An exploration of themes used to portray an image of society in The Great Gatsby

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An exploration of themes used to portray an image of society in ‘The Great Gatsby’.


‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald is set in the 1920’s, an era commonly referred to as ‘The Golden Twenties’. During this period, there was a high influx of immigrants, all in search of the so-called ‘American Dream’. The novel is mainly set in a wealthy and successful area of the US, where the inhabitants prospered from the economic boom and lives a hedonistic lifestyle. However, a negative aspect of society is revealed as the author establishes a divide in society, the other side of society is shown too; the lower social classes who did not benefit from the economic boom and who seem to live a dull, hopeless life. The author presents a distorted image of society at this time through various themes.

Social classes:


- In the 1920’s, society indulged in conspicuous consumption, which was the public display of material possessions in order to maintain a high social status amongst the community.

- This aspect of society is evident in the novel: many of the inhabitants of both East and West Egg are victims of materialism, “the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”.

- The divide between those who prospered from the economic boom and those who are not well-off, “a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden”, “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens”, shows that the American Dream doesn’t apply to everyone.

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- Tom Buchanan represents ‘old wealth’, “even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach”.

- George represents the low classes of society, “a blond, spiritless man, anaemic”.

- The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg that brood over The Valley of Ashes are symbolic of society, the ‘blind’ eyes represent the fact that no one was looking out for the less fortunate.

- The habitants of East and West Egg are hedonistic: they represent the upper classes of society and live greedy lifestyles. They are driven by an empty pursuit of pleasure, “like moths ...

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