Class Identity as a Motivational Force in the Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Social class Pages: 27 (10389 words) Published: June 6, 2013
School of Languages and Literature/English Supervisor: Claes Lindskog Examiner: Anna Greek

Level: G3 2EN50E 15hp 18 May 2011

     

 

Old Money versus New: 
Class Identity as a Motivational Force in The Great Gatsby                    Emma Johansson 
 

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Abstract The purpose of this essay is to explore the thesis that Gatsby’s dream in the novel The Great Gatsby, is to climb the class ladder and become a member of the upper class while members of that class feel threatened by the nouveau riche and tries to shut him out. Class identity is the main theme of the essay. Gatsby comes from a humble background but he decides early in his life that he wants a different life for himself and his aspirations are similar to the concept of the American dream. This essay argues that his dream undergoes a transformation when he meets Daisy and it becomes more aimed at becoming a member of the upper class, for which Daisy is a symbol. The upper class couple, Tom and Daisy, represent the old money going downhill, while Gatsby as a self-made man represents the new money that wants equal social status to that of the upper class.

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Table of contents Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 4 Gatsby’s background and the birth of a dream ....................................................................... 6 The transformation of Gatsby’s dream ....................................................................................10 Gatsby and money .................................................................................................................. 17 Tom and Daisy Buchanan ....................................................................................................... 18 Nick Carraway ........................................................................................................................ 26 Conclusion .............................................................................................................................. 29 Works cited ............................................................................................................................. 31

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Introduction The USA in the 1920’s was a society obsessed with rapid and easy acquisition of wealth, as pointed out by Dalton & MaryJean Gross in their book Understanding the Great Gatsby. People became famous for having become wealthy no matter how they had acquired their money (Gross 150). One might say that one of the messages conveyed in The Great Gatsby is that single-minded pursuit of wealth could lead to disaster, psychologically as well as materially. This turned out to be very accurate when the depression struck in 1929 which was one of the worst disasters in American history (Gross 150-152). It would be an overstatement to claim that Fitzgerald had foreseen the stock market collapse and the depression that followed, but perhaps he simply had a feeling that the obsession with easy financial success that surrounded him was a menace. The depression brought different attitudes to wealth as well as literature, and some people even thought that Fitzgerald’s depictions of the pursuit of wealth in the 1920’s were irresponsible (Gross 150,153). According to Veronica Makowsky’s article in Approaches to teaching Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald initially intended for his novel to have the title Among the Ash-heaps and Millionaires which would suggest that the author saw the issue of class as an important theme in the novel. Ash-heaps refers to the area of ashes where for instance the Wilsons live as well as other member of the working class. This area is a great contrast to that of the fashionable East Egg where the Buchanans and other members of the upper class live (Makowsky 75). Throughout the story Gatsby is in pursuit of a dream. There are many claims for what that dream represents...
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