Society and Class in The Great Gatsby
The Roaring Twenties, or the Jazz Age, was a period characterized by post-war euphoria, prosperity, profligacy, and cultural dynamism. There were significant changes in lifestyle and culture in the 1920s; many found opportunities to rise to affluence, which resulted in groups of newly rich people, such as the hero of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby. Set in this booming era, the novel portrays the lavish and reckless lifestyle of the wealthy and elite. With the aristocratic upper class in the East Egg and the nouveau riche in the West Egg, people are divided into distinct social classes. Contrasting the two groups’ conflicting values, Fitzgerald reveals the ugliness and moral decay beneath the glamorous façade of the rich to criticize the hollowness of the American upper class.
On the surface, the quality of East Egg society seems much superior to that of the West Egg society. East Eggers are regarded as elegant, polite, well-bred, and fashionable people with well-groomed houses such as the “white palaces glittering along the water”(5) and the Buchanan’s “cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion”(6). On the other hand, the people of the “less fashionable”(5) West Egg are characterized as flamboyant, gaudy, and lacking social refinement and taste. Gatsby, for example, wears a pink suit, drives a Rolls-Royce, and lives in a gaudily ostentatious mansion. He also does not pick up on subtle social signals, such as when the lady with Sloane and Tom invites him for supper out of courtesy, even when it was largely insincere. East Egger’s look down on such West Egg class and don’t approve of them, as seen through Jordan’s “contemptuous” remark, “You live in West Egg”(11) when introduced to Nick, and Tom saying that he’d “be a God damned fool to live anywhere else” than East Egg. However, when looking into the East Eggers’ actions closer, their qualities are revealed superficial and empty, and their superiority...
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