The Great Gatsby (2013) comments on 1920s America, by displaying the extravagance that characterised the lifestyles of America’s elite. The American Dream is the rejection of Old World hierarchy, where even the poorest man could become wealthy; however, in The Great Gatsby, the aristocracy is simply replaced with the ‘old money’ of East Egg. As a result, Gatsby, who lives in ‘new money’ West Egg, feels compelled to lie about his own origins as to be accepted amongst East Egg society. He claims that he is from a rich family and was educated at Oxford, frequently using the term ‘old sport’ to suggest aristocratic roots. In actual fact he comes from a poor farming family in North Dakota. Class was of such value to Gatsby that he ‘never accepted’ his parents ‘as his parents at all.’ Fitzgerald’s fiction was trying to demonstrate that being affluent was of such importance that Gatsby was happy to reject his own parents, and eventually make his fortune through illegal practices