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Great Gatsby and the Rise of the Leisure Class

            Thorstein Veblen's, "The Rise of the Leisure Class," explains the development of the hierarchal structures of society and how it is not sufficient for one to be just wealthy, but also to convey its wealth to everyone. This idea of consuming more than what is considered sustenance is, as Veblen called it, "conspicuous consumption." F. Scott Fitzgerald is able to portray how this concept is evident in his novel The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald uses the setting of New York and the character of Jay Gatsby to indicate the idea of "conspicuous consumption." .
             The two primary settings of the novel in New York are West Egg and East Egg. West Egg represents the wealthy who earned their money while East Egg represents the wealthy who inherited their money. West Egg, on the other hand, is on the south side Manhasset Bay where they perpetually attempt to convey their social status through extravagant spending. East Egg is less irresponsible with their money. Through the cars, houses, and money in general, Fitzgerald successfully portrays a very selfish society. Veblen's idea that "In order to be reputable it must be wasteful," (Chapter 4, Conspicuous Consumption) is evidence. They believe that the only way they can create and maintain a strong reputation is to constantly show off the items they wasted their money on. Jay Gatsby's house is an obvious example in that he spends a great amount of his wealth adding decorations that drastically pass the point of being considered a necessity. As a result, many people who are trying to pursuit wealth are unsuccessful, hence the demise of the American Dream in the 1920s. In The Great Gatsby, the Valley of Ashes is the representation of this lower class society. They were described as "ash-gray men" (Ch.2, pg. 23, TGG) who lost their vitality and only wanted to make money but couldn't because of the narcissistic nature of the upper class of society.

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