In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald’s characters present attitudes and values which allow readers to sympathise with their situations. With reference to appropriate episodes and external info about attitudes and values for 20th and 21st century readers, give your response.
This statement suggests that readers (both nowadays and in the 1920s) would be able to sympathise with the attitudes and values of Fitzgerald’s characters. It is possible to agree with this statement because there are several characters whom the readers can identify with throughout, but others may disagree, claiming the values are too archaic for the 21st century reader. In examining the attitudes and values presented, a good place to start is attitudes to money.
Readers from any generation will be able to sympathise with Gatsby and his obsessive drive for wealth. Gatsby idolises the rich, as Nick records: “the yacht represented all the beauty and glamour in the world.” This rampant materialism causes him to believe that money is the single most important factor in achieving his dreams. Without money there is, “indiscernible barbed wire,” between him and his ambitions. In many ways this mirrors our current 21st century culture, where the rich continue to get richer while the poor are left behind. Gatsby’s attitudes and values surrounding money allow readers to sympathise with his situation.
The attitudes towards money from readers in the 20th and 21st centuries are similar. In the 1920s society had just come out of the economic hardships of war and people had disposable income for the first time in over a decade. Many Americans had extra money to spend, and they spent it on consumer goods such as ready-to-wear clothes and home appliances like electric refrigerators. The advertising industry boomed and enticed people to spend even more money, encouraging a culture of materialism. This culture has prevailed to this day. Modern readers are also coming out of economic hardship, although it was caused by recession and not war. Britain spends £20 billion a year on the advertising industry alone. Therefore readers are able to sympathise with the economic plight of the characters in The Great Gatsby, especially characters like George who are not affluent and struggle to make a living in a hyper-capitalist society.