Lewis Lapham and his arguments are convincing, but when looking deeper into the American upper class’ moral, and looking at Fitzgerald’s critique in his book the great Gatsby, on can see that he strips away the illusion of superiority to reveal the ugly truth behind the glittering façade of the rich. The Great Gatsby is perfect for this comparison, as it is known as the quintessential novel of the Jazz age. It accurately portrays the lifestyle of the rich during the booming 1920s.
Lapham starts off with an allusion to Henry’s Adams autobiography, quoting:”although the Americans weren’t much good as materialist they had been so ‘deflected by the pursuit of money’ that they could turn ‘in no other direction’”. Fitzgerald breaks the values of the rich down, to reveal the ugly truth – most people in this lavish lifestyle are arrogant, ignorant, and selfish. Fitzgerald does so by comparing Tom, who represents the upper class in his novel, with Jay Gatsby, who represents the people that have just earned their money (self made society). At the end, Gatsby has all the good qualities you’d expect from the upper class, and Tom does not.
For example, Fitsgerald compares Tom and Gatsby’s manners. Knowing what to do and good manners are qualities often attributed to the upper class. Many even believe that this is how well bred people distinguish themselves from others. Ironically, the most “well bred” characters in the novel are often the worst behaved - Tom. Despite his background and wealth, he is abrupt, constantly rude and even violent. On the other hand, the low-born and self-made Gatsby is always the perfect gentleman.
Lapham goes on to compare societys in other countries in the world – including the Greeks, the Germans, and the French. He concludes that even though the Americans have the reputation of being absurdly rich, they are no less greedier than the French, no less intellectual than the germans, or less venal than the soviets, etc. Relying on Fitzgerald’s...