Social Class Privilege in The Great Gatsby
In the 1920s, socioeconomic status determined the worth of the people of America like it had in no other previous decade . The lives of those belonging to a higher class were seen as more important than lower class individuals , and class was determined largely by not only how much money one possessed, but also by how long they possessed it . In the novel The Great Gatsby, the reader gets a look into the lives of the different social classes and the hardships they endured due to how they are perceived by their peers. The author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, uses Tom Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, and George Wilson to show the value placed on social class in the 1920s society, and in turn how those of high status treat those deemed to be beneath them.
One of the biggest differences presented between the social classes in the novel is where the people live. Tom Buchanan, the richest most high class man of his time, resides in the East egg. This is where the majority of high class society lives. Jay Gatsby lives in the West egg. The West egg is where all the phonies stay. Their houses are compared to castles and they use their houses to try and prove that they are of high status when, in reality, they will never be East egg material. Gatsby's house on the West Egg is typical "of nouveau rich Americans who made their fortunes during the booming years of the United States stock market and lived like Gilded Age robber barons. Gatsby, who acquired his wealth through organized crime, is part of this new element of society. As such, he can never participate in the arrogant, inherited "old wealth" of Tom and Daisy" (Tunc). The houses that are conserved in the West Egg are exclusively used to show off the amount of money whoever lives there has. As for the East Egg, the residents have money and the whole city, as well as themselves, know it. Therefore, they do not need to prove anything to anyone. The homes are still immense, but are simple.
In another part of town, there is a place completely submerged in ash and dust, appropriately named The Valley of Ashes . The Valley of Ashes is a dreary and barren area of land that stands to be a metaphor for the lower class. The plane is dirty, grey, and bland, which is how the upper class individuals view those lower than them. George Wilson, the exemplary character of the lower class for the novel, owns a small garage in The Valley of Ashes:
The interior [of the garage] was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner. It had occurred to me that this shadow of a garage must be blind, and that sumptuous and romantic apartments were concealed overhead, when the proprietor himself appeared in the door of an office, wiping his hands on a piece of waste. He was a blond, spiritless man, anaemic, and faintly handsome. (Fitzgerald 25)
The rest of the city looks down upon those who live in the Valley of Ashes.
Jay Gatsby changes many aspects of himself to match his newly found money. Tom Buchanan sees right through all of them. They take part in many spats, numerous being about the way Gatsby speaks. Gatsby talks as if he's on top of the world, which annoys Tom in part because he believes that he is. Jay Gatsby calls everyone old sport, " speaking in a staged British accent" (Tunc), a catchphrase of sorts for him. Tom finds this habit to be very annoying and demeaning because he is misrepresenting Tom's old money superiority. In a confrontation about how one of Tom's friends also engaged in illegal dealings, Gatsby tells Tom,
"‘He came to us dead broke. He was very glad to pick up some money, old sport.'
‘Don't you call me old sport!' cried Tom. Gatsby said nothing" (Fitzgerald 134). Gatsby changes the way he speaks, recreating himself to play the part of an old money, high class individual.
Another argument