Social Status in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In The Great Gatsby’ social status is an extremely significant element as it distinguishes geographical locations in the novel but more importantly, portrays the mentalities of people belonging to different social class’ which affects the events that occur and moulds many of the characters.

The characters in the novel are distinguished by their wealth and where they live or work and are separated by the different settings within the novel.  East Egg reflects high class society where the inhabitants are inherently wealthy, referred to as “old money”. The inhabitants are Ivy League educated and they feel contempt towards the “new money”, this is, West Egg. The people of West Egg are wealthy but have only become rich recently. The inhabitants live here mostly because they cannot afford to live in East Egg, namely Jay Gatsby and Nick. The Valley of Ashes is inhabited by people who are poorer, and can be seen as the victims of the rich.

The way wealth affects the social status is illustrated by Jay Gatsby. He does not come from a wealthy background but is self-taught in business and becomes wealthy, and is therefore able to mingle with people of higher class. Although he cannot fit into East Egg his object of affection Daisy will not even attend his parties, he is still accepted in a level of society who never would have accepted him in his poorer days.

Gatsby thinks he can impress Daisy with his house and collection of clothes and Daisy does become impressed with this which shows that even though she would deem herself as upper class, she loves wealth, be it old or new.

Social status and wealth, which we can establish go hand in hand, also mould characters and their happiness with their situations. For example, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the Valley of Ashes hates her life at the gas station and idolises the city life where she sees money and glamour. She allows this dream of what she thinks will make her happy to affect her identity, demonstrated by her mimicking what she has read in Town Tattle through the decoration of her apartment.

It shows a sad view on how social status affects the characters as her husband George has devoted his whole life working trying to make her happy but is unable to do so and looses everything for her.

Although The Great Gatsby’ can be seen as an intriguing love story that ends in tragedy is a novel that explores 1920’s America from a political angle. Fitzgerald reflects social status through geographical locations in America and distinguishes them by their traits, lifestyles and mentalities.


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