Classism in The Great Gatsby and A Streetcar Named Desire

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Classism has a heavy influence on characters in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Both Tom Buchanan and Blanche Dubois show disrespect towards others due to their dominating classist views. Tom primarily displays his dislike of Jay Gatsby, due to Gatsby’s standing as a member of the “Nouveau Riche,” or newly rich, in great contrast to Tom’s “Old Money”. Blanche directs her distaste at Stanley Kowalski, because Blanche believes that she and her sister are of high standing in society, and Blanche does not approve of Stella marrying into a lower class. Tom and Blanche both strongly believe in the existence of a social hierarchy, and disapprove of any deviations in this system.
The Buchanans are an affluent American family, and have been for many generations. Tom Buchanan is classified as having “Old Money,” because he receives his immense wealth through inheritance, as opposed to earning it himself like the Nouveau Riche had through business or investment. In the 1920s, it was very common for people like Tom to look down on members of the Nouveau Riche, such as Jay Gatsby, and to see them as an entirely different class despite the congruency of their wealth. Tom clearly displays his contempt when he assumes Gatsby to be a criminal, asking Nick, “Who is this Gatsby anyhow?…Some big bootlegger?…A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know” (Fitzgerald 114-115). Despite Tom’s suspicion being later confirmed, it is an extremely prejudiced assumption, based solely on the fact that Gatsby is Nouveau Riche. Tom also comments on Gatsby’s appearance, as the Nouveau Riche are known to be ostentatious (Dictionary.com). When told that Gatsby is an “Oxford man,” Tom e...

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...ds Jay Gatsby, because Gatsby is a member of the flashy Nouveau Riche while Tom is descended from refined Old Money. Blanche discriminates against Stanley Kowalski, because she feels that his foreign background and his standing in the working class strongly oppose her family’s sophisticated ancestry. Tom and Blanche are disrespectful towards people who differ very little from themselves, simply because they believe that one is born into a class, and nothing they do can bring them above or below this class. They believe in American Classism, an ideal that exists even today, and will continue to exist for many decades to come.

Works Cited

Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 21 Apr. 2014.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1926. Toronto: Penguin Group, 2013. Print.
Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. 1947. Toronto: Penguin Group, n.d. Print.

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