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The Great Gatsby: Social Structure and the American Dream


The 1925’s Great Gatsby by Scott is among the most well-known and extensively taught and read novels in the US literature. Great Gatsby is approached with fresh eyes and read it thoroughly, paying special attention to the literary style of Fitzgerald. His story paints a vivid picture and provides insight to wealth disparity in the 1920s and, by extension, in the modern era, where the American Dream is rather restricted to the lucky few and out of reach for many people. When the audience truly read The Great Gatsby, they grasp and appreciate the narrator’s dimension for America while also appreciating its global scope and relevance. It is a major work of American literature as well as a work of international literature.

Scott’s work is the tale of a man of modest means who pursues his goals only to discover that they shatter in front of him once he achieves them. Young Jay had always wished to be in upper class; he desired not just fortune, but also the way affluents lived. He left home early in life and met Dan Cody, a wealthy seaman who trained him much of what he would later do to create the illusion of riches. Gatsby met an upper-class girl called Daisy while in the army, and the two fell madly in love. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby remarks about Daisy, to which Nick Carraway, the narrator, replies, “That was it. I had no idea. It was full of money—that was its endless jingle, attraction, cymbal song” (Fitzgerald, 120). Daisy had become weary waiting for him upon his return from the battlefield and married a guy called Buchanan. Gatsby now has two converging goals: love and riches. Symbols throughout the novel, like the green light at the end of Daisy’s pier, the difference between the East and West Eggs, and the deaths of Gatsby and Wilson, all contribute to the revelation of a bigger theme. Gatsby develops the belief that riches can provide everything – love, prestige as well as the past; yet, what Gatsby fails to recognize is that wealth can only provide so much, and it is this fatal error that results in the demise of his hopes.

It is against this backdrop that this paper explores the concept of dreams coincide with Gatsby Jay, Great Gatsby’s main character, regarding the social structure and progression of American in the 1920s.

Social Structure and Progression of American In 1920s

In Fitzgerald’s work, there exists a succession of themes including treachery, money and greed, greed, justice, power, as well as the American dream. Perhaps none of the issues is more explored than that of social stratification i.e., limited mobility between social strata. The Gatsby novel is widely recognized as an outstanding work of social critique that provides a realistic depiction of 1920s American society (Mostafa, 2016). Besides, through the medium of his work, the author is exploring 1920’s America and the society surrounding such a revolutionary period. Gatsby focuses into such issues as societal divides, morals, and the evident superiority complex felt by upper class members in society. He meticulously categorizes his narrative into various groups, hitherto each group eventually faces its own set of troubles, serving as a stark reminder of how unstable the world truly is. He provides solid messages on the elitism that pervades the stratum of communities by establishing various socio-economic groups – old money, new money, and no money. In addition, he also gives insight into the thoughts of many people that embody and portray every subgroup of social structure (p. 5) all the while maintaining focused on the greater picture: the American society as a whole.

Moreover, the Great Gatsby novel reflect the transforming American society and the values and norms in America during the 1920s while featuring characters from diverse socioeconomic classes. In Critical Theory Today (Mostafa, 2016), explains the differences in socioeconomic classes by dividing individuals into the “have-nots” and “haves.” Marxists believe that inequalities in socioeconomic class significantly separate individuals more than variations in race, religion, gender or ethnic origin. For, to put it simply, the actual battle lines are formed between the “have-nots and “haves”. The American Dream that it is built on ambition is constantly present throughout The Great Gatsby, with various people vying for more than they currently have. Licato (2018), define the American Dream, “In the dazzling light and warm embrace of the American Dream, all men are born equal and free.” Everyone who believes in American Dream have the right and often obligated to endeavor for success and do their best to attain the top. Since everyone is born equal and free, they all have an equal chance at success in life. On the other hand, the authors see that view of the American Dream as incoherent. The authors assert that such equality does not exist, either in status or opportunity, and that an individual’s possibilities are highly reliant on familial history.

