Research Report: The Great Gatsby
In The Great Gatsby: A Criticism of American Society, author Ned Mack discusses how F. Scott Fitzgerald criticizes the American Society in the 1920s for its trend to waste, advertise, encourage superficial relationships, and an obsession with appearances. All four of these things are very evident in the novel, and Mack just breaks each of them down individually.
Mack talks about how the Valley of Ashes is an example of people being wasteful in the 1920s. People in America use what they want and when they want and leave the remains or waste, you might call it, behind for the un-wealthy to clean up. The valley of ashes was once a flourishing town, but was used until it was no longer valuable and was thus abandoned. (qtd. In Mack) This is very true the rich people in the novel were by no means conservationist. They would not think twice about using things in excess and then discarding them how they please.
Advertising plays a huge role in this novel. Mack says, The billboard in the Valley of Ashes is held above the rest of the town and represents society worshipping advertising (2). This is evident in the novel not only are business advertised but in a way people are always advertising themselves. By talking about their own business or even worse putting themselves on display and advertising themselves, but not as people, but more like objects and how wealthy they are. An example of this is when Mr. And Mrs. Mckee are at Myrtles party and the narrator Nick is talking about the Mckees and he says referring to Mrs. Mckee, She told me with pride her husband had photographed her a hundred and twenty-seven times since they had been married (qtd. In Mack) Subconsciously, Mrs. Mckee is advertising her husband and that he is a photographer.
Mack goes on to talk about the American obsession with appearance that is shown throughout the novel. An example of this would be that Gatsby has a huge library filled with books that have never been opened. Gatsby is just trying to be someone that he is not in order to fit a certain image. Another character obsessed with her appearance and how people perceive her is Myrtle. At her party, she pretends that she has a kitchen full of servants who are waiting on herwhen in reality she doesnt. Mack says it nicely: She wants desperately to appear aristocratic and is invariably conscious of the fact that she is of a lower class (Mack 2).
In this novel nobody ever really sees someone for who they are, but always for what they have. Mack calls this a disturbed image. The characters in the novel are always partying and having a good time. But there are never real relationships formed except for superficial ones. There is a flatness to the characters specifically at the parties which is a statement about the superficiality of relationships in American society in the 1920s (Mack 3). This statement is just backing up my fact that all the characters in the book are completely shallow and there is no point investing anytime in people like that. A true relationship will never work, because from the start people are being fake.
Overall, Ned Mack states that F. Scott Fitzgerald criticizes the people of the twenties in The Great Gatsby, for a number of things. He says Americans have a tendency to waste just because they think they can. They are constantly advertising themselves and the type of lifestyle that they live. The characters in the book have a huge infatuation over their appearance and judge how others look. The biggest problem that all of these characters have is their inability to form real meaningful relationships with one another. I think that Ned Mack analyzed the book very well. I saw the novel from a different point of view than I had originally.
1.Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribners Sons,
2.Mack, Ned. The Great Gatsby: A Criticism of American Society.
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