The Great Gatsby Then And Now English Literature Essay
In the 1920s, after the end of World War I, the USA went under drastic changes where their social reconstruction process began. With the development of the industrial revolution taking place and the transformation of American society, this consequently led to people entering into an age of materialism, and the deterioration of social guidelines and moral values began. Thus, America's society was torn apart due to the clash between old and new values. Some of these old values consist of Americans seeking to realize the American dream of success, fame and wealth through thrift and hard work. However, the industrialization of 1920's began to erode the dream, replacing it with a philosophy of "get rich quick" (Warshauer). 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald reflects the American society during this period and clearly portrays the contrast between traditional and corrupted values. This is done through the manifestation of distinct character traits, attitudes and habits of the characters; their individual patterns of typical lives and thoughts about the others. On the other hand, the period of time that we currently live in now is not that different from Gatsby's time. We as a society tend to look at the past as something that we can learn from. In terms of the life lessons that one can learn from the time period of "The Great Gatsby", our society has learned absolutely nothing. From actions such as buying magnificent cars just to show it off and attempting to show to people that you are high class. To incidents such as the Tiger Woods issue, where he had a very public falling out with his wife, leading to non-stop media observation of his life with new associates popping up by the day, each oddly resembling his wife, Elin Nordegren (Linder). Also, we can see that in Gatsby's time, the freedom to express one's sexuality and promiscuity can lead to the destruction of one's life. This is similar to what people of our time do as well. In "The Great Gatsby", the car is represented as a symbol of power, money, and in Gatsby's eyes also represents being high class. On the contrary, the car is far from being high class.
Many people who are in pursuit of their own version of the American dream, are not just pursuing it reap the benefits and awards of it. But they are also doing it to show off the financial superiority they have achieved through hard work and determination. Since people are constantly judging another person's social class based on their possessions and how they present themselves, this leads to many people attempting to look upper class through their money. These individuals make sure that the objects they purchase catches the eye of others, in order to show off their wealth. Cars are to most people in today's society a necessity, but to some a luxury. In the early 1920's, the time period in which "The Great Gatsby" was set in, the car were as a luxury item to many because only wealthy people could afford it at that time. To the wealthy, cars were also one of the ways that they could measure an individual's financial capabilities asides from their house. Later on the 1920's, with the revolution of the automotive industry, companies such as the Ford Motor Company began making cars available to everyone else and not just the wealthy. The car that Ford was best known for was their famous Model T Ford. 'From 1909 to 1927, the Ford Motor Company built more than 15 million Model T cars' (ModelT). Similar to anything else that people buy, cars were a symbol of how rich a person was, what social class they are in and what their personality type is. If everyone had to option to, a majority of the people would choose to be high class, but in reality this will not happen because of the way that people portray themselves to the world. In the novel, "The Great Gatsby", cars were shown as symbols of wealth, social status, and it also showed that Gatsby was a part of the nouveau-riche. All of the above three topics are also present in our time and not just the 1920's.
In today's society, cars are known as a sign of status and a person's status can be represented by their wealth. When people have too much money they tend to spend it on extravagant products such as gigantic houses and fancy cars, as shown in 'The Great Gatsby'. In the novel, Gatsby had a large, expensive, flashy car that scattered light everywhere, which he was very proud of. Gatsby's car was described as, 'a rich cream colour, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns,' (Fitzgerald). Unlike many of the cars in the roaring 20's, which had a standard black colour, Gatsby's car had a custom yellow colour. Through his car, one can see that Gatsby is a very materialistic person, not only that but it also shows that he enjoys showing off his wealth which makes him part of the nouveau-riche. We know that Gatsby was not born and raised in a high class society but instead had to earn off his money through hard work. Gatsby attempts to join the upper class but since he was not born in an upper class family, his interpretation of those that are high class was slightly flawed. His pride in materialistic objects such as his expensive car are not the actions that the upper class would carry out, but Gatsby's view of the upper class is that all you need is money and you can be upper class. However, for someone who is a part of the nouveau-riche, buying spectacular things is not enough. Gatsby has to be noticed in order to let others aware that he is rich as well, which is the reason for his lack of taste in the items he buys. In the novel, this illustrates the difference between those of the taste of the nouveau-riche and those are have always been a part of the upper class society.
