Fitzgerald presents the negative influence of class on romantic relationships in ‘The Great Gatsby.’ Discuss this opinion and consider how Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’ illuminates your understanding of the core text. In ‘The Great Gatsby’ love and relationships are the main themes, with Fitzgerald emphasising the differences in class between Gatsby and Daisy and how their different backgrounds strains their relationship until it is destroyed. Critics such as Michelle McLean agree that ‘the characters face problems that stem from money and their place in society. Daisy is not free to love Gatsby, even once he gains money, because of his social status.’ Charlotte Brontë also presents how differences in social class have a negative influence on relationships in ‘Jane Eyre,’ yet unlike Fitzgerald’s the novel has a happy ending where love transcends class differences. Fitzgerald presents different social classes through his characters and their attitude towards money. Tom and Daisy Buchanan are a part of the respected upper class and are an example of the 1920’s Lost Generation whose lavish lifestyles epitomise the hedonism of the Jazz Age. The East Egg is a symbol of people like Tom and Daisy who come from old, wealthy families who have inherited their money. However, it is obvious that their marriage is artificial and both are unhappily married.
Their baby is a symbol of how superficial their marriage is; their child is briefly mentioned in conversation ‘You ought to see the baby,’ and soon forgotten about. Fitzgerald leaves the baby unnamed to make it seem impersonal and not real which mirrors Tom and Daisy’s marriage. The reader suspects that Daisy does not truly love Tom as Fitzgerald uses Jordan Baker’s dialogue with Nick to describe Daisy being ‘as drunk as a monkey’ and having doubts the night before their wedding: ‘Tell ‘em all Daisy’s change’ her mine.’ Another factor to suggest that their marriage is negatively affected by social class is Tom’s affair with Myrtle. Fitzgerald uses Myrtle to represent the poorer social class who dream of being wealthy with her ‘several old copies of Town Tattle’ symbolising her desperation to be a part of the upper class. Myrtle’s opinion of her husband has been destroyed by the negative effects of class as she considers him ‘socially beneath’ her and ‘not fit to lick my shoe’ and simply uses him as a husband to maintain an easy life until her fantasy with Tom becomes real.
Similarly in ‘Jane Eyre’ St John Rivers has no genuine feelings for Jane but wishes her to be his wife to accompany him as a missionary in India and to improve his social appearance. Although St John is of an equal social class with Jane, marrying him would mean neglecting her own need for true love. Gatsby, despite his humble beginnings, is now just as rich as the Buchanans, however it is intimated that he has earned his money illegally through bootlegging ‘’He’s a bootlegger,’ said the young ladies.’ During the early 1920’s Prohibition was introduced in America which was a law against the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol. Fitzgerald uses the narrator, Nick to show that Gatsby is lying about inheriting his money: ‘He looked at me sideways – I knew why Jordan Baker had thought he was lying.’ Therefore Gatsby is not as respected as Tom and Daisy because he has new money, which is why he lives in West Egg and is not accepted socially by the old money of the Buchanans. 547 words
‘Jane Eyre’ is set during 1820’s Victorian England, an era of strict social hierarchy when, similarly to ‘The Great Gatsby’ social classes were divided according to wealth and inheritance from families. Victorian governesses, such as Jane, were expected to possess the culture of aristocracy, but yet were unable to socialise with the upper class except in the case of work. Jane is surrounded by wealth, especially at Gateshead Hall and Thornfield. Gateshead Hall is full of ‘red moreen curtains’ and ‘folds of scarlet drapery.’ Charlotte Brontë’s use of rich, deep colours is to emphasise the wealth of the family but also to reflect the danger they pose to Jane. As the novel progresses the attraction between Mr. Rochester and Jane is evident. Jane’s insecurity about her own social position and class is increased as she witnesses the Ingram’s display of snobbery and classism: ‘in hers I see all the faults of her class.’ This comment encapsulates the Victorian prejudice against the poor and the negative effect that classism has on true love as it becomes clear to Jane that she and Mr. Rochester will never be equals. Jane’s refusal to marry Mr. Rochester accentuates their difference in social stations and demonstrates her morality and belief in the importance of personal independence: ‘I am a free human being with an independent will.’
