How does the social mobility Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby" relate to the social mobility of immigrants today?How does the social mobility Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby" relate to the social...

How does the social mobility Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby" relate to the social mobility of immigrants today?

How does the social mobility Jay Gatsby in "The Great Gatsby" relate to the social mobility of immigrants today?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The connection here seems rather "formal" and, for that, tenuous. If we want to suggest a parallel or similarity between Gatsby's mobility (through illegal means and extensive deceit) to the potential for mobility in contemporary America, we have to look at the two examples rather abstractly. 

In the abstract, there is no apparent ceiling for either example, for people like Gatsby or for immigrants to the US. There are challenges, obviously, to upward mobility which stem from a lack of resources to work with from the beginning. 

ms-charleston-yawp's profile pic

Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

How interesting!  I guess, to answer your question, I would absolutely have to mention at least something about the proverbial "American Dream," for that is exactly what you are speaking of, in fact, it may be the only thing that connects the two.

The American Dream:  the idea that someone poor and/or from another country can use the United States to successfully clime the social and economic ladder and continue with "the pursuit of happiness."  This is what Gatsby does, ... this is the potential that immigrants have as well.  The irony is that Gatsby never achieves happiness as a result.

I have nothing but pride for the millions of immigrants, and perhaps I should be more specific and say naturalized citizens, ... who make America even better by the pursuit of their dreams!

teachertaylor's profile pic

teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I agree that immigrants today have the potential for achieving results similar to those of Gatsby; however, the reality of this happening is a far stretch.  In The Great Gatsby, Jay became very wealthy from mostly illegal activities through his association with Meyer Wolfsheim.  Gatsby allowed an air of mystery to surround him (i.e. rarely making an appearance at his own parties) and therefore people accepted him as one of high status. 

This type of idealistic "glow" does not surround the typical immigrant experience today.  Our country is very suspicious of immigrants who enter the U.S., and most often people who prosper are those who have family and community networks of support both here and in their home countries.  "Rags-to-riches" tales like those of Gatsby are just tales, and although they might happen for some, the majority of people only do well enough to subsist.

michellesherman's profile pic

michellesherman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Social mobility for immigrants today has the potential for producing results similar to Gatsby's, but usually through different means.

Gatsby came from relatively low means, serving in the military for a time. Once he decided he desired Daisy, he set about finding a way to make himself rich. He was able to hook up with someone who had money and, upon that person's death, he inherited the fortune. Through subsequent business decisions and carefully planned spending, Gatsby was able to give the illusion that he began life more wealthy than he really was. His story was a very popular one in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

American immigrants today have the ability to gain an education just like that of anyone else in America. They can receive government aid and assistance to attend college and receive a degree that can lead to a good job. As a result, some immigrants also can achieve an outcome similar to Gatsby's -- That they began life more wealthy than they really did.

The difference, however, is that immigrants can gain their wealth through hard work and education, whereas Gatsby basically fell into his wealth by making a friend in the right place.

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