The American Dream is presented through the eyes of a dreamer who strives to rise from poverty to wealth and power while acquiring love, fortune, social position, and power. Corruption is portrayed as deceptive or dishonest behavior by those in authority, often through bribery. This is especially true in the western world, where corruption plays a role in society’s demise. Corruption in society contributes to our gloomy view of the nation. Fitzgerald’s portrayal of America in The Great Gatsby is unfavorable, with his portrayal demonstrating that when man is just obsessed with his own achievement, corruption results and it influences the society adversely. Fitzgerald’s image of America society in his work, the Great Gatsby, is that a dream may be ruined by an obsession with luxury and expensive items. The tale begins with a wealthy but isolated guy who desired nothing more than to be acknowledged. He satisfies his urge by organizing impromptu parties for an infinite number of people, despite the fact that he has no genuine pals. Gatsby has an eye for wealth and continues to acquire expensive products and host lavish parties for a large number of people just to satisfy his drive to get something larger (Licato, 2018), He is so dazzled by his illustrious position that he fails to recognize that money cannot purchase everything. Gatsby’s fantasy “is a naive fantasy founded on the false idea that worldly items equate to harmony, pleasure, and beauty” (Fitzgerald, 70). His American ideal has been tainted by the money and the culture that surrounds him. For instance, when Nick volunteered to invite Daisy over, he did it as a gesture of goodwill for Gatsby. He, on the other hand, has no idea how to receive a pleasant gesture without exchanging money. Gatsby, overjoyed, quickly offers to have someone mow Nick’s lawn, as well as an underhanded bus service. As a result, the author endorses the idea that an individual’s relentless quest of achievement results in their corruption and, ultimately, a more corrupt society (Fai, 2021).

Methodological Analysis

Social Structure Analysis

Fitzgerald’s first and apparent target group is, of course, the wealthy. Nevertheless, for Fitzgerald (and undoubtedly his characters), grouping the rich together would result into a grave error. Many persons of modest living perceive the wealthy to appear united by their wealth. Fitzgerald, nevertheless, demonstrates that this isn’t the situation. He represents two separate categories of rich people in Great Gatsby. To begin, there are those born into wealth, e.g., Jordan and Buchanan’s. Their families have had wealth for several generations, which is why they are referred to as “old money.” As depicted in the book, the “old money” individuals are not required to work, and instead spend their time doing whatever arouses their interests. Tom, Daisy, Jordan, and separate social class they represent are possibly the most elitist group in the novel, putting distinctions on other wealthy people (such as Gatsby) depending not on not only how much money a person has, but also on where it was derived from and when it was gained. For those who consider themselves to be “old money,” the notion that Gatsby (and many other individuals in the 1920s) only recently obtained their wealth is reason enough to despise him. According to their logic, he cannot possibly possess the same sophistication, taste, and sensibility, as they do. Not only does he labor for a living, but he also hails from a low-class background, which they believe precludes him from being like them.

The “new money” individuals can’t be like them, which works to their advantage in many ways – individuals at the top of society are not really lovely people. They are judgmental and shallow, failing to see the individuals around them for who they truly are. Rather, they conduct their life to sustain their sense of superiority – however implausible that may be. However, those who have recently obtained riches are not always much better off. Consider the guests at Gatsby’s parties. They attend his parties, consume his booze, and eat his cuisine without ever meeting their host. As Fitzgerald establishes, their primary interests are living for the moment, with an emphasis on partying. Additionally, the West Egg as purported in the novel represents individuals with “new money,” whereas Gatsby exemplifies the principles of those on the cusp of high society but not quite there. Notwithstanding his wealth, Jay is unable to join Daisy and Tom in the upper class, a separation that persists throughout his life. (p. 8) Gatsby exemplifies those who aspire to the same degree of privilege as those over the water at East Egg. This is a critical issue to underline while studying Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. While Gatsby has wealth, he is not socially conditioned in the same way that people born into it are. He accumulates money via his quest of Daisy and just never loses his sense of hope, wonder, compassion, whereas Daisy has already grown indifferent to the most, if not all, of these emotions. Gatsby clings to a past with Daisy and fails to admit that they have evolved into distinct individuals and that their lives have taken divergent paths, as indicated by their respective locales being split.

Just as he did with wealthy persons, Fitzgerald exploits the impoverished to send a powerful message. Although Nick hails from a wealthy family, he lacks Tom’s or Gatsby’s capital. In the end, he demonstrates that he is a principled and honorable guy, which is more than Tom demonstrates. Myrtle, on the other hand, is a different story. She is, at best, a member of the middle class. She, like so many others, is stuck in the valley of flames and spends her days attempting to escape (Nurjanah & Titis Setyabudi, 2021). Indeed, her determination to climb the social ladder leads her to her romance with Tom, which she is ecstatic about. Due to the unhappiness that pervades her life, Myrtle disregarded her moral commitments and has no qualms about cheating on her spouse if it means she may live the lifestyle she desires, if only for a few whiles. Unfortunately, she is unaware that Tom and his companions would never welcome her into their group. (Note how Tom has a history of sleeping with lower-class women. For him, their impotence accentuates his own superiority. In an odd manner, being with females who strive to his class improves his self-esteem and helps him to maintain the idea that he is a nice and important guy. To Tom and those he represents, Myrtle is nothing more than a toy.