Brontë uses pathetic fallacy to present how class negatively influences Jane and Mr. Rochester’s relationship. As Jane finally admits to her desire for Mr. Rochester ‘a waft of wind,’ ‘trembled through the boughs of the chestnut.’ Also, as Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane: ‘a livid, vivid spark leapt out of a cloud.’ This foreshadows how their wedding and relationship will be destroyed by secrets of the upper class, that Rochester considers himself above society’s rules and attempts a bigamist marriage. Fitzgerald also uses pathetic fallacy as he describes the ‘Valley of the Ashes’ as a symbol of the poorer social classes. The valley of ashes is an ‘ash-grey’ place of poverty used as a dumping ground for the waste products of the city and the waste product of Tom and Daisy’s marriage: Myrtle. Fitzgerald uses long lists of grey, dull objects made from ash and bleak, dull colours to emphasise the scale of decay: ‘grey cars,’ ‘grotesque gardens.’ Fitzgerald sarcastically uses a contrasting simile: ‘ashes grow like wheat into ridges’ to emphasise how little optimism and happiness the area has which draws a parallel link to the contrasting women in Tom’s life.
This is effective because ‘wheat’ and ‘gardens’ are associated with life, whilst ‘ashes’ are associated with death and depression. This emphasises the negative effect of wealth by showing how the valley has been destroyed by the ugly by-products of consumerism that is forgotten and not important to the wealthy Egg communities. This mirrors how Myrtle’s dirty attempts to destroy Tom’s marriage have failed because Tom is just another greedy, upper class man who wants an easy upper class life. Fitzgerald also uses imagery of the ‘ash-grey men’s ‘transcendent effort.’ In my opinion this is effective because it adds to the dismal atmosphere created by the valley by showing the reader how all the people’s energy is taken up just as they struggle to earn a living, but despite their struggles they’re ‘already crumbling.’ Gatsby emphasises his wealth in an attempt to gain social status, and hopefully Daisy’s respect, by extravagantly portraying an European way of life with his mansion: an ‘imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy’ with ‘a marble swimming pool!’ and a ‘gothic library’ with ‘carved English Oak,’ and his ‘rich cream coloured’ British Rolls-Royce. However, Fitzgerald portrays Gatsby and his life as artificial as he describes Gatsby’s house ‘spanking new under a thin beard of ivy.’ 1070 words
Gatsby is also referred to as an American theatrical display as he’s described as a ‘regular Belasco’ which suggests that even though Gatsby presents himself as respected, upper class, it is all an act for the benefit of Daisy which evidently isn’t enough to persuade her away from her comfortable, luxurious life. The tragedy at the end of the novel is due to the negative effect of class on Daisy and Gatsby’s relationship. At first they are happily reunited. Fitzgerald does this to deliberately mislead the reader to further emphasise the negative effects of class on their relationship as Gatsby becomes disappointed that Daisy cannot live up to his fantasy because of the ‘colossal vitality of his illusion’ and it becomes clear that Daisy’s selfish intentions are still the same even after her ‘month of love’ with Gatsby. Daisy only married Tom because Gatsby ‘was poor and she was tired of waiting’ and now she refuses to leave Tom because she already has an easy, luxurious life.
However, the ending of ‘Jane Eyre’ presents the rare occasion where true love conquers tradition as Brontë uses the novel to express her own critique of Victorian class differences. Jane’s strong belief in social equality challenges the Victorian prejudices against the poor, although Jane asserts that her poverty does not make her an inferior person, eventually her ascendance out of poverty by her inheritance, which she generously shares with her cousins, give her financial independence to marry Mr. Rochester: ‘I am an independent woman now, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.’ Unfortunately, Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship isn’t strong enough to withstand the negative influences of class and despite Gatsby taking the blame for Myrtle’s murder, his lower class love was not enough for Daisy who didn’t bother sending a ‘message or a flower’ to his funeral, which evidently shows that she is not affected by the destruction of their relationship, or his death.
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