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Keeley Sinclair

The value of a literary text can be seen in how effectively it is able to


reflect the society in which is it constructed.
Many examples of literature are able to successfully reflect the society in which they were constructed,
conveying their value. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a forefront of American literature that
employs a variety of literary techniques to reflect and comment on the society of the 'Roaring 20s'. The Great
Gatsby is a literary work set in New York in 1922 and narrated by the character Nick Carraway. The novel
follows lives and relationships of the narrator, Jay Gatsby, Daisy and Tom Buchanan and Myrtle and George
Wilson. F. Scott Fitzgerald employed a variety of techniques and conventions within the novel to effectively
convey the nature of society in the 1920s. Fitzgerald commented on the social environment of women, the
economy and wealth as well as the decline of the American Dream during this time period through the
characterisation of Daisy Buchanan, the setting of East and West Egg and the Valley of Ashes in addition to
the symbolic meaning of the text.
The characterisation of Daisy functions as a commentary and reflection of the environment and nature of
women during the 1920s. Daisy Buchanan is married to Tom and is Nick's distant cousin who lives across
the bay from her former love, Jay Gatsby in the much more fashionable East Egg. Daisy's marriage to Tom
has made her extremely rich. Fitzgerald appears to portray Daisy as a character whose wealth and excess
has lead to her lose of morals and lack of responsibility and altruism. Daisy is removed from the American
Christian morals of honesty and family. This can be directly seen by her actions after the accident which led
to the death of Myrtle in the Valley of Ashes under the watch of the eyes of Dr. T. J Eckleburg. Daisy firstly
did not even stop to render assistance after striking a pedestrian as a person of wealthy background she
viewed he life as holding more importance than someone from the Valley of Ashes. Daisy was then prepared
to allow someone who was in love with her, Gatsby, take the blame, "The death car. as the newspapers
called it, didnt stop; it came out of the gathering darkness, wavered tragically for a moment, and then
disappeared around the next bend. Daisy is in love with money, ease, and material luxury. She is capable of
affection (she seems genuinely fond of Nick and occasionally seems to love Gatsby sincerely), but not of
sustained loyalty or care. She is indifferent even to her own infant daughter, never discussing her and treating
her as an afterthought when she is introduced in Chapter 7. Also when her child Pammy is born she expects
nothing more from her than to become a "beautiful little fool". This conveys that the social society for women
in the 'Roaring 20s' did not value their intellect or talents but to flourish they required beauty. American is
supposed to be represented as a place of hope, however, Daisy is overly accepting of her daughter merely
being a beautiful fool. She expects her daughter to conform to expectations of beauty that society has
upheld, and, therefore, expects her to accept the superficiality of freedom and the limitations that her
daughter's future will hold because she is female. In addition to this, Daisy does not spend the duration of the
novel caring for her daughter but spends it participating in leisure activities, for example, attending parties
and maintaining a secret affair with Gatsby, "What could you make of that, except to suspect some intensity
in his conception of the affair that couldnt be measured?". Therefore, through the characterisation of Daisy it
is evident that women are the product of a social environment, only being valued for their beauty and lacking
morality.
Through the setting of Valley of Ashes and East and West Egg, the author, Fitzgerald, explores the economic
context of the novel and wealth during the 1920s. The 20s was the Jazz Age in which the music style of Jazz
was born, fast cars were idolised, illegal alcohol flourished and, very importantly, stock portfolios expanding

