There is a very direct similarity between ones behavior and ones environment. Humans areproducts of the environments they inhabit.Humans evolve and adopt behaviors which are very similar to those found in their social climate.This is especially true when examining the characters of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald presents the characters in his novels as products of a society void of moral integrity.Since Fitzgeralds protagonists in The Last Tycoon, The Great Gatsby, and Tender is The Night, succumb to the moral desert of high society, they end their lives in failure.
Fitzgerald places his protagonist in The Last Tycoon, The Great Gatsby , and Tender is The Night, in the moral desert of high society; an environment very foreign to these characters. Jay Gatsby, the protagonist in The Great Gatsby, is drawn into the decadent and morally defunct society of upper-class Long Island. Daisy illustrates the moral void that exists in the Long Island society when she discusses her daughter with Nick. Daisy says:
Itll show you how Ive gotten to feel about–things. Well, she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where. I woke up out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away if it was a boy or a girl. She told me it was a girl and so I turned my head away and wept. All right, I said, Im glad its a girl. And I hope shell be a fool– thats the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.
… I (Nick) felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy… as if she had asserted her membership in a rather distinguished secret society to which she and Tom belonged (21).
Daisy depicts the moral void that exists in Gatsbys society with her insensitive and selfish response to her daughters birth.In addition to this Daisy also depicts the snobbery that exists in this society through the way she treats Nick, the narrator of the novel.Nick makes an observation that shows the lack of moral value held by the Long Island society when he describes Tom and Daisy. Nick says, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made . . .”(180)These quotes clearly illustrate the insensitivity, snobbery and utter selfishness held by those who inhabit the morally void society.This society influences Gatsbys moral decline. The amoral Long Island society in The Great Gatsby is very similar to the corrupt Hollywood society found in The Last Tycoon.
Again in The Last Tycoon the protagonist is catapulted into a corrupt society that is unfamiliar to him.The protagonist Stahr, has entered into a deviant society saturated with characters full of lust, greed, and capitalism.The narrator depicts the valueless society and what it can do to decent people when describing the character Reinmund. The narrator says:
Reinmund was a handsome young opportunist, with a fairly good education. Originally a man of some character, he was being forced daily by his anomalous position into devious ways of acting and thinking. He was a bad man now, as men go. At thirty he had none of the virtues which either gentile Americans or Jews are taught to think admirable. (46)
Reindmund is representative of many of the people living in Hollywood. Therefore the above quote proves Stahr did in fact enter into a society lacking virtue. The moral decay of this society can also be seen through the characters Cecilia Brady, and her father, Pat Brady. Cecilia Brady is a character of very little moral value. She lusts after Stahr and throws herself at him while he is involved with the woman of his dreams, Thalia. Her father Pat Brady is an equally immoral character. An example of this behavior can be seen when he attempts to steal the production business from his partner. He tries to achieve this when Stahr (his business partner) is extremely ill in New York.Not only is Brady a shady businessman he also a capitalist participating in the immoral act of degrading the art of film-making to increase profits. Writer R. A. Gallo, makes a similar observation about Hollywoods cultural wasteland as she writes:
In The Last Tycoon Fitzgerald examines his conception of the contemporary wasteland. The deprivation of the Hollywood wasteland is cultural. Films have become a bastardized art form, exploited by the Bradys whose interest in the booming circus stops at the box office. (120)
The behaviors of Pat, Cecilia and Reinmund clearly illustrates the state of moral decay that Stahrs Hollywood find acceptable.The moral decay of Hollywood spilled over to the society of Tender is the Night.
In Tender is the Night , the protagonist, Dick Diver marries into the morally challenged upper class society throughout Europe during the 1930s.This upper class European society is highly influenced by Hollywood, and is full of mental illness, adultery and snobbery.Fitzgerald sketches the snobbery of the society through the way Rosemarys observations on the differences between the upper and the lower classes.The narrator says:
Rosemary looked for a place to sit. Obviously each family possessed the strip of sand immediately in front of its umbrella; besides there was much visiting and talking back and forth–the atmosphere of a community upon it would be presumptuous to intrude. Farther up, where the beach was strewn with pebbles and dead sea-weed, sat a group with white flesh as white as our own. They were obviously less indigenous to the place…. Rosemary found room and spread out her peignoir on the sand. (6)
Rosemary admits that the people on either side of the beach are racially equal, but because they are of lesser means they are indigenous to the place. This quote clearly shows the snobbery that exists in Dick Divers amoral society.Divers society is also made morally complex by the mental illness of his wife, Nicole, and the adulterous behavior of those in his society. Thus, Dick Divers society is morally challenged. Moreover, Fitzgerald uses these morally deviant societies as a strong negative influence on his protagonists.
Fitzgeralds protagonists in The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night , and The Last Tycoon, succumb to the moral desert of their respective societies. That is to say that the Fitzgeralds protagonists evolve throughout their experiences in the moral desert of high society and adopt the behaviors of that society.
