Racism, Women’s Rights and American Dream Throughout The Great Gatsby

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 In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald there are many real-life issues made from the 1920s. In the time Gatsby was set, many social issues were relevant or still going on such as prohibition, racism, women’s rights, stock market and also later the great depression, throughout the novel there are examples made in the book whether it be the character themselves or their surroundings. The purpose of The Great Gatsby book is to show that the American dream is ultimately unattainable, Gatsby had a great amount of wealth in this book but his dream was to have a future with his one true love daisy but it didn't end well due to the social issues shown in the book.

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As it got closer leading up to the start of alcohol prohibition people, primarily men were consuming a lot of alcohol, women, and churches teamed up to form temperance unions to abolish alcohol because of the abuse going on at home. This is shown in the book on page 48 “I had taken two finger bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound.” At Nick’s first time going to one of Gatsby’s parties he felt lonely and felt lonely because he was surrounded by many people, he didn't know. It wasn’t until Jordan Baker had shown up (one of Nick’s lovers throughout the book) and he had “taken two finger bowls of champagne” that had made him start to enjoy himself more, and finds the party around him “something significant, elemental, and profound” The champagne is used by nick to help escape from loneliness and get into a better state of mind, even though everything around him was the same, the buzz from the champagne due to alcohol being in it changed his perception of the party that night. Because of this effect alcohol has that prohibition was made by women, Fitzgerald tries to show us this through Nick and his change in character after drinking champagne.

Another way prohibition was shown in this book was when Gatsby had an illegal alcohol business going on with Mr.Wolfsheim, after Daisy told Tom she was leaving him for Gatsby, Tom lets her know about Gatsby's illegal business so she could stay: “I found out what your 'drug-stores' were.' He turned to us and spoke rapidly. 'He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That's one of his little stunts.” Tom was letting Daisy know that the “drug stores” Gatsby owned and lied about was actually how he sold grain alcohol over the counter. Because of the ban on alcohol during the 1920s, there was a high demand for this going on at that time and many people who were bootleggers became rich and got new money due to it. Fitzgerald puts this in the book to show us the affect prohibition had on people of this time by showing a simple man like Gatsby who was in the army and then came back and started an illegal business and easily became rich and famous by taking advantage of the need many people have for alcohol.

Racism was another social issue shown at the time the book was set in. During this period of time, it was rare to find wealthy African Americans due to the racism that existed that made it difficult to find jobs for them. The quote “As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks, and a girl.” on pg.69 shows that Nick is shocked to see African Americans being driven by a white man when it should be the other way around. Nick finds the notions of them being rivals funny, probably because he feels that he is better than them since he is white and they are black, Fitzgerald adds Nick being superior towards this in the book to show even the humblest people like Nick have been through popular opinion made to believe that whites always are the dominant race. When Gatsby took Nick to lunch, he introduces him to his business partner Mr.Wolfsheim, when Nick described Mr.Wolfsheim it was in a racist way 'A small flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril.' pg.73 this quote from the book shows Nick describing him using the Jewish racial stereotypes, these racial stereotypes are offensive and shows how one person look can make another instantly feel like they know their race.

At the beginning of the 1920s the stock market was seen greatly by many people, everyone believed investing in the stock market would make them rich, even if they didn't have money to invest. On Oct 24th, 1929 the stock market crashed leaving everyone in serious debt or with no money which was then later called The Great Depression, throughout the novel Fitzgerald shows us examples by trying to mention the stock market. The pros and cons of the stock market can be shown such as the downfall in Nick’s society the valley of ashes a depressing industrial area where the rich do not show for any care and mainly the poor with very little money stay down there, the quote “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” on chapter 2 represents the smoke and ashes forming themselves into the support of society and the people with nothing live right beneath the backdrop of a city of complete wealth. Nick then talks about his move to NYC and says “everybody I knew was in the bond business” on chapter 1 because Nick has no worries about getting a job, there are many in bonds available to him, he also reveals the mass of people that would have been a part of the business.

Women were seen as homemakers in the early 20th century, women’s rights movement began in the 19th century but it wasn't until the 20th century that women got the right to vote but we still struggle with sexism around the world today. In this novel Daisy Buchanan represents women in the wrong way because she lets men control her life, she doesn’t work and she stays home and does everything her husband wants her to, she represents the population of the women that were “homemakers” at this time. ”Please, Tom! I can’t stand this anymore. Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone” pg.103 this quote was when Tom and Gatsby were arguing over Daisy’s feelings in the room but they didn't let her have a say over her life, and once the argument got heated daisy just stayed back and kept her mouth shut because she was afraid it wasn't her place to say anything even though the argument between the two was based on her. Fitzgerald’s way of showing daisy is a reflection of how the majority of men at that time treated women and how they felt towards their husband at the time, Fitzgerald was also once married and treated his wife Zelda the same way in that time, he was very controlling and abusive over her when she was then admitted to a mental hospital.

In conclusion, even though the roaring 20s is remembered mostly for parties and fun, this, however, was not how it was and this perception did not reveal the real problems lurking beneath all the parties and fun everyone remembers it by, Gatsby didn’t end up with the love of his life towards the end due to the tragic ending. Fitzgerald tries to portray throughout the book that all great parties come at a cost.  

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