The Great Gatsby and Capitalism

Essay by yaniv34High School, 12th gradeA+, April 2004

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The novel The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, attempts to show the power of the wealthy elite and the misery of the poor working class. It uses elements of setting, characterization, and mood to reveal capitalist domination at its worst.

Fitzgerald set the book in two very distinct locations. The valley of ashes is where the working class lives. It's the location of the industrial city, filled with factories and thick, black smoke. All its descriptions are grim, calling it a place "where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens." The only images we get are those of darkness; "grey cars" and "powdery air." On the other hand, a glimpse into the homes of the wealthy elite on West and East Egg will show you extravagant mansions, beautiful gardens, and clean air. This stark contrast to the valley of ashes is Fitzgerald's way of showing the true evil of capitalist domination.

Only the rich can indulge in parties and drive around in fancy cars, while the poor are stuck in factories and at gas stations performing long hours of manual labor. The only sign of hope to resist such structures of capitalism is T.J. Eckleberg, the eyes that watch over the valley of ashes. These God-like eyes watch over the land, showing that even though the working class may not have the same comforts that the elite enjoy, they will always have the comfort of God.

The novel also uses a sharp contrast of characterization to show the oppression of capitalism. A particularly obvious example of this is the difference between George Wilson and Tom Buchanan. Both men are in a struggle for the same woman, and the novel shows us that money always has the power to win out in the end.