The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay

Good Essays

F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a scathing critique of upper class privilege in The Great Gatsby. Jay Gatsby’s library in particular, illustrates his fundamental misunderstanding of the self-perpetuating class society in 1920s America. It is a novel about surveillance: the ruling class constantly monitors the system; Gatsby is identified as the usurping “Other” who threatens their status, and must be put back in his rightful place. Gatsby equates appearance with reality, presenting himself as upper class is just as real as being upper class. Fitzgerald introduces the reader to the library in Chapter 3 as Nick and Jordan seek out their host; by chance, they try “an important-looking door” and find themselves in “a high Gothic library, …show more content…

The man repeatedly exclaims that the books are real, “have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard” (52). The fact this man even contemplated, much more assumed, the books to be counterfeit indicates that Gatsby is not alone in portraying himself to be of a higher station than he was born, and that there is always someone keeping a watchful eye on any notable person’s projection of identity. Owl Eyes even compliments how authentic the illusion is, comparing Gatsby to naturalist theatre director David Belasco: the real books “fooled” him, rather than the reverse; also, Gatsby “didn’t cut the pages”, for it would have spoiled the illusion if he had (52). The idea that uncut books are more authentic than cut ones is curious. Gatsby has not thrown this illusion together haphazardly, but has obviously expended great effort in its creation; this small detail shows that Gatsby is aware that some will question his authenticity. A cut book implies that one has read said book, and invites questions about what one thought of the book. Of greater importance in the library scene is that Owl Eyes hands Nick a volume of John Lawson Stoddard’s Lectures. J. L. Stoddard was an advocate of Jews, and this book places Gatsby at the opposite end of the spectrum to Tom, who advocates the “scientific” eugenic theories of Goddard, Fitzgerald’s allusion to John Stoddard’s son, Lothrop Stoddard (28). It does not matter that Gatsby has

Get Access