Conformity and Rebellion in The Great GatsbyI am interested in gathering opinions on the themes of conformity and rebellion in The Great Gatsby.   How does Fitzgerald portray conformity and...

Conformity and Rebellion in The Great Gatsby

I am interested in gathering opinions on the themes of conformity and rebellion in The Great Gatsby.


How does Fitzgerald portray conformity and rebellion? Through characterisation? Word structure? Setting?

Why is this relevant and what is Fitzgerald trying to say through his portrayal of these themes?


Thank you!

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a satire of the nouveau riche of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's novel's setting for this new wealthy class mimics that of the established upper class:  There is West Egg that comes after the established East Egg, Gatsby's house, too, and parties mimic those of the upper class as they are expansive and luxurious with bountiful food and guests.  That they are but a shallow imitation of the parties of the wealthy is apparent when the guests at Gatsby's parties do not even know each other, but are often dressed alike and laugh at the same things.

In his effort to reclaim Daisy, Gatsby seeks to impress her with his mansion and his many colored shirts, his lawn and his car, all of which conform, he thinks, to what a wealthy man should possess.  Gatsby does, however, display some nobility of character and rebellion from the superficiality of the nouveau riche and the wealthy as he seeks to protect Daisy and waits outside her window after the tragic death of Myrtle Wilson.  For this reason, Nick Carraway tells Gatsby "You're better than the whole bunch."  

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Daisy is clearly an example of conformity.  She never really intends to leave Tom for Gatsby.  That kind of thing just wouldn't be done in her social strata.  The old wealth married for social stratification and kept those alliances at all costs.  As much as Gatsby tries to conform to this understanding of how the weathy live, but can't truly be something he isn't.  Gatsby can't conform in any real sense because new money is always different from old money.  That is why Daisy won't be with him for the long term.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nick attempts to "be himself" and to stand off from what he sees as empty social striving in the world he inhabits. He doesn't manage to completely rebel or maintain his individuality for the duration of the story, but Nick does come back in the end to the view that "being himself" is good enough, even if that means he is not extremely wealthy, not a man of culture, and not part of the glamour of the world he chooses to leave behind.

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The Great Gatsby

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