and men were lucky enough to make a fortune on Wall Street from buying and selling stocks. The economy
was on a rapid rise, with the stock market continuing to increase until the onset of The Great Depression,
causing the acquisition of wealth by many. The setting of East and West Egg are important locations within
the text they represent that divide between the eastern and western regions of the United States as well as
the separation of wealth in the economy, "Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in
contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the
Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. East Egg, situated on the fashionable
side of "Long Island Sound", represents those of old money, people rich due to their inheritance and the
wealth of their ancestors, where the characters of Daisy and Tom resided. West Egg, the "less fashionable of
the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between
them", represents those of new money, those who recently acquired wealth from the roaring economy of the
'Roaring 20s' and wish to be considered in the same league as those who are established visions of wealth.
The character's of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby live in West Egg and are neighbours. Jay Gatsby
embodies the newly rich by rejecting the narrative of a Midwest farmer background and Jay Gatz. Gatsby
was able recreate his own being, with his mansion representing the emptiness and grandness of the 1920s.
However, Gatsby lacks the family title and distinction of someone like Tom. When Tom derides him with the
idea that Daisy could never be with someone like him, Gatsby fails to realise that despite his money, he is still
an outsider. The West is the frontier of people making their fortunes, but these "Westerners" are as hollow
and corrupt inside as those from the East, whose quest for money is nothing more than a empty ambition.
Tom and Daisy both have affairs, Jordan Baker is a cheat, Daisy kills a woman and lets Gatsby take the
blame, and many of the East Eggers who come to Gatsby's parties bring their mistresses and act like
heathens while they are there. The Valley of Ashes, a place which depicts the consequences of the selfabsorption of the rich. While East and West Egg are setting within the text that represent those with wealth,
the Valley of Ashes conveys the dismal ruin of those without. Nick says: "They were careless people, Tom
and Daisy they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast
carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had
made. . ." One of the results of this representative carelessness is the Valley of Ashes. Fitzgerald conveys
the horror of a care-free life, how Tom and Daisy's inability to care is in some ways more monstrous than
outright cruelty. The rich have made their money on industry and carelessly tossed the waste, resulting in this
grey, poverty-stricken stretch of land. The people and the place matter not at all to those who selfishly left
their waste for others to live in and deal with, another consequence of booming economy, according to
Fitzgerald. The only people that survive the novel are the idle rich: Jordan Baker, Daisy and Tom Buchanan
and Nick Carraway. They survive and are allowed to go on being careless. Though the boom of economy,
whether it be during the 1920s or today, is perceived as positive because it brings an abundance to wealth to
the society, this boom was responsible for the grandness, emptiness and deceit of the Jazz Age.
The Great Gatsby depicts the corruption and decline of the American Dream during the 1920s through the
symbolic meaning it possesses. The American Dream had become a race to obtain as much wealth possible
rather than a lack of aristocracy and the equality of opportunity and freedom during the 1920s. With
aristocracy, and the wealth that accompanied it, you had more opportunity, and with wealth, whether it be
through inheritance or self-made, more freedom. Aristocracy of the decade is represented most strongly in
the novel by the characters of Daisy and Tom Buchanan as they are wealthy due to inheritance while Jay
Gatsby chases freedom from his poor past and, more importantly, a life with Daisy and his happiness through
acquiring wealth by illegal, dishonest means, for example, bootlegging during the Prohibition (when the sale
of alcohol was illegal). The American society had become consumed by wealth, and the belief that superficial
items such as luxurious cars and extravagant experiences such as alcohol-fuelled parties will bring
happiness and satisfaction. In reality, this disillusion that of the American Dream being characterised by
wealth leads to the eventual corruption of the character's within the novel and the sub sequential decline of
the American Dream. F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn't aware of the impending Great Depression of the American
society, however, his novel, featuring the decline of the American Dream in the 'Roaring 20s', acts as a

prediction to this. The first party Nick attends at Gatsby's mansion contains a drunk driving scene that
symbolises the corruption enveloping the American society. Soon after entering his car, a man gets into an
accident and keeps trying to drive the car even though it is missing a wheel, "In a ditch beside the road, right
side up, but violently shorn of one wheel, rested a new coupe which had left Gatsby's drive not two minutes
before". It was evident, that to Fitzgerald, that had become the American Dream by the 1920s; everyone
wanted enough money to purchase fancy cars and a supply of alcohol to crash them. In addition to this,
Fitzgerald further conveys the reality of the American Dream and the corruption of wealth through his use of
symbolic colour. All the wealth that Gatsby has achieved and all the parties he throws, are about one thing;
winning back the "green light", which is symbolic of Daisy and Gatsby's hope of restoring a relationship with
her. Gatsby wants to reach across the bay and get to that "enchanted object" situated on the end of Daisy's
dock, and if he can, he might have girl - and the life - that has driven his wild ambitions but also his corruption
through wealth. Also when Daisy and Gatsby reunite, and Gatsby has obtained a mansion of his own,
everything is yellow; his tie, the buttons on Daisy's dress and Nick even describes some flowers as smelling
of pale gold, "the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate". Like how the green light is an enchanted object,
gold and yellow are enchanted colours in The Great Gatsby. Yellow is not only the colour of wealth but also
of death, for example, the eyes of Dr. T. J Eckleburg, which stare over so much death in so many ways, are
ringed in yellow glasses and Gatsby's car, responsible for Myrtle's death, is yellow. Fitzgerald is using the
symbolic meaning of gold to decouple the ideas of wealth and greatness, and instead he's associating
richness with corruption, amorality and death. In the 'Roaring 20s', and today, wealth is seen as profoundly
good and F. Scott Fitzgerald reflected the American Dream of the 1920s to be wealth. However, the foul dust
that trailed in the wake of those dreams - the casual destruction, the recurrent violence and decline of
altruism - make it clear that wealth isn't simply good but a source of corruption and hollowness within the
novel.
F. Scott Fitzgerald has constructed The Great Gatsby to live in a cold world that cares nothing for justice, a
world that makes claim to fairness but really only further rewards those who have been rewarded.