How is the breakdown of American morals and manners reflected in The Great Gatsby?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Michael Grawe, in Expatriate American Authors in Paris, says that Fitzgerald placed Gatsby in a "realistic background and setting" to show his "disillusionment" (69) with American morals and manners. One of the characters in The Great Gatsby represents a real individual and that individual's connection with some of the most dramatic breakdowns in American culture and government.

The character of Meyer Wolfshiem, who is depicted by Fitzgerald with animalistic symbols, is based on a real-life gambler called Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein was involved in some of the most notorious actives and events of the 1920's. He was a bootlegger (illegal alcohol), a stock market fraud, and the man who "fixed" baseball's World Series of 1919: The 1919 World Series was not legitimate.

In addition, Wolfshiem tells the true story about the gangland shooting of Rosy Rosenthal, a  gambler, who had turned police informant. This connection between Gatsby and Wolfshiem and between Wolfshiem and horrendous gangland activity helps give The Great Gatsby its realistic background and setting and speaks of Fitzgerald's commentary on the breakdown of American morals and manners.

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The Great Gatsby

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