What is the relation of So Big to American literature such as The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath?

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So Big was born of the same cultural milieu as The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath: that is, the interwar period for the United States (the 1920s and 1930s). All three of these texts comment on the divide between the rich and the poor, while both So...

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So Big was born of the same cultural milieu as The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath: that is, the interwar period for the United States (the 1920s and 1930s). All three of these texts comment on the divide between the rich and the poor, while both So Big and The Great Gatsby describe the emptiness of a life dedicated to wealth alone. In this way, all three are commenting on the American dream itself, the idea that if one works hard, success is inevitable, no matter one's previous station in life.

Selina, the novel's protagonist, is a woman who strives to see beauty in her life wherever she may be, whether that is in the luxurious part of her early life or among the working-class Dutch community where she becomes a wife and mother. Worldly success, as represented in her investor son Dirk, is presented as empty, nothing more than an illusion. Much like Gatsby before his death in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, Dirk ends the novel alone and in realization of just how hollow making it "big" in American culture is.

The interwar period was a time of shifting values in the United States. Women were increasingly working outside the home and, by 1920, had gained the vote. The US became a less rural country, with many moving into the cities. All of this is reflected in So Big, with the outspoken, courageous Selina taking on male-dominated work (such as selling her own produce) to support herself and her infant son, and the class divide between poor farmers and the social elite drawn firmly. In these ways and more, So Big captures the zeitgeist of the 1920s, just as The Great Gatsby did, and just as The Grapes of Wrath would for the Great Depression.

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