In The Great Gatsby, the lower and social classes are presented as crude and vulgar. How do you respond?
I would define ‘crude’ as a person who lacks intelligence and is underdeveloped; ‘vulgar’ I would define as a person who is unpleasant in their lewd behavior and arrogance. It could be argued that the lower social classes were more crude and vulgar as a result of their poor upbringing and horrid living conditions. However, the personalities and qualities that the upper classes obtained could also be viewed as vulgar.
Myrtle Wilson is one of the few lower class characters in the novella. From early in ‘The Great Gatsby’ Myrtle is viewed as vulgar because she is Tom’s “girl” and is therefore being unfaithful to her husband, George Wilson. This observation is supported by the fact that she was “sitting on Tom’s lap” at the hotel. It was a very vulgar action to commit infidelity in that time period, especially for a woman; they were supposed to remain loyal to their husbands. Myrtle can also be viewed as demanding, she inquires details such as the breed and price of the “bitch” before asking Tom if she could have it. Myrtle is also viewed as crude and vulgar because she is seen in Chapter 2 to be mocking Tom by saying “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy”. This shows she has little respect for Tom who is of a higher social class to her. The character of Daisy supports the view that the lower social classes are presented by Fitzgerald as vulgar and crude.
However, the behavior and presentation of The Buchanans disproves this statement that the lower social classes were crude and vulgar. Daisy is presented by Fitzgerald to be a shallow and “careless” character, who easily can manipulate people to her own advantage. The most obvious event which depicts this presentation is the fact that she did not attend the funeral of Gatsby, of whom she “loved…too”, she didn’t even send a “message or a flower”. Tom Buchanan disproves the statement because ultimately, he was the person who led George Wilson to murder Gatsby, by telling George “who owned the car”. Both Tom and Daisy are therefore presented as vulgar because they did not adhere to the consequences of their actions and instead “retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness”; they had let the innocent people, such as Gatsby, suffer for their stupidity.
In addition, the choices that Gatsby made and the way he decided to live his life also disproves the statement that the lower classes were crude and vulgar. Gatsby deceived himself into believing that there was still hope for him and Daisy, even upon the five-year gap and Daisy being married. Gatsby is therefore presented by Fitzgerald as crude and almost foolish because he believed that he could “repeat the past”, yet this dream was “already behind him”. This insensibility is what brought about his death.
In conclusion, I respond negatively to the statement that the lower classes were presented as crude and vulgar. Although Myrtle Wilson was vulgar in her behavior, I believe Fitzgerald evokes a deeper meaning; he presented the upper classed characters of The Buchanans and Gatsby as crude and vulgar to show that class merely concealed the true personalities of the upper classes.
Courtney from Study Moose
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