Examine the significance of exploitation in The Great Gatsby.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of what makes Fitzgerald's work so powerful in dissecting American consciousness of the Jazz Age is that it does so in a manner to show exploitation as the base of all societal and personal interactions.  Fitzgerald constructs characters that are immersed in a setting of exploitation, where they are used as means to an end as opposed to an end in their own right.  For example, Tom exploits anyone over whom he holds power. Tom's theories on race suggest that he is fine with one race exploiting another. On a personal level, Tom does not have any problems exploiting anyone in order to get what he wants.   His treatment of Myrtle and George represents this.  Jordan exploits anyone who can give her an advantage or something in return. Exploiting the game of golf to substantiate her own ego and then exploiting men to get what she desires are representative of this.   Daisy is exploitative, as well, exploiting Gatsby until there are challenges at which point she runs back to Tom.  Gatsby, himself, is an example of exploitation, allowing himself to be exploited by his own dream.  Gatsby becomes the perfect example of how when individuals allow their dreams to control them, they end up becoming exploited by their own hopes and aspirations.  The parties Gatsby throws is representative of this.  Gatsby believes that he has the upper hand of control, but the reality is that he is exploited by so many who are simply looking for a good party.  When that party is over, there will be another one and with that the progression of exploitation will continue.  In this, one sees how exploitation is both a part of the characterization in the novel, but also intrinsic to the time period of Fitzgerald's "Jazz Age."

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The Great Gatsby

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