures. Fitzgerald outlines the idea that the desire to accumulate wealth and status is a common ambition amongst the lower classes; when that desire is reached, the traditional upper class is challenged by the emerging newly wealthy, which finally leads to destructive consequences. By creating rigid class structures, traditional upper class, new wealth, and the poor in The Great Gatsby, it is shown that the desire to further or maintain socio-economic status leads to immoral behaviour such as criminal activity, adultery, and murder.
By incorporating a distinct hierarchy into society, it creates the aspiration to accumulate wealth and status as a common goal amongst the lower class, yet also creates the desire for the traditional upper class to maintain dominance. Gatsby, at a youthful age desires to become a prosperous and wealthy man, the upper echelon of society. By becoming Gatsby, Gatz truly believes that he can leave his past and create a new class, the Great Gatsby himself:
I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people — his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God — a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that — and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. (Fitzgerald 98)
Nick strongly suggests that Gatsby vows to change his identity and distance himself from the rural, lifeless and poor living that his unsuccessful farming parents pursued. The platonic conception of himself alludes to Platonic Idealism, which states that there are always universal and initial truths or ideas that cannot be altered or dissipate. Gatsby comes from the Platonic conception of Gatz and by comparing Gatsby to Platonic Idealism, the idea of Gatsby becomes immortalized and genuine. Gatsby, representing the lower class desires to alter his status to an unalterable conception, which epitomizes the new money’s desires. Tom Buchanan, the embodiment of the traditional upper class, is a domineering man who desires only one result, to maintain his status and wealth. Tom obsesses over maintaining a pure, rich class of Caucasians that he believes should never be challenged: “‘It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out, or these other races will have control…this idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and…we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization- oh, science and art, and all that’” (13). The...