Corruption In The Great Gatsby

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Corruption is a concept which has been directly correlated with human nature since the beginning of time. Human beings are creatures of intellect and consciousness when compared to any other life form on the planet. Nonetheless, corruption always seems to take over all that is logical and distort any consciousness that one may have.

The 20th century, moreover, has demonstrated how deeply corruption has penetrated each and every human soul.

The powerful influence of God and religion, which were once the basis of any civilization, grow less important as more people are swallowed by the dark mouth of corruption and are spit out by all that is good and holy. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby depicts this declination of society in such a disturbing way that one is led to believe that God, although He is referred to several times throughout the book, does not exist.

The characters in The Great Gatsby acknowledge God’s existence, yet the reader can clearly see that the characters themselves are extremely corrupt and go against all that is sacred and holy to religion.

Who Is Michaelis In The Great Gatsby

There are, however, certain characters who completely defy what God and religion stands for. These characters are self-centered, wealthy people who, although they define the meaning of sin, are extremely well-of in the world.

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One would expect God to benefit those who respect his religion, values and morals; nevertheless, it is the sinful, the corrupt and the wicked that benefit from society. Therefore, does God really exist in The Great Gatsby? Or is His name simply taken in vane in order to disguise all the corrupt and disgusting actions the characters commit throughout the novel?

Fitzgerald, in his novel The Great Gatsby, portrays the corruption in the 20th century through his characters as well as the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg which lead the reader to believe that God, although He is referred to throughout the novel, is absent from the distorted society they live in. Tom and Daisy embody certain morals and values which completely disregard God and religion. Tom Buchanon, for example, is racist, classist, and unfaithful. “‘Civilization’s going to pieces,’ broke out Tom violently. ‘I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things.

Have you read ‘The Rise of the Coloured Empires’ by this man Goddard? ‘”(p. 17). God, being an all accepting being, would not agree with any of Tom’s ideas on races. Given the time and setting of the novel, Tom is probably Christian. In America, there are colored people who are also Christian. Tom’s ideas go hand in hand with sin, when examining Christianity. This idea is emphasized, yet again, when, on page 19, Jordan Baker says, “Tom’s got some woman in New York. ” The Holy Bible states that adultery is a sin, yet Tom Buchanon is cheating on his wife, Daisy, with Myrtle.

Tom’s classism is also a very immoral trait which he posses. Tom, being of a wealthy descent, does not like to associate himself with people of lesser status; this is the reason for his clash with Gatsby. Tom Buchanon, as well as Daisy, belongs to a “secret society” where only people of old, wealthy descent are admitted. If God were present in The Great Gatsby, a person like Tom Buchanon would not be as fortunate and wealthy as he is. Daisy, Tom’s wife, embodies certain characteristics which are very similar to her husband.

Like Tom, Daisy is classist and unfaithful. Daisy too belongs to the “secret society. ” It is the “secret society” she belongs to which does not allow her to be with someone like Gatsby, who is not at an adequate social status to be with her. Nevertheless, Daisy does not stop herself from cheating on her husband; she probably does this in order to get back at her husband, who is also having an affair. It is very odd to think that God is present in a society filled with corruption and immoral values where the wicked live prosperously.

The Great Gatsby, as he is referred to in the book, is probably the most controversial character when analyzing God’s influence in the 20th century society. Jay Gatsby portrays the American Dream in ways that one might find very questionable. As a child, Gatsby was of humble descent; his parents were farmers. However, Jay Gatsby managed to live the American Dream and work his way up to the top of society. Nevertheless, Gatsby had to perform several immoral and corrupt duties in order to reach the top of the ladder. Throughout the novel, the reader learns that no one really knows who Jay Gatsby really is.

There are, however, several rumors which indicate that Jay Gatsby acquired his fortune through unethical and immoral actions. Moreover, he once worked for a man named Dan Cody who “during one phase of American life brought back to the eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon” (p. 106). Gatsby used to deal with the sale of illegal alcohol during the times of prohibition, where alcohol was illegal. Jay Gatsby completely distorts the guidelines of the American Dream, making it a trail of corruption before reaching the goal one wants.