In our current time, Gatsby's actions are very similar to that of P. Diddy. P. Diddy says in an interview that, "I'm the one driving around in the Rolls Royce with his hat turned, goin' down Fifth Avenue with the system booming in the back. Walkin' into Gucci, shutting down the store, buying everything at the mutherfuckin' same time, driving up to Harlem and givin' out $100 bills to homeless people" (Eshun). He is implying that his life is very similar to that of Gatsby's, he grew up in a poor family and worked to gain all of the success he currently has. Much like Gatsby, Diddy is not afraid to show off his wealth and in fact is proud of it. According to Fortune's list of the 40 richest Americans under 40, P. Diddy was ranked 22nd. The only difference between the two would be that while Gatsby found it ultimately impossible to escape his humble origins, Diddy has no such concerns. Far from hiding his roots he does the opposite, insisting upon, and even exaggerating, his connection to the streets of New York in order to offer himself as a brand name for black urban culture (Eshun). So although, he has no shame in his past, Diddy is still not considered a part of the upper class society because he lacks the manners and buys items that those of upper class will never buy. P. Diddy is the definition of the term nouveau-riche in the our time as was Gatsby in the 1920's.
In today's society, the definition of nouveau-riche is people who have become considerably wealthy in their own lifetime and their wealth was not carried down from previous generations. There are thousands of people in the world today who have joined this group of the new rich, the nouveau-riche. The new rich and the upper class spend their wealth on completely different things. The new rich think that they can just purchase numerous materialistic products and suddenly they are upper-class. In "The Great Gatsby," Gatsby believes by purchasing materialistic products he will become upper-class. It is also mentioned how luxurious Gatsby's car is, and the yellow colouring of his car symbolizes the money that he has. Even in our time and age, the difference between the vehicles that the nouveau-riche drive and the vehicles that the upper class drive is clearly visible. Companies such as Ford have many manufacturing plants all over the US and the roads are filled with cars that have come off their production line. These cars are usually the ones that the new rich buy, but in order to stand out even more, these cars are usually very flashy and catch a lot of attention. Those of the middle class, and those that are wealthy who have enough money to spend on luxuries tend to spend it on customizing their vehicles to attract more attention to them. For example, a rapper that goes by the name of Xzhibit, has a show on MTV called 'Pimp My Ride.' On this show, "Xzhibit gleefully oversees the crew at West Cost Customs as they customize cash-strapped young drivers' junky cars" (People). Other rappers and famous celebrities also take their expensive cars and customize them by adding things such as spinning rims, uniquely coloured paint jobs and extravagant interior designs. This is very similar to what Gatsby did to his car in order to try and show it off. On the other hand, there are still car manufacturers that have stuck to traditional methods of production. Companies such as Lamborghini, Bentley and Rolls Royce still make their cars by hand, in order to specifically meet the demands of their customers. In comparison to the 1920's, these high class type of automobiles is the equivalent to the horse, which was a symbol of class.
Also, one can tell that Gatsby is part of the nouveau-riche because of where he chose to buy his enormous house, in West Egg. In this house, Gatsby throws huge parties where he invites all of the other nouveau-riche people thinking that they are upper class. Through these parties, Gatsby thinks that he is upper class because he is able to show off his magnificent house, but in reality those of upper class do not behave in such ways. P. Diddy also shares similar assets with Gatsby. Some of these assets include a house on Park Avenue, a mansion in the Hamptons and designated summer and winter Bentleys. He also has a fondness for ankle-length white fur coats, diamond jewellery and Cristal champagne (Eshun). From this description of Diddy's assets, and his fondness for fine champagne, you can tell that he also enjoys throwing huge parties where he invites other celebrities to show off. Diddy is known for throwing his annual Independence Day White Party, which is one of the most talked about parties of the year among those of the nouveau-riche in our time. With all this wealth, comes the opportunity for many scandals to occur in one's life.
In this time and age, there are many still problems surrounding modern relationships as there were in the 1920's. Our society is based on diverse relationships including business relationships and human relationships which is determined by who we are as a person. Many people wish to find happiness through love and marriage, and others believe in the philosophy that love comes naturally and one does not have to seek it. Other believe that everybody has a soul mate and this will lead to love at first sight. These are all the flaws of modern day relationships, because there is no right way to enter into a relationship. As people growing up in a society dictated by the media, we tend to not see a person's true intentions, their lies, and dishonesty until we have evidence to support it. People constantly put up a facade to hide who they truly are, and while they conceal their true self, their actions lead to other's being hurt. These people are existent in both human relationships and commercial relationships, and both of these can be seen in "The Great Gatsby" and through Tiger Woods. In "The Great Gatsby," we know we know that Nick and Jordan’s relationship is predestined to be a failure. Nick and Jordan's expectations for one another are completely different, and Jordan has also been known to cheat, in life and in sports. Jordan likes men who are unintelligent because she enjoys being in control of a relationship, and Nick is fully aware of this. therefore this supports the fact why their relationship will not work. In the case of Tiger Woods, one can see that what was once the symbol of a family man and class on and off the golf course, is now a tainted image of a man who has been unfaithful to this wife. The media has made his violent encounter with his wife, Elin Nordegren, very public and many rumours begin to stir around the controversy. Day after day, Tiger Wood's mistresses continue to come out stating that they have had an affair with him, leading to his fall from grace (Judd).