Jay Gatsby succumbs to his morally void Long Island society by participating in the immoral actions of his society.Firstly, Gatsby explores an adulterous relationship with Daisy, and descends into the world of the virtueless: So he waited, listening for a moment to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. (100) Consequently, by physically acting out his desires for Daisy, Gatsby descends into the depths of moral defeat.Secondly, Gatsby succumbs to the immorality of the Long Island by buying into the vain dream of that society. The dream was the good life. Gatsby abandoned all his dreams so that he could achieve this status.Writer William H. Fahey, observes Gatsby succumbing to the vain dream of the good life when he writes,He has lived not for himself, but for his dream, for his vision of the good life inspired by the beauty of a lovely rich girl.(71) Gatsby abandons his own dreams in pursuit of a vain dream inspired by Daisy. Hence, Gatsbys involvement with a morally void society causes him to succumb to immoral actions.
Stahr too succumbs to his morally corrupt society.Hollywoods influence on Stahr, causes him to submit himself into devious behavior.Stahr submits himself when puts a hit on his partner, Pat Brady after Brady tries to take over their business. Stahr, is the perfect example of a good man driven by a bad society to do something heinous.By Stahr putting a hit on Brady he succumbs to Hollywoods corrupt society.Therefore, Stahr does in fact succumb to his deviant society.
Dick Diver also succumbs to his morally challenged society. Firstly, Dick succumbs to his morally challenged society when he pursues an adulterous affair with Rosemary Hoyt.Dick says to Rosemary, Oh, say that later! But kiss me now- love me now. Ill love you and never let Nicole see.(76)Dick abandons all his virtue to pursue his adulterous affair and conceal it from his ill wife.This quote shows how Dick has succumbed to the moral wasteland of his society.Secondly, Dick continues to succumb to his morally challenged society when he begins to drink heavily.Dicks drinking problem is illustrated in a conversation Dick has with the father of a patient at Dicks clinic:
My son is here for alcoholism, and he told us he smelt liquor on your breath…We hand Von Cohn to you to be cured and within a month he twice smells liquor on your breath! What kind of cure is that there?
After all, Mr. Morris, some people are not going to give up what they regard as food because of your son–(163)
This quote clearly shows how Dick has succumb to alcoholism, a disease that runs rampant among the people of his society.In addition to this Dick has succumb to the bitterness of society, and has become emotionally hardened and insensitive. Therefore, Dick, Stahr, and Gatsby have all succumb to the moral desert of high society.
Fitzgeralds protagonists end their lives in failure. They achieve this failure in their lives by succumbing to their morally dry societies.There is a direct relationship between the protagonists inability to resist the moral desert of high society and the cause of their failure. In other words, Fitzgeralds protagonists receive justice for their immoral actions. Jay Gatsby ends his life in failure because he is unable to remain a moral character in his society. Firstly, he dies an unhappy man unable to benefit from the potential of his wealth, because he bought into the vain dream, of a vain a society.William H. Fahey writes:
None cares. To be sure, in the radiance of Gatsbys single vision everyone is greeted as familiar; Old sport, he calls them all. But he has no friends. No cares who gives the parties. Nobody goes to his funeral except Owleyes and Nick. No one else was interested, as Nick says, -interested, I mean, with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some right at the end. Rich as he was, he is a poor a son-of-a-bitch like us all in the end. (85)
Fahey clearly illustrates the personal failure Gatsby achieved by buying into the vain dream of high society.
Secondly, Gatsby ends his life in failure due to an unnecessary death. How does he die? Indirectly, he dies not by murder, but by suicide. He dies because of his indecent relationship with Daisy. Had Gatsby not succumb to his desire for Daisy, she would never have been in his car and their would never have been a shooting. Had he not succumb, he may have had a chance at a fulfilling life. Therefore, Gatsbys inability to remain virtuous in the moral desert of high society was the source of his failure.
Stahrs failure at the end of his life, like Gatsbys, is unnecessary death. Stahr ends his life in failure because he was unable to resist succumbing to the moral desert of high society. Stahr dies tragically in a plane crash and is unable to marry his one true love, Thalia. Yet this tragedy could have been avoided. If Stahr had not put a hit out on Brady, he would never have been on the plane to New York and he would still be alive. Therefore, it can be said that Stahrs unnecessary death was an outcome of his own ineffectiveness to remain a moral character.
Dick Diver ends his life in personal and professional failure. His failure comes from his inability to resist the immorality of his society.Nicole comments on Dicks failure in life when she says, …you used to want to create things–now you seem to want to smash them up. (267) Dick ends his personal life in failure because had succumb to the immorality of society. Nicole says, You dont care for me anymore…Its all just habit. Things were never the same after Rosemary.(308) This quote clearly states that the cause of Dicks personal failure was his adulterous relationship with Rosemary. Dicks professional failure was again caused by his inability to resist the immorality of society. Dicks drinking was the reason he was bought out of the clinic. It can also be assumed that his drinking ruined his professional career after he left Europe. Therefore it can be said that Dick, along with Gatsby, and Stahr, failed in life because they were unable to resist the moral desert of high society.
In conclusion, it can be said that one who lives among the immoral will succumb to their environment. In the case of Fitzgeralds protagonists in The Last Tycoon, The Great Gatsby , and Tender is The Night, failure is the justice for immoral action. Whether or not this is a balanced justice is debatable, but it is justice nonetheless.