Free Great Gatsby Essays: Criticism of American Society

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The Great Gatsby as Criticism of American Society


In the novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald is criticizing American society of the 1920s. He uses the characters to demonstrate the power than men had over women during these times, as well as their mindless, self-indulgent actions, where consequence was only an afterthought. The attitude towards and the role of women is shown throughout the novel. Fitzgerald also shows how many people in America during this time were delusional and had meaningless existences.


Fitzgerald has used Tom in The Great Gatsby, to demonstrate the power that men had during the 1920s. In order to understand Tom's purpose in the book, it must be known that he has been purposely set up as a character the reader does not like. Fitzgerald has done this, as he does not like men whose lives mirror Tom's. Tom is a violent man, who is completely in control of the women in his life. He shows how disrespectful some men were to women. For example, he breaks his mistress Myrtle's nose.


Making a short, deft movement, Tom Buchanan

broke her nose with his open hand


Another example showing the disrespect for women is the fact that Tom is cheating on Daisy quite openly. She knows that he is having an affair, but there is nothing that she can do about it. Fitzgerald comments on this power and disrespect that men had for women because he disagrees with it himself. He believes that men should not do these terrible things. Tom never once expresses his guilt for his actions, and never considers Daisy's feelings. His life is full of selfish actions which lead him nowhere.


Fitzgerald comments on the changing role and attitudes of women of the 1920s in America. He shows this through the characters Daisy and Jordan. Daisy and Jordan both drink, smoke and drive, and associate freely with men. Daisy's flirtatiousness is an example of this, along with her drunken state in the first chapter when she says 'I'm p-paralysed with happiness'. Daisy also shows the attitude Fitzgerald felt was common in this society, when talking about her daughter.


'I'm glad it's a girl. I hope she'll be a fool -that's the

best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.'


This demonstrates that during the 1920s, women were not regarded as equals, and had little chance of making something of their lives. The best they could hope for was to find a rich husband and settle down. It represents the purposeless existence that women had in society. Jordan shows the carelessness of people in the society of time. This is demonstrated in a conversation between her and Nick, when Nick questions her carelessness.


'Suppose you meet someone just as careless as yourself?'

'I hope I never will'


Jordan and other characters in the novel make stupid and often serious mistakes, yet never have to face the consequences for these actions. Fitzgerald demonstrates this as he believes that everyone should face up to their wrong doings.


Fitzgerald has used Gatsby in the novel, to demonstrate that many people had a worthless existence in the 1920s. They had returned form the war, and now either had no beliefs or dreams, or ones which were so unrealistic they would never become true. Gatsby belonged to the latter group, and never did see that his dream couldn't become true. He was living in the past, and he wanted to repeat it.


'Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously.

'Why of course you can!'


Gatsby also shows the false glamour that many people lived in. Although he had many people come to his parties, he had no friends when it came to his death. He also only lived as a rich man, as he believed that Daisy would not be with him if he were not wealthy - he was from a poor family, and she was from a rich one. Realistically, people's dreams do not always work out as they want them to


Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic

Future that year by year recedes before us ...


In The Great Gatsby, the green light represents the dreams of everybody - in order for our dreams to become real, we need our dreams to be realistic. This did not occur in the 1920s, and Fitzgerald's main criticism is that the people of the society of time were delusional and had a meaningless existence.


Fitzgerald criticizes the American society of the 1920s in his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby. He questions such issues as the power of men over women through one of the male characters - Tom. He also scrutinises people's self-indulgent actions which cause great pain for those around them, whilst they never consider the consequences of these actions. Through the characters Daisy and Jordan, Fitzgerald shows how women were thought of, and their changing attitudes and roles. He also comments on the purposeless existences that many people lived, when they should have been fulfilling their potential. Fitzgerald seems to have believed that the society of the time in America lacked all important factors to make it worthwhile.

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