Gatsby crushes the very meaning of ethics by manipulating society into doing what is wrong. Furthermore, what is extremely odd about Gatsby’s actions is that they are all based on his idea to recover the girl he once loved. Gatsby goes through many extravagant efforts in order to attract Daisy to his wealth. When Gatsby finally encounters Daisy, however, she realizes that because of Gatsby’s social status, she can never be with him, “‘They’re such beautiful shirts,’ she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. ‘It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before’” (p. 8).

Daisy has never seen such beautiful shirts before because Jay Gatsby belongs to a social class very different from hers. The “nouveau rich” or the new rich is the term used for people like Gatsby; people who are rich, but not wealthy. Daisy, being from a high social status, starts to cry because she realizes this as the “nouveau rich” have a tendency to exaggerate their money in tacky ways; in this case, the dozens of colorful shirts. In any case, Gatsby’s wicked pursuit for success centered on the approval of a woman who he once loved.

If God were present in this society, it would mean that He let a man move up the ladder of society through unethical and immoral actions and all for nostalgia. God, therefore, is completely absent from the novel when examining the Jay Gatsby’s actions and his influence on society itself. Although the characters in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby embody several corrupted aspects, portraying the inexistence of God, the novel also contains a symbol and theme which emphasize on the fact of God’s absence from society. “This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens…

But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. ” (p. 28) The Valley of Ashes and the eyes of Doctor T. J Eckleburg are motifs throughout Fitzgerald’s novel. The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg look over a vast decaying wasteland known as The Valley of Ashes.

The wastes and garbage symbolizes the death of the American Dream because of moral degradation. Throughout the twenties, the American population was trying their best to get a piece of the striving monster of economy; nonetheless, in this struggle they gave up their souls in exchange for their wealth. The eyes of a dead God look out over the emptiness of a dead dream. This is emphasized yet again in page 28, “Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away.

Fitzgerald emphasizes God’s absence by comparing Him to an oculist who, after putting up the billboard, left it there to rot. In the same way, God has left the corrupted 20th century society to rot and destroy itself. Furthermore, there is a direct reference to T. J. Eckleburg’s billboard as God, ” ‘I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God. I took her to the window… and I said God knows what you’ve been doing… You may fool me but you can’t fool God! ‘” Standing behind him Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg… ” (p. 167).

George Wilson’s last words to his wife, Myrtle, before she dies are a reference to the billboard being God. Although Fitzgerald’s intentions are note clear, the reader assumes that Wilson was conscience of the degradation of his society and he himself uses the metaphor of Eckleburg and the Valle of Ashes when arguing with his wife. Wilson is also aware of his wife cheating on him and, therefore, she too forms part of the corrupt society they live in. George Wilson was trying to demonstrate society’s corruption to his wife; nevertheless, the one decent human being in the book ends up losing his wife.

Moreover, Wilson probably stopped believing in God’s existence in their society since he himself commits murder and then commits suicide; two significant sins mentioned in the Holy Bible. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the eyes of T. J. Eckleburg and The Valley of Ashes to not only demonstrate God’s absence from society, but to prove that God is completely dead in the twentieth century. God, as a concept, is an extremely intangible aspect when examined. God is an all knowing, superior being who is supposed to be ruling over and taking care of every single living human being.

Yet in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, God is an inexistent being and yet there are various references to Him throughout the novel. Oddly enough, many of the characters believe in the existence of an almighty one; however, this belief is a simple cover used to shadow their unethical lifestyles. God, perhaps, may have been present in society at one point in time, yet his death may have been produced by the vast declination of society in the 1920s. Religion and God set standards and regulations between what is good and what is evil.

God obviously emphasizes on what is good, and what one must to in order to be good; yet, the characters in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece do not acknowledge this difference between the good and the evil . They live their comfortable lives and contribute evil in a corrupt society which declines day by day. For this reason, God can be assumed to be dead and inexistent in the society the novel is based on. The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, therefore, embodies all the unethical aspects of the twentieth century into the lives of certain characters in order to prove the inexistence of God.

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Corruption In The Great Gatsby. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Corruption In The Great Gatsby
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