The Great Gatsby illustrates the clear deliniations between different strata of society. Discuss the techniques he uses to juxtapose the different groups.

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald delineates the social strata of the mid-1920s American culture through the following:

  • Geography: East Egg (established rich) vs. West Egg (new rich) vs. Valley of Ashes (poor working class).  East Coast (action of the novel; lack of morality) vs. Midwest (place where Nick narrates; moral values)
  • Characterization of men: Tom (inhereted rich, Alpha dog, racist, womanizer) vs. Gatsby (class jumper, idealistic but corrupt) vs. Nick (middle-class Midwestern observer moralist)
  • Characterization of women: Daisy (beautiful little fool) vs. Jordan (careless cheater) vs. Myrtle (unfaithful opportunist)
  • Conversations: Tom shows how he believes the whites are being corrupted by the inferior races when he mentions the book "The Rise of the Colored Empires by a man named Goddard"
  • Parties: in the first three chapters, we have three different parties that show social class differences.  Tom/Daisy's Party: private luncheon vs. Tom/Myrtle's Party: drinking, slap vs. Gatsby's Party: car wrecks, dancing in fountains.  All three parties show how the East Coast rich are careless.  We also see the luncheon between Nick, Gatsby, and Meyer Wolfsheim: shows how corrupt, criminal Americans have become during, ironically, Prohibition.
  • Clothes: Daisy is attracted to Gatsby's shirts.  Meyer Wolfsheim has cuff buttons made of human molars.  Daisy and Pammy always wear white to show their foolishness.  George wears dirty overalls.  Myrtle changes from a cheap dress (in the Valley of Ashes) to a seductive dress (at her NY apartment).
  • Cars: George wants to buy Tom's car.  Tom uses the car as an excuse to stop by the garage and meet Myrtle; he holds the car over George's head.  Gatsby's car is a circus car: a bright yellow traveling sideshow that runs over Myrtle (symbolic of class war).





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