In the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald glamorises the figure of the gangster in 1920s America. With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel, and relevant external contextual material on gangsters in America in the 1920s, give your response to the above view.
The Great Gatsby is a novel in which Fitzgerald repeatedly and unapologetically glamorises gangsters and their lifestyle, especially with regards to how he portrays their vast wealth. In examining this claim a good place to start would be clarifying what a gangster is: “a member of an organised criminal gang.” This definition fits many characters in the novel, most of all Gatsby, who is the most focussed upon and glamorised of all.
To glamorise something is to, “make something seem glamorous or desirable, especially spuriously so.” Surely Gatsby’s lifestyle is the epitome of this. He is the embodiment of success and the American Dream, complete with mansion, wealth and extravagant cars. Nick describes his house as, Fitzgerald makes clear that the source of Gatsby’s affluence is the shady, “business,” he is involved in. In this way Fitzgerald suggests that being involved with gangsters is a legitimate method of accumulating wealth, and therefore glamorises the figure of the gangster in 1920s America.
To Fitzgerald’s readers this would have been nothing new. In the 1920s gangsters were almost regarded as celebrities, and they had lifestyles to match. In the public eye gangsters such as ‘Lucky’ Luciano had it all: money, fame, clothes and women. In the book The Gangster in American Culture, David Ruth wrote, “the latest styles marketed the gangster as an avid consumer who invested the time and expense necessary to stay on the leading edge of fashion.” This captures Gatsby perfectly. Fitzgerald, through the character of Gatsby, sends out the message to his readers that organised crime is little more than a get-rich-quick scheme, and this could be interpreted as an attempt to glamorise the gangsters of the 1920s.