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Contrasting Values in the Great Gatsby

Uploaded by esalihm on May 31, 2006

In 1920s, after WW1, USA went under a radical change and social reform took place. The developments in industrialization caused a decay in moral values. This resulted in materialism’s obliteration of the doctrines and rules of moral duties. Thus, the society was torn apart due to the clash between old and new values. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald reflects the American society during this period and clearly portrays the contrast between traditional and corrupted values by manifesting the distinct character traits, attitudes and habits of the characters; their individual patterns of typical lives and thoughts about the others.

Old values represent the traditional life style and are based on morality and virtue. The characteristics of these values are portrayed by some characters, events and settings throughout the book. Firstly, old values give one a sense of right or wrong and an obedience to social conventions. For example, Nick, the narrator of the book who lives according to these values says that he is slow thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on his desires. Then he observes the people around him and adds that he is one of the few honest people that he has ever known (64). His ideas show that spiritual values such as self-control, honesty and human respect are significant but rare. Secondly, the old life style includes close and warm friendships that depend on respect and love. Gatsby trusts Nick and shares his secrets with him. They establish a genuine friendship. This emphasizes the importance and scarcity of sincere relationships. Furthermore, the old life style is characterized by a certain modesty in which wealth and public show of it are not the only sources of validation. This way of life is illustrated by the settings of the book. For instance, West Egg, where Nick and Gatsby live, corresponds to the traditional life style. Nick describes this place and writes: “I lived at West Egg, the-well, the less fashionable of the two. (...) My own house was an eye-sore but it was a small eye-sore and it had been overlooked”(9).We understand that this place is associated by old-fashioned stability, modesty and frugality; concepts that are meaningful according to the old moral code.

On the other hand, after WW1 as people got away from the traditional life style, their moral considerations were suspended. These changes are illustrated by the personalities, behavior and life styles...

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Uploaded by:   esalihm

Date:   05/31/2006

Category:   Great Gatsby

Length:   4 pages (814 words)

Views:   13402

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