Literature Passage Based Question Assignment
Write a critical commentary on the following passage, relating it to the presentation of
class, both here and elsewhere in the novel.
The Great Gatsby has been esteemed as a vivid piece of social commentary, offering insights into
the American Life in the 1920s. One of the key themes articulated in the novel would be Society
and Class. The extract given reveals a glimpse of life in the upper class-men and how they treat
those who belong in the lower class. The marital affair between Tom and Myrtle demonstrates a
distinction in personality and lifestyles between those who belong to the old American Aristocracy
and the penurious working class. The novel delineates the concept of class via the intertwining
relationships, followed by the lifestyles led by the various characters and the physical setting of the
Class is presented via the contrasting personalities between the characters from the upper class
and those of the lower class. As seen in the extract, Tom exerts his physical dominance over his
mistress by ‘breaking [Myrtle’s] nose with his open hand. Tom’s reckless and violent nature is
revealed from this incident whereby Myrtle’s continuously chanted Daisy’s name. A potential cause
of his sudden attack could be amounted to his inner disgust towards Myrtle for devaluing his wife’s
name. The fact that Myrtle belong to the working class in the Valley of Ashes meant that she was
not given the right to ridicule Tom’s status or wife. Tom also displays his financial superiority by
spoiling Myrtle with ‘a small apartment’ in New York, ‘puppies’ and also ‘bottles of Whiskey’—all of
which are luxury goods that Myrtle was unable to enjoy in her life as George Wilson’s wife. Tom’s
dominance and superiority can be juxtaposed to Myrtle’s poor husband, George. George was
described as a ‘worn-out man’ who ‘invariably laughs’ at whatever people say to him in an
‘agreeable, colourless way’. He was said to be a ‘wife’s man and not his own’ in Chapter 7. This
demonstrates George’s submissive and docile nature due to his upbringing in the lower class.
Despite his compliance and genuine love towards Myrtle, she does not find happiness with George
due to his inability to cater to her materialistic dreams. The hegemony of Tom does not only apply
to his relationship with Myrtle, but also George himself. It is seen that George relies on Tom for his
garage business in the desolate Valley of Ashes. The influence of Tom’s power further foreshadows
his manipulation of George’s perception of who was behind the wheel during Myrtle’s fatal
accident. The juxtaposition between the Tom’s dominance and George’s submissiveness highlight
a distinction in character between the wealthy and the poor. This could be due to the contrasting
lifestyles of both Tom and George in East Egg and West Egg respectively.
As mentioned, the distinction in lifestyles within the novel further amplify the concept of social
stratification between ...