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Social Commentary in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby: Social Commentary

On one level The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald comments on the careless gaiety and moral decadence of the period in which it was set. It contains innumerable references to the contemporary scene. The wild extravagance of Gatsby’s parties, the shallowness and aimlessness of the guests and the hint of Gatsby’s involvement in crime all identify the period and the American setting. But as a piece of social commentary The Great Gatsby also describes the failure of the American dream, from the point of view that American political ideals conflict with the actual social conditions that exist. For whereas American democracy is based on the idea of equality among people, the truth is that social discrimination still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome. Myrtle’s attempt to break into the group to which the Buchanans belong is doomed to fail. Taking advantage of her vivacity, her lively nature, she seeks to escape from her own class. She enters into an affair with Tom and takes on his way of living. But she only becomes vulgar and corrupt like the rich. She scorns people from her own class and loses all sense of morality. And for all her social ambition, Myrtle never succeeds in her attempt to find a place for herself in Tom’s class. When it comes to a crisis, the rich stand together against all outsiders.

Myrtle’s condition, of course, is a weaker reflection of Gatsby’s more significant struggle. While Myrtle’s desire springs from social ambition, Gatsby’s is related more to his idealism, his faith in life’s possibilities. Undoubtedly, his desire is also influenced by social considerations; Daisy, who is wealthy and beautiful, represents a way of life which is remote from Gatsby’s and therefore more attractive because it is out of reach. However, social consciousness is not a basic cause. It merely directs and increases Gatsby’s belief in life’s possibilities. Like Myrtle, Gatsby struggles to fit himself into another social group, but his attempt is more urgent because his whole faith in life is involved in it. Failure, therefore, is more terrible for him. His whole career, his confidence in himself and in life is totally shattered when he fails to win Daisy. His death when it comes is almost insignificant, for, with the collapse of his dream, Gatsby is already spiritually dead.

As social satire, The Great Gatsby is also a comment on moral decadence in modem American society.

Double Vision in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: Double Vision

F. Scott Fitzgerald once stated that the test of a first rate intelligence was the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. This intelligence he describes is characterized by the principle of “double vision.” An understanding of this is essential to the understanding of many of Fitzgerald’s novels. “Double vision” denotes two ways of seeing. It suggests the tension involved when Fitzgerald sets two things in opposition such that the reader can, on one hand, sensually experience the event about which Fitzgerald is writing, The foundation of double vision is polarity, the setting of extremes against one another, which is the result of dramatic tension.

The success of the novel depended on Fitzgerald’s ability to transfer the vision he had himself to the reader. This idea dealt with the ability to believe in the possibilities of several opposite ideas at different levels of abstract…

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