Besides, Fitzgerald has an acute eye and paints a bleak image of the world he observes in The Great Gatsby. The 1920s were a period of rapid postwar economic boom, and Fitzgerald accurately conveys the society’s frenzy. Even though Fitzgerald could not have predicted the 1929 stock market crisis, the world he depicts in The Great Gatsby seemed to be heading towards calamity. They have adopted warped worldviews, falsely thinking that stratification and enforcing social borders are necessary for survival. They place their confidence in erroneous external methods (such money and materialism), while failing to nurture the sensitivity and compassion that distinguish animals from humans. According to Marxist ideology, socioeconomic class is a significant role in separating individuals. Fitzgerald demonstrates this through Tom’s unequal relationship with his lover Myrtle Wilson, a working-class lady. Tom is the dominant figure in their secret affair since he pays for an apartment in the city and spends money on Myrtle. Tom’s superiority is demonstrated when he has an argument with Myrtle about Daisy, which results in his fracturing Myrtle’s nose (p. 40). Myrtle’s urban life is dependent entirely on Tom and his wealth, including the apartment and other amenities. Without Tom, she would forfeit everything. This results in an uneven connection between them, placing Myrtle in a stance of inferiority. In addition, Batta & Baghwar (2018), asserts that the “hidden society” triumphs over the romantic delusion (Fitzgerald, 55). This might imply that social standing takes precedence over romance. Fitzgerald’s death of Gatsby, Tom’s mistress Myrtle, and her spouse Wilson may be interpreted as a critique of the impact of socioeconomic class and rank on society. By letting Daisy and Tom, as representatives of the upper-class society, to continue living their lives despite their complicity in Gatsby’s death, Fitzgerald reveals a profoundly unequal society.

Nurjanah & Titis Setyabudi (2021), asserts in Universality of Class Divisions that Nick Carraway is the novel’s lone character with a middle-class upbringing. He is neither of Daisy or Tom’s higher or Myrtle’s working classes. As a result of his history, he has sufficient understanding of both worlds to see Myrtle and Daisy clearly. He becomes a source of clarity due to his capacity to see through both realities (63). Nick’s capacity to see through upper-class thinking is demonstrated in his final meeting with Baker at the novel’s conclusion. They review the preceding events, and he concludes: “I’m thirty,” I stated, “and I’m five years too old to be lying to myself and calling it honor.” (Fitzgerald, 166). Nick does not make excuses for what has occurred. Due to his distinct upbringing from Daisy, Tom, and Jordan, he views and values things in a different way. Despite them, Nick is aware of the situation’s dishonesty and shallowness, which are masked as social class.

American Dream Analysis

Barbour asserts that while The Great Gatsby is about the American Dream, that in itself is insufficient to describe it, as there are really two distinct American Dreams — both of which are present in The Great Gatsby. There exist the Franklinian Dream, which conforms to a self-validating materialism in which the main objective is money acquisition (Åkesson, 2018). Tom is, according to the author, the embodiment of the Franklinian Dream. The second American Dream is the Emersonian Dream, which is equally economically dependent. The distinction is that riches is not the primary goal of the dream but rather a means to an end: attaining the dream’s ultimate purpose. Gatsby’s fantasy might be compared to an Emersonian Dream, since his money provides him with the possibility to win back Daisy. Jay Gatsby spends his money on grandiose parties in order to pique Daisy’s attention. Notwithstanding prohibition, the festivities are amazing, complete with bands and bars stocked with gins, whiskey, and cordials (Fitzgerald 43). Gatsby’s parties demonstrate that his money is only a weapon in his quest to reclaim Daisy.

Also, we witness individuals of many ethnicities and nationalities running toward New York Place, a city of infinite possibilities, early in the story. This era has all of the hallmarks of the American Dream: economic opportunity, religious and racial diversity, and a carefree attitude. At the moment, it appears as though “everything” is possible, even a happy ending. Nonetheless, this optimistic attitude is finally shattered by the novel’s terrible events. And at this moment, Nick’s contempt for the individuals in the other automobiles perpetuates America’s racial hierarchy, undermining the American Dream. There is also some competitiveness between Gatsby’s automobile and the one displaying the “modish Negroes,” a “haughty rivalry.”( Fitzgerald, 65). Nick “laughs openly” at this point, implying that he finds it humorous because the occupants in the other car regard them as equals, if not as rivals to be defeated. In other words, he appears to be a true believer in the racial hierarchy defended by Tom in chapter one, even if it is not explicitly stated.

