Hollowness Of The Upper Class Essays

What Social Problems Are Exposed In The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in the 1920's, a period of American History known as the "Roaring Twenties". The Great Gatsby is the story of the extravagant lifestyle of the rich and famous of New York in this time of peace and prosperity. The story is told by Nick Carraway, a young bonds salesman who has just moved to the wealthy but unfashionable area known as the "West Egg". However, behind the lavish displays of wealth and spectacular gatherings, the author exposes many social and human problems facing the inhabitants of Long Island. His use of: realistic writing, first person narrative, symbolism all help to convey his message to the reader.

The main topic or problem raised by the author in the novel is the hollowness of the upper class. The Great Gatsby focuses around the lifestyle of the self-made millionaires living in the West Egg as compared to the old aristocracy of the countries richest families living in the East Egg.

"Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water"

The residents of the West Egg are portrayed as tasteless, wasteful, extravagant and socially ill mannered. The residents of the East Egg are seen to be elegant, graceful and the opposite to their West Egg neighbours. For example, the Buchanan's own an elegant mansion on the East Egg while Gatsby resides in his giant gothic mansion.

"The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard - it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than 40 acres of lawn and garden"

This extract clearly emphasizes the enormity of Gatsby's mansion, and the fact that it would never be socially accepted if it were built on the East Egg. Gatsby built the house for one reason, to attract the attention of his old flame, Daisy Buchanan. Daisy is the cousin of Nick, the novel's narrator. Gatsby has been in love with Daisy ever since their short-lived love affair during the war. Daisy on the other hand, married an extremely wealthy man by the name of Tom Buchanan because of his money. Daisy and Tom are so used to being wealthy that they never worry about hurting others.

"Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand"

This quote refers to the scene where Tom Buchanan breaks his mistress' nose just because she is yelling at him. This shows he has no regard for anybody but himself. The hollowness of both Tom and Daisy is exemplified...

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In The Great Gatsby, the "hollowness of the upper class" can be seen in the attitudes and behaviors of individual characters.

"Get some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep."

"I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep after them all the time."

In the above quote, Myrtle's reply to Tom Buchanan...

In The Great Gatsby, the "hollowness of the upper class" can be seen in the attitudes and behaviors of individual characters.

"Get some more ice and mineral water, Myrtle, before everybody goes to sleep."

"I told that boy about the ice." Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. "These people! You have to keep after them all the time."

In the above quote, Myrtle's reply to Tom Buchanan highlights her condescending attitude toward people of "the lower orders." Myrtle is the kind of woman who can't see past outward appearances; she is preoccupied with status and wealth.

In the quote, Myrtle tries to distinguish herself from the "lower orders" in order to reinforce her supposedly privileged position as Tom Buchanan's mistress. Tom, after all, is a very powerful and wealthy man. Myrtle's words exemplify the "hollowness" of her worldview; she's willing to commit adultery in order to attach herself to wealth and privilege. She's also quite willing to entertain an attitude of disdain toward those who fail to meet her expectations. Myrtle's attitude is indicative of that held by the "hollow" upper-class community she insists on being a part of.

For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes.

She wanted her life shaped now, immediately and the decision must be made by some force of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality that was close at hand. That force took shape in the middle of spring with the arrival of Tom Buchanan. There was a wholesome bulkiness about his person and his position, and Daisy was flattered. Doubtless there was a certain struggle and a certain relief. The letter reached Gatsby while he was still at Oxford.

In the above quotes, we discover the real reasons Daisy married Tom Buchanan: she chose Tom (and not Gatsby) because of "unquestionable practicality." In the text, we are told that Daisy gets cold feet the day before the wedding. Tom has purportedly given her a string of pearls worth three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and all she wants to do is return them. Daisy's infatuation with Gatsby continues to haunt her, but her upbringing demands a practical decision from her. In the end, Daisy marries Tom.

Daisy and Myrtle are two women who base their actions on a "hollow" life philosophy. Both are attracted to Tom because of their primal and practical instincts; the need to transcend irrelevance is so strong that authenticity must be eclipsed by cold practicality. Their actions highlight the superficiality of the upper-class worldview, where status and outward appearances take precedence over truth.

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