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    Is the Twentieth century American novel a medium for social criticism? Essay

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    Gatsby himself is described as a “regular Belasco” due to his incredible attention to detain in trying to present the life of an upper class man. Fitzgerald almost satirises this observation when he explains, “With the influence of her dress [Myrtle’s] personality had also undergone a change”. Her former manner “was converted into impressive hauteur”. To a certain extent satire is used by Fitzgerald to illustrate societies willingness to exploit any generosity, for example J Gatsby remains almost anonymous at his own parties as the guests flock in to enjoy the free bar “stocked with Gins and liquors and with cordials”.

    His anonymity is humorous when Nick engages in a conversation with him completely unaware that he is talking to the host. The theme of exploitation features in Manhattan Transfer particularly in the story of Cassey who is constantly in pursuit of a “spiwitual” connection with her boyfriend, but who eventually has her fear of losing him exploited by the boyfriend for his own selfish desire to have sex, “he’d never see me again if I didn’t”. Another point of social criticism is societies readiness to turn a blind eye at things that are morally wrong and potentially harmful to people.

    In Great Gatsby Jordan tells Nick that “everybody knew” about Tom Buchanan’s affair but it was not mentioned. Sight and seeing is a prominent theme throughout the novel, they signify the ability or inability to see the morality in life. The oculist that is set above the dust heaps should be correcting vision not tying to gain commercial advantage by the means of advertisement; this so closely mirrors the lives of society who are willing to turn a blind eye to certain events and situations in order to gain advantage and ultimately live a care free existence.

    Dos Passos’ overall methods of social criticism differ both in time and emotion, we are not given enough time with each character in Manhattan transfer to care about their outcome, whereas in The Great Gatsby our exposure to the characters urges us to form opinions on them and to develop a concern for their future. The motive behind including social criticism in a novel is to make the reader aware of the problems in society and to make the reader want to do something about it.

    As human beings we only want to make changes if we feel that they would affect us and we can only envisage ourselves being affected by something if we are able to relate to it on some level. Therefore my opinion is that Fitzgerald’s approach to social criticism is more affective because his writing provokes us to react and respond to the issues being raised.

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    Is the Twentieth century American novel a medium for social criticism? Essay. (2018, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/twentieth-century-american-novel-medium-social-criticism-41878/

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