Scott Fitzgerald’s American ambition was to become a prosperous, socially recognized writer and to marry Zelda Sayre. In compared to Gatsby, Fitzgerald was successful in achieving the social recognition he craved. In 2021, if we were to characterize the American dream as it exists now, we would use terms such as “self-motivated.” and “materialistic” By contrast, Jay belonged to Fitzgerald’s age of the American Dream, not the 2021 American Dream. Jay Gatsby attained the American dream holistically throughout the 1920s, but he fell short of realizing his own. Gatsby embodied the summer of 1922’s elegance and sparkle and sparkle. Everyone desired the American dream that they believed he possessed. Nick Carraway even compared Gatsby’s mansion to a “Hotel de Ville in Normandy,” emphasizing Mr. Gatsby’s affluence (Fitzgerald 5).


Many readers view Fitzgerald’s story via rose-colored glasses, wishing to mimic Gatsby’s dazzling lives and parties. Fitzgerald’s objective, nevertheless, was not for readers to emulate the people of West or East Egg. Rather he wished to warn his readers against falling for “all that glitters,” recognizing that it is not gold but hollow vanity. Even though this work is set in the 1920s and contains several references to that era, it is still relevant today as people evaluate their desire for achievement and the costs associated with that accomplishment. Scott Fitzgerald’s works are preoccupied with the issue of class (Batta & Baghwar, 2018). The Great Gatsby depicts the upper class, or “moneyed class,” with the middle and working class. He demonstrates the equilibrium between the various social strata in his perspective of 1920s America. Fitzgerald’s personal experiences as a member of both the high and middle classes, as well as the middle and working classes, very certainly influenced his work. The story depicts the experience of not belonging to a certain social class, as both Gatsby and Myrtle Wilson attempt to fit in when they do not, according to the social norms of the time.

According to Fitzgerald, the American Dream exists, and as Gatsby demonstrates, it is possible to start with absolutely nothing and end up with nearly everything. However, the story emphasizes the significance of social status and the difficulty of ignoring a person’s social background. Despite his vast fortune, Gatsby does not have the same standing as the Buchanan and is not seen as an equal in their eyes. It is clear that background plays a role in determining social status just as much as money does, or at least it did in the society of the 20s American social elite. In Buchanan, Fitzgerald depicts an upper-class guy who utilizes his inherited family wealth to obtain anything he desires, including women. Since a representation of the whole upper class, Tom embodies all that is wrong with a divided society, as he is willing to sacrifice others for his selfish ends. Tom’s hubris may be explained by the fact that he had spent his whole life feeling he is superior to other people as a result of his wealthy ancestry (Nurjanah & Titis Setyabudi, 2021). Therefore, Fitzgerald demonstrates the importance and depth of social class and rank in society, since there are more aspects involved than what we may deduce from a certain lifestyle. As seen in The Great Gatsby, regardless of how hard an individual tries to fabricate a new life or history, social class stratification is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.


Åkesson, J. (2018). The Failed American Dream? Representation of the American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

Batta, A., & Baghwar, M. American Dream and American Society: A Study of F. Scott. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.

Durlauf, S. N., Kourtellos, A., & Tan, C. M. (2021). The Great Gatsby Curve.

Fai, S. F. Y. (2021). Ambivalence, Nostalgia, and the Injustice of the American Dream in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. South Central Review38(2), 70-77.

Fitzgerald, F. S. (2012). The Great Gatsby. Amersham: Transatlantic Press.

Gordon, D. (2021). The Great Gatsby Boom and Bust–the never-ending nightmare that is the American Dream.

Jiajia, Y. An analysis of Gatsby’s American Dream in the Great Gatsby from the perspective of Lukacs. Academic Journal of Humanities & Social Sciences4(9), 131-135.

Licato, A. M. (2018). ” Out from Behind This Mask”: Persona in African American Poetry, 1830-1930. Stanford University.

Mostafa, T. (2016). A Marxist reading of Fitzgerald’s Novel: The Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and Damned (Doctoral dissertation, BRAC University).

Nurjanah, S., & Titis Setyabudi, S. S. (2021). The Criminality Reflected in The Great Gatsby Novel: A Sociological Approach (Doctoral dissertation, Universitas Muhammadiyah Surakarta).


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