In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby's world is corrupt but ultimately glamorous. How do you respond to this view?
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I believe this is a true assessment of the two worlds Gatsby created for himself. As an "associate" of Meyer Wolfsheim, he has built his fortune through criminal activities. We can infer from several passages in the novel that Gatsby has engaged in bootlegging, as well as the theft of bearer bonds. This last piece of information about his criminal actions is found in the novel's conclusion, after Gatsby's death, when Nick takes a long distance call from a Mr. Slagle, one of Gatsby's mysterious friends. Gatsby and Wolfsheim's criminal activities are serious enough that Wolfsheim wants no public connection to Gatsby after his death. He writes to Nick that he "cannot get mixed up in this thing now." He does not attend the funeral. Finally, in his association with Wolfsheim, Gatsby had chosen to do business with a genuine gangster who was personally involved with the kind of men who shot each other to death on the public streets.
Gatsby's corrupt world is largely hidden, overlaid by a social veneer of wealth, glamour and beauty. His mansion, lawns, beach, motor cars, speed boats, clothing, and expensive household furnishings work together to create the illusion of social standing. Gatsby's parties, played out like theater productions, are memorable for their excess. However, ith his money, Gatsby creates a world for himself that is really quite beautiful, as Nick remembered well:
There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.
Gatsby lived in both worlds, using the financial proceeds from one to create the other.
Previous post was dead on accurate. I think that it is a fair characterization to describe Gatsby's world as glamorous and still corrupt. This is the age that gave the world Al Capone and the Bootlegger Gangsters. They were as corrupt as corrupt could be, but still there was a revelry in their glamor. Part of this was because the 1920's was one of the first major periods in American History where the emergence of the celebrity became an embedded part of American culture. This catapulted the Oscar Wilde quotation of "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" to exponential proportions. Glamour went hand in glove with celebrity, and corruption in all forms- moral, ethical, political, and economic- made for great copy and great celebrity. Gatsby's world represents this with Jordan, Tom, and Daisy who are glamorous in their East Egg society, but morally and spiritually corrupt and bankrupt.
If you are writing an essay on this topic, you can use the excellent examples provided to you by the previous posts and also incorporate modern versions of a glamorous but corrupt society. All one has to do is to look at our political or entertainment realms. Many Americans read through magazines, watch reality shows, or sit in movie theaters dreaming of what it would be like to be a celebrity who goes to glamorous parties, possesses the latest fashions, and lives with an excess of wealth. But, as we know, many celebrities go through relationships and marriages like a woman with purses :) and often end up on the wrong side of the law. In fact most Americans are shocked when they discover that a celebrity has managed to remain married to the same person for more than a decade.
Likewise, our political scene in America represents the same shady business and social relationships that Gatsby's world includes.
It is most unfortunate that Gatsby's dream had become so corrupted by society that he does not even realize that the glamour and wealth will ultimately mean nothing to him and that by associating with corrupt individuals, barely anyone even shows up to his funeral which is the antithesis of Gatsby's lavish parties.
The glamorous, but corrupt world of Gatsby is what constitutes the satire of Fitzgerald's novel. For, the American Dream is not a dream of hope, but rather an illusionary dream woven from crime, money, and materialism. And, like all dreams, it disintegrates.
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