Great Gatsby; Is The Gangster Glamourised?

1554 words - 7 pages

In the character of Gatsby, Fitzgerald fails to glamorise the figure of the gangster.
The formation of gangsters and gangs can ultimately be traced back to the 18th Amendment, putting into affect Prohibition. It provided the excuse and the means of making money through the manipulation of the poor, the rich, and everyone in between. Fitzgerald knew people who had come from commonplace backgrounds to affluence and prominence. His own writing success conveyed this new upward mobility. Fitzgerald reflects many real life events and people through the plot and characterisation.

In January 1920, Congress enacted the 18th Amendment. This constitutional Amendment stated that it was illegal ...view middle of the document...

He is just the same as the other gangsters at this time, involved in illegal activity and perhaps he has even ‘killed a man’ which is neither true success nor glamorous.

It could be argued that Gatsby overturned the dated assumption that gangsters were lowlifes and replaced it with an upscale figure that was enviably wealthy and fashionably stylish. Readers may find Gatsby too romantic, too idealistic and too naive to be a criminal success, Fitzgerald counteracted this impression by cloaking his gangster in mystery. The criminal activities are not the focus of Nick’s fascination of Gatsby. It is evident that a quality of glamour is portrayed to us in Gatsby by his possessions, such as his house being described by Nick as a ‘factual imitation of some Hôtel de ville in Normandy’. The flourish of expensive shirts merely embellishes this image also ‘I’ve got some man in England who buys me clothes’, at this point Gatsby tries to make himself seem like he is part of the elite crowd. He is a ‘dandy’ who buys expensive merchandise to take on its desirability and to convince Daisy of his worthiness.

In the 1920s there were some police officers who didn’t enforce the 18th Amendment and took part in the illegal acts of alcohol. The reason this happened was due to their low salary, they were more interested in earning money. And so they would help and protect smugglers and accepted bribes. Police corruption is seen when Gatsby is pulled over for speeding, he waves a white card at a policeman. The policeman tips his cap and exclaims ‘Mr Gatsby. Excuse me!’ this shows just how much power Gatsby has. Gatsby’s explanation is that he ‘was able to do the commissioner a favour once’. Police corruption is very prominent in the novel, particularly in Gatsby’s parties, his parties include large amounts of alcohol ‘stocked with gins and liquors’ yet his parties have never been stopped by the police, it is clear that the police are afraid of Gatsby as he is intimidating.

On closer exploration the failure to glamorise the gangster life style is evident. In chapter four, Nick and Gatsby’s lunch takes place in a poorly lit cellar, Nick has to blink ‘away the brightness of the street outside’ this cellar could be considered as an appropriate place for talk of crime and criminals, further depicting their dark nature. The contrast in lighting presents two different sides of Gatsby, his flamboyant exterior which masks his criminal activities. These criminal activities do not portray the gangster as a glamorised figure and those Gatsby colludes with are considered to be the underbelly of society. His association with these people and the fact that they share a similar ‘career’ illustrates Gatsby is also not a glamorised version of a gangster.

We are then introduced to Meyer Wolfsheim, who represents real life gangster, Arnold Rothstein, the man responsible for fixing the 1919 World Series. The...

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