Minorities In The Great Gatsby Essay Example


Throughout history, the American Dream has always been a present, pushing force. To many, it is the epitome of what it means to be an American: supporting yourself well enough to provide for your family and to live lavishly. However, the American Dream has many ugly truths, ones that date back to the 1920s and into the present. In pursuing the American Dream, the exclusion of minorities will always be prevalent because many will continue to view minorities as lazy beings and will always prevent them from achieving the Dream. 

Firstly, the American Dream portrays minorities as slothful and refuses to recognize them. This idea is portrayed numerous times in Barbara Enrenreich’s piece, “Serving in Florida,” in which the invalidation of the working class is shown heavily. Enrenreich states that “as a general rule,” people with religious affiliation will “look at us [waitresses] disapprovingly, no matter what we do.” (Source B). Enrenreich expresses that even the most religiously vocal people, ones who are supposed to respect others for whatever choice they choose so long as they are working towards a higher purpose, are often the ones who will view the working class as lazy and unmotivated peoples. This ties back to the Dream in that these members of the working class, minorities to be precise, work at all hours and at all jobs to achieve the Dream and gain the wealth that is waved tantalizingly in front of them. However, because numerous people of higher status, like the church-goers, refuse to accept a minority’s work as valid, the Dream viciously Manolias 2 tosses them aside and refuses to allow them to achieve the Dream. One can also find this concept when looking at the political cartoon “The Great Gap-sby,” by Jeff Parker. The cartoon demonstrates innumerable concepts about the injustice towards minorities, but one stands out in showing the fact that the rich feel as though the poor are lazy. As the richer man tells the poorer one that he doesn’t believe in the growing wage gap, the poor working man tells him that he has “no time to explain it,” and that he must “get to his other job at the Quickee Mart” (Source C). This man is the epitome of what it means to be a part of the working class: he has taken on numerous jobs to support himself and his path towards ultimate glory from the Dream. Despite this, the rich man haughtily turns up his nose, refusing to agree with the fact that he is working hard for his place, yet is unable to reap the benefits, This is integral in portraying the Dream’s harsh truth of excluding minorities; although the man works extremely hard, he isn’t qualified in the rich man’s mind to achieve the Dream. Due to these facts, minorities are treated unfairly in the Dream in the sense that they will always be treated as lazy beings who shouldn’t be allowed to achieve the riches of the Dream. 

Additionally, the Dream is merciless in that it completely separates the minorities from all others on the path to success. This idea is explored immensely in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, in both its characters and its setting. One such character who is impacted negatively is Myrtle, a woman who is part of the poorer side of New York. Myrtle’s interpretation of the Dream is that of finally crossing over the gap between the rich and poor, and transforming into one of the rich ladies she is exposed to. She does this when she goes into town with Tom, and ends up changing into “an elaborate afternoon dress of cream-colored chiffon,” one that is eerily similar to the types of dresses the higher class characters wear, like Daisy Manolias 3 Buchanan (Source A). Yet, the dress is slightly nuanced in that it is “cream-colored,” a color that is close to white, but not entirely. This portrays the complete segregation Myrtle is forced to face for being a part of the working class. Despite the fact that she wears a dress just like what rich women would wear, she will never be completely the same as them, and will always stick out as a minority. In addition to this, the Valley of Ashes proves to be a solid symbol of the segregation towards minorities.The Valley is “halfway between West Egg and New York,” meaning it is completely separate from all the rich districts in the area. Along with this, the sign of Dr. TJ Eckleberg looms above the Valley, but has “forgotten them and moved away,” (Source A). The Valley of Ashes are where the minorities tend to reside, never being able to find their way out due to the fact that they are “forgotten” and because there is absolutely no connection to the rich. The fact that they lack in being connected to the rest of New York parallels the idea that they are completely excluded in ultimate achieval of the American Dream. Along with the fact that the poor refuse to recognize them as actual citizens, they are also forced into a completely different area, one in which they are unable to thrive and fully excell in the Dream. Lastly, Parker’s cartoon again illustrates the division’s between the rich and poor by using an ever-growing, jagged crack between the rich man and the poor (Source C). By doing so, he shows that there is a definite exclusion between the rich and poor, a segregation so dominant that there is even a rift forming between the two classes. The upper class continues to refuse to even note that such a division is occurring in their pursuit for the Dream, ultimately showing that there is a sharp separation of the minorities from the upper class. Therefore, both The Great Gatsby and “The Great Gap-sby” reveal the subliminal segregation occurring towards the minorities. Manolias 4 

Alternatively, one may argue that minorities are still able to thrive and excel in the Dream. Even Fitzgerald demonstrates this idea, displaying the image of “a limousine. . . driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes with. . . haughty rivalry” (Source A). This scene is the epitome of what the American Dream was not supposed to allow: minorities such as African Americans living lavishly. However, this is simply not a valid example of the inclusion of minorities in the Dream. This is firstly due to the fact that these African Americans are some of the only ones Fitzgerald feels inclined to include in the novel. This highlights the fact that a true member of the 1920s, such as Fitzgerald himself, refuses to include an integral part of American society in his novel. Along with this is the fact that the other African Americans in the novel are the Buchanan’s and Gatsby’s servants, who Gatsby ultimately ends up firing for not doing the job exactly as he wants it done. This again shows that minorities are viewed as lazy members of the working class. Fitzgerald only incorporates them as servants, and as rich citizens as an afterthought. Because of this, the argument that minorities are still able to flourish in the American Dream is simply invalid. They will only ever be able to reach a certain level of the Dream, and will continue to be viewed as lazy.

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