The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay

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F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a scathing critique of upper class privilege in The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby’s library in particular, illustrates his fundamental misunderstanding of the self-perpetuating class society in 1920s America. It is a novel about surveillance: the ruling class constantly monitors the system; Gatsby is identified as the usurping “Other” who threatens their status, and must be put back in his rightful place.
Gatsby equates appearance with reality, presenting himself as upper class is just as real as being upper class. Fitzgerald introduces the reader to the library in Chapter 3 as Nick and Jordan seek out their host; by chance, they try “an important-looking door” and find themselves in “a high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak” (51). The Gothic architecture connects Gatsby’s house with upper class European tradition, and Nick’s suggestion that it was “probably transported from some ruin overseas” indicates that Gatsby’s house is a hodgepodge of relics and facsimiles (51). Gatsby makes the same mistake of the other “new money” West Eggers: they build ostentatious new “old” mansions, rather than the more tasteful Georgian Colonials of East Egg. Gatsby mistakenly believes that having a European style house, filled with archaic relics, will be enough to erase his past.
Fitzgerald hints at the notion of surveillance in chapter 2 with the image of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watching over Nick and Tom; he now explicitly demonstrates it with the introduction of Owl Eyes. Once in the library, Nick and Jordan find “a stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles” (51); on the surface, the size of the man’s glasses suggests that he is a scholar of some sort, or at least has some knowledg...


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...n the novel because he represents the tension at work in this system: his interpretation of his father’s advice should be read as a struggle against the old system. Though he partly belongs to the old system given his family lineage, he does not occupy it in the same sense that Tom does. Nick simultaneously disapproves of Gatsby’s entire life while thinking that he’s “worth the whole damn bunch put together” (134). “Reserving judgment” is more accurately translated as allowing one’s beliefs to change as one is presented with new empirical data: by their actions, Nick sees that Tom, Daisy, and Jordan are morally bankrupt. On the other hand, though Gatsby “represented everything for which [Nick] has an unaffected scorn”, Nick concludes that he was “all right at the end” (20).



Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 1992. Print.

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