In the 1920's, women had a fewer rights than men, and women that were successful in life such as Jordan, were becoming more and more independent. Jordan was the exact opposite of what women were suppose to be like in that time period. She was in control of her relationships because men were attracted to her and she could use that to her advantage. By being the one in control, it proved that Jordan had a lot of freedom in her life. Freedom to date any guy that she wanted because of her looks and freedom to cheat on someone whenever she chooses to. However, these freedoms will lead to her destruction, for the reason that Jordan wants to be in a relationship with a man that is careful so that they can take care of her (Fitzgerald). However, Nick is the exact opposite of this because he too also gets into multiple relationships at the same time. Nick already had a girlfriend at that point but he wanted to be honest to her so he had to break up with his girlfriend in order to start a new relationship. A man that finds it very easy to break up with somebody is not careful. The only reason that Nick wanted to start a relationship with Jordan is because he was physically attracted to her. From other relationships, we know that a physical attraction will not last and eventually someone will get their heart broken, in this case it will be Jordan.
Jordan needs a careful man in her life because from the novel, we can see that Jordan is very careless when it comes to driving and she is careless when it comes to relationships. In "The Great Gatsby", there are many reasons that support why Jordan and Nick should not be in a relationship. Some of these reasons would be that Jordan lied about a car she wrecked by leaving it exposed to the rain, cheating in a tournament and leading a life of deception, "in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body" (Fitzgerald). Jordan is a dishonest person that cares only about herself. However, Nick feels that “dishonesty in a woman is something you never blame deeply” (Fitzgerald). This means that Nick has grown up living a life where he expects dishonesty from women and he does not trust women anymore, which is also one of the reasons why he does not want to marry. The lifestyle in which Jordan leaves is very similar to that of fellow golfer, Tiger Woods.
Tiger Woods is a man that is used to being surrounded by bundles of wealth and power such as his expensive car whose back window was broken by his wife wielding a golf club in the driveway of his magnificent home. He was once looked upon by everyone as a family man, a man of upper class is now known as the man who cheated on his wife with many other women. Similar to Jordan, Tiger Woods is also dishonest even after cheating on his wife, he continues to avoid having to take any responsibility for his actions. Instead he chooses to give false and misleading statements regarding the situation. In this current stage of his life, Tiger Wood is constantly surrounded by disloyalty and betrayal. This played a large part in causing pain to many others and destroying his image which was tied so closely with the upper class game of class. As people that grew up without huge sums of money at our disposal, we question why such athletes who have multi-million dollar contracts and endorsement deals would throw that all away just to have affairs with other women. This occurrence of sports leading to a destroyed marriage and public criticism can also be tied back to "The Great Gatsby." In the novel, the character of Tom Buchanan is very similar to that of Tiger Woods. Tom enters into a commercial relationship with Myrtle where he too uses her for sex, and in return she gets access to Tom's money. The reason for this commercial relationship was due to the fact that Tom was bored with his relationship with Daisy. So as a man of power, class, and wealth he knew that he could have an open sexual relationship with anyone he wanted to without getting caught. Much like Tiger Woods, Tom's vast amount power and wealth led to his ultimate downfall. This also brings up the question of whether if sports are truly 'clean' or not.
In 1919, one of the biggest sports scandals in history occurred when Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series. To sum up the events, "Rothstein arranged to pay White Sox players $80,000 on the condition that they lose. They did, and Rothstein made a significant sum betting against Chicago" (American Jewish Historical Society). Even though the events of this scandal and the ones in Tiger Wood's scandal are completely different they both represent the same thing. The sports industry is tainted because the athletes only care for their own well being and not that of the sport itself. Tiger Woods tainted the image of professional golf by letting himself get caught up in infidelity, and the image of professional baseball was ruined for the reason that players were willing to lose games for bribes. It is important that those in the sports industry do not put their own selfish needs ahead of the sport. For the reason that many look up to the sports world as their inspiration. What negative effect will this have if the sports world continues to degrade due to scandals such as the fixing of the World Series or the Tiger Woods scandal. Not only do sports scandals effect the moral fabric of society but having too much freedom to express one's sexuality and promiscuity will effect it as well.
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