Is the Twentieth century American novel a medium for social criticism? (discuss at least two writers). Both F.Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby and John Dos Passos's Manhattan Transfer

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Is the Twentieth century American novel a medium for social criticism? (discuss at least two writers).

Both F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby and John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer contain significant criticisms on American society but they present and explore this in different ways.  Manhattan Transfer is comprised of snapshots of life, it has three sections and in the first one we are introduced to at least twenty characters.  It does not focus on any one specific life or subject.  The Great Gatsby is a continuing story of the lives of a small group of upper class Americans and their part in society.  Not only is it interesting to consider the ways that the two writers differ in their approach to criticising society, it is interesting to examine the affects that these different styles have on the reader.  

One of the main themes that are prevalent in both stories is the criticism of society’s obsession with wealth and status.  Fitzgerald explores this theme through the unfolding of the lives of his characters and their attitudes towards each other.  We are told that Daisy refuses to marry J. Gatsby despite being in love with him, “[He] was poor and she was tired of waiting”.  Instead she marries Tom Buchanan, “A man full of pomp and circumstance” who could afford to give her “a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars” the day before her wedding.  Through getting to know Daisy we discover that this choice has led her to having “a very bad time” and being trapped in an unhappy marriage with an unfaithful husband.  Daisy says of her daughter that she hopes she is a “fool” implying that the fact that she used her head when making a decision for marriage has not given her happiness.  Despite her words at the end of the novel Daisy makes the decision to stay with Tom even after the love affair with Gatsby has been rekindled.  It is clear that Tom can offer her the status that Gatsby never can, he is an aristocrat that belongs in “fashionable East Egg”, whereas Gatsby, however much money he makes cannot escape the fact that he will always be viewed by upper class society as “Mr Nobody from Nowhere”.

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Dos Passos shows societies importance of wealth in more brief observational ways, there are instances of characters forfeiting love in order to form relationships for money and status again.  Relationships in this story appear to be more business like than for love, we see Emile who’s headed to the city in pursuit of wealth attach himself to Madame Rigaud a business owner under the guise of love.  Ellen sees marriage also as a way in which to better herself financially, her comments on marriage relay that love is not her main concern and other characters in the story comment ...

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