Explore the way Social Class can affect how the main characters are judged in Atonement and The Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Social class Pages: 8 (2094 words) Published: April 28, 2015
Jia Chadha Candidate Number: 8256 Explore how the theme of Social Class is presented in Atonement and the Great Gatsby?

1920’s America was very much a materialistic society revolving around money, wealth and status. This obsession with wealth is portrayed in the majority of relationships in Fitzgerald’s novel ‘The Great Gatsby’. Not only does the idea of money being the most important factor in life means one’s partner comes second, it additionally solidifies one’s class, meaning families are separated just by the amount of money they have to their names. Atonement comes from an "at onement", the idea being that penance and suffering allows us to be "at one" with God or ourselves. One of the central themes of atonement is that of social mobility. This is manifested through the characters and their actions. In the book "Atonement" by Ian McEwan, the act carried out by Briony sets of a chain of events, for which either atonement is sought or society seeks atonement from. Fitzgerald illustrates the theme of social mobility with the relationship of Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson, Tom, powerfully built and hailing from a socially solid old family yet associating with Myrtle, whose lifeless husband George owns a run-down garage in the valley of ashes which portrays failure through the use of the phrase “grey land”, the adjective “grey” representing death and lifelessnes, it doesn’t have the same life and vigor that other colors in the novel bring about, like green and yellow. In that sense, this is where Myrtle dies, Gatsby's dream dies, Nick's hope for something good dies etc. McEwan reinforces this theme in the relationship between Robbie Turner and Cecilia Tallis, Robbie a gardener and Cecilia the daughter of the ministry-employed and wealthy Jack Tallis are also partitioned by class. Briony and Cecilia’s mother is the dividing barrier between the two and portrays the split between the classes that the two characters belong to she is angry over “the nerve of the girl [Cecilia]” and the fact that she refers to Cecilia as a “girl” shows how she believes her to be immature still, that she doesn’t know what’s best for her. Emily Tallis is the representation that social class comes above everything else, it decides how a person’s life will go and who they can interact with, she feels that the “nerve” of Cecilia’s actions are outrageous. However Robbie and Cecilia’s relationship does not go well because of their problems with their separate classes. which shows that Cecilia is challenging her mother, Christopher Priest1 claims that “Memory or truth or social assumptions can be challenged” this suggests that the relationships in both novels are doubtlessly doomed due to the impenetrable barriers of class and wealth. An obsession with materialism reflects the hollowness of the people of 1920s America. Gatsby reinforces this object-orientated focus when he cries ‘she only married you because I was poor and she was tired waiting for me’, obviously highlighting that the only reason Daisy was to marry was for money, not the fact she loved thus illuminating that their love was materialistic, depending on social wealth and money. Fitzgerald uses wealth imagery to describe Daisy ‘Her voice is full of money’, symbolising the need for money as a support for her own personality. Kevin Rea writes ‘the sense of hope conveyed by yellow is still present in the light and music. But the fact ‘the earth lurches away from the sun’ hints at the transient powers wealth bestows’’ 2 which again illuminates the theme of money being so important, yet underneath it only leads to disaster, failure and death. This image greatly contrasts greatly with the suggestion of what Daisy could be like The flower, the daisy, has white petals around the outer edge with a yellow centre; yellow is frequently used as a way of representing corruption and demise, while white is linked with the...

Bibliography: 1. Priest, Christopher - http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/christopherpriest/mcewrev.htm
2. Maureen Honey – Feminism in the 1920’s http://journals.ku.edu/index.php/amerstud/article/download/.../2869
3. D 'Ann Campbell - Women in Combat: The World War II Experience in the United States, Great Britain,Germany, and the Soviet Union. - http://americanhistoryprojects.com/downloads/ww2/combat.pdf
4. “hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages during Prohibition.” - http://theroaringtwentieshistory.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/prohibition-and-speakeasies.html
5. Rea, Kevin. "The colour of meaning in The Great Gatsby." The English Review. (April 2000)
6. Finney, Brian. “Briony’s Stand Against Oblivion: The Making of Fiction in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.” (2004)
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