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Understanding Social Class

Write about the Class in the Great Gatsby and Great Expectations.

Social class refers to a set of subjectively defined concept in relation to the social sciences that is centered on the model of social stratification. People are grouped together into different social categories on the basis of their position in the society. It is a great subject of analysis for the sociologists and anthropologists.  In common usage, it is synonymous with that of the socio-economic class and people who belong to the same socio-economic strata are grouped together.

The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald brings to light the dramatic difference between that of the social classes in the era of the 1920’s. The movie opens in an elementary school where some kids have access to a great deal of social capital like that of good looks, games and stylish clothing. They form a part of the in-group and belong to the popular crowd. Those people who are not endowed with these superficial traits are shunned by this popular group and they belong to a different social class. The social divisions continue to stay with the individual even after they emerge into the world of adulthood. Social status becomes all the more solidified in the adult world when the material possessions play a greater role. Adults become all the more segregated on account of the social class. The people who have abundant resources enjoy a different lifestyle as compared to those who do not have it and the world of opulence is portrayed with the help of the house-parties and country clubs.  In contrast to this, Great Expectations written by Charles Dickens opens with the central character Pip running to the churchyard to look at the headstones of his parents, Philip Pirrip and Georgiana. The terror and helplessness in the life of the young boy is captured when he identifies himself as “small bundle of shivers growing afraid”. The loneliness in the life of young Pip is shown in the opening scene when he is shown alone in the cemetery. While, the world in The Great Gatsby is shown as being opulent on the other hand Great Expectations shows people struggling for minimal livelihood.  He comes across a convict on the Kent marshes and this convict is like the ogre of childhood fairy tale and it introduced the audience to the world of criminality. Pip’s connection to the world of criminality is laid bare in the opening scene and several symbols in the course of the movie like that of gallow, signpost and the beacon clearly highlights the important role that crime played in the society.

The Great Gatsby: Opulence vs. Struggle


The cinematic technique used in the movie “The Great Gatsby” uses a lot of colours and light that symbolizes the opulent lifestyle of the characters. The fashionable East Egg where Daisy Buchanan lived along with that of Tom Buchanan stands as the epitome of luxury. Buchanans along with that of Jordan Baker live a life that is privileged as shown by the house parties and grand houses. Their class and social status has an important bearing on the way they deal with life. From the perspective of the Marxist, it is control over that of the natural and economic resources that is instrumental within the society to divide people. The “haves” refer to those people who have control over these aspects as compared to those who do not have control over the natural and economic resources. Class was thus directly related to the factor of wealth within the ambit of the cinema. The Buchanans along with that of Jay Gatsby constitute an integral part of the privileged class which they have received by virtue of acquiring property and education. Nick Carraway on the other hand belong to the class of the propertyless intelligentsia and Wilsons on the other hand belong to that of the working class.


Great Expectations ranges from that of the low class convict and orphans to that of the poor working class of Joe and Biddy and it extended to that of the wealthy Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham made her fortune by manufacturing beer. A difference thus exists between the class of both the novels. The characters of the novel are not blessed with the fortune of traditional aristocracy and instead make their living by their hard work. They are self-made and they rise in the hierarchies of the society by the dint of their own labour. The characters of Great Expectations seems to be very close to the real world whereas the world as depicted in The Great Gatsby is a world of glamour and opulence an bears close resemblance to the world of films. The characters drown in the world of luxury and are inclined in pursuing money that will embolden them with power.

The lighting effect has been used very carefully in the course of the Great Expectations. The world is portrayed in shades of grey, black and white that signifies the world of criminality and the danger lurking in the society. The characters are portrayed in the way they are and the use of minimal sounds highlights the dreary monotonous life of the characters as opposed to the extravagant life of the characters of “The Great Gatsby”. The bright lights used highlight the opulence of the characters of The Great Gatsby. It portrays the high class and distinctive lifestyle of the characters.

Great Expectations: From Convicts to the Wealthy

Dickens criticizes three problems in the society that plagues the Victorian England: treatment meted out to children, injustice of structure of the social class and inhumanity in relation to government and law. The children were objectified like a cost free commodity in order to support the industrial revolution.  The constant beatings that was perpetrated on the character of Philip Pirrip by the guardian Mrs. Joe highlights the sad plight of the poor orphans who were left at the mercy of others in Victorian England. It brings out the dehumanization in relation to the children of Britain. Trabbs Boy who is another young boy of the age of Pip is compelled to work for the tailor and he is objectified and treated like a labour commodity. Estella is also symbolic of the dehumanization in relation to the children. She does not have to work as a child because of the possessions of her guardian, Miss Havisham but she is raised to be an object who listens to all the advices of Miss Havisham. Society was obsessed with that of wealth and many people who worked in the factories were made to work like that of slaves. They had to enter the world at a young age and they had to work around twelve hours a day and were in turn paid a meagre amount.


In “The Great Gatsby”, the decline in the moral values is directly proportional to that of wealth. The greed of the characters in “The Great Gatsby” was clearly evident and the unwavering belief of the society in the society is made clear in the course of the movie. The narration of the work is done with the help of moral retrospection of the character of Nick Carraway. His criticisms of the greed and carelessness bring to light the perversions in the mind of the people of the upper class .  Daisy married Tom Buchanan because at that point of time Tom was far wealthier than that of Jay Gatsby. An expensive necklace is presented as a gift to daisy that makes Daisy accept the marriage proposal of Tom. The shallow mind of the people is thus highlighted with the help of the character of Daisy.

At the time of The Victorian era, there was no facility for state education and the lower class people could not send their children to the school and they had to suffer the dismal working conditions of the factories . This injustice plagued the society of the time of Charles Dickens and a society that values the wealth has been brought to the light in the course of the work. In this way, it is similar to the world of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Money and social class determined the prestige that one will enjoy in the society. From this point of view, the world can be termed as shallow in relation to both these works and the mentality of the people was narrow. The characters who are poor had moral principles whereas those who are wealthy were the most corrupt and immoral The moral stalwart of Pip is Joe and Joe is looked down upon for his humble means. Later in the course of the work, Pip ridicules him for his humility when he himself becomes wealthy. This hypocrisy suggests the moral failure of the society who failed to obey by the right moral code.

Cinematic Techniques: Lighting and Symbolism

In “The Great Gatsby”, Nick Carraway enjoys the company of Jordan Baker on account of her fame and position in the society. As Carraway continues to spend more time with the character of Jordan Baker, he realizes that she is afraid from the inside. When Jordan Baker was at a young age, she had to learn about coping mechanisms that would keep her happy in the society. Baker was taught to be fake so that she can tap into the superficial want of the upper classes. Caraway notices that these streaks were present in most of the members of the upper class. The wealthy members of the society twist their individual perspective so that they can gain happiness out of it (The unappealing qualities can be found in the people belonging to the top hierarchy of the society. Towards the end of the novel, when Nick is given the opportunity to continue his profession as New York bondsman or whether to return back home, he prefers his life back home because he feels that the people who come from that of the upper class are to a large extent unhappy and superficial . Towards the end of the novel, “Great Expectations”, Pip is arrested for debt and put in the prison. He is however spared on account of his failing health. He feels that he is hallucinating the face of Joe but actually Joe has arrived in order to nurse him in his difficult time. Joe though poor is portrayed as a sincere man having great moral principles. Pip and Joe went out for a Sunday outing like the times when they were small. People may be moved by false pretenses but in the end they would prefer the virtuous life. After eleven years, Pip comes back to England. He has learnt the importance of hard work and is happy with a modest life. He works in a mercantile firm that shows that in the end he is contented with a simple, happy life.

Money creates a desire in the human nature of greed. When people become wealthy, they want to rise in the social ladder and they become corrupted. The personal values are compromised when one becomes rich. Great Expectations along with that of The Great Gatsby show that the protagonists think that wealth can be used in order to serve the common good but many values are compromised during this process. Pip and Gatsby want to use the money in order to get their love in their life (When trying to achieve these goal, a lot is compromised. When Pip gets the money from unknown benefactor he comes under the guidance of Jaggers and hardly returned to his home town. In the initial stage, his main reason for his return was in order to visit Joe and Biddy but after gaining the social stature he becomes proud and visiting these people becomes laborious for him. These illustrates how social position in the society changes the individual and he starts treating the people in his life from his humble beginnings with a lot of scorn. Previously he used to look to Joe as a father figure but later on he does not want to see him because Joe is a blacksmith. The end of the novel of “The Great Gatsby” reveals Nick assuming responsibility for the final arrangement of Gatsby as no one else was interested ).  It shows the shallowness of the people who used to come to his house and indulge in eating and drinking but deserted him in his final hour.The ending highlights the callous nature of the people. Klipspringer completely puts away the issue of the funeral of Gatsby and shamelessly asks Nick about a pair of shoes.

Elevated status in terms of wealth compels an individual to crave for more and increased want results in bending the rules in order to serve the self-interest of a person. It is found throughout the world that individuals who have a high social status tend to look down upon the poor and those who are less fortunate as compared to that of other people. People who have money and social status became less ethical in their dealings with the society ).  The rich people have a tendency to act for their own narrow and selfish interest. Different positions occupied by individuals in the society thus give rise to divergent social values. Overarching value is related to money in the complex world of today. Ethical values should be the priority of an individual but once people acquire wealth and social status the principles are compromised and serving their narrow interest becomes their main agenda. The decadence of moral principles has become a grave topic in the complex environment of the modern world and rigorous thinking is required to change the mindset of an individual.

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