The Deaths of Minor Characters in The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath

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Throughout American literature, the deaths of certain characters often transpire as unavoidably as the termination of life in the real world. In the realm of realistic fiction from the early twentieth century, deaths begin to signify more than just the simple loss of a life. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, the deaths of seemingly minor characters not only signify the end of an era and termination of a fight, but the beginnings of a new life and the revelation of human nature to push hard times onto a third party in hopes of unachieved selfish ambition.

As truly dynamic authors, Fitzgerald and Steinbeck both use their masterpieces to portray their dissatisfactions with the current periods of American history. The Great Gatsby depicts the tale of two rather unfaithful spouses through the eyes of Nick Carraway. Jay Gatsby pursues Daisy Buchanan while Tom Buchanan, her husband, strikes a fancy towards Myrtle Wilson, who is married to George Wilson, the Buchanan’s auto repairman. Although she seems to hold a large role in the story, Myrtle is only mentioned in the beginning and during her death scene. Fitzgerald uses Myrtle’s death to show readers that the “Roaring Twenties” were wrong in morals and lifestyle, and its despicable values should terminate promptly. It also portrays his views of the end of a thriving middle class, as Myrtle is obviously not the prime citizen. Similarly, Steinbeck utilizes the death of the dog to broadcast his views that the era of prosperity has drawn quickly to a close, but the era of Depression and suffering needs to end abruptly because poor families now struggle to survive. In The Great Gatsby, the era that terminates is the era of shameless desires...

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...similarities between The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath lie within the endings of two characters with barely more than a face and a name in their stories. Although these deaths may be viewed as trivial, they spark big events and even bigger ideas such as the fall of prosperous times, but a beginning promising hope; the end of a tough struggle, yet the beginning of immoral human actions for easy self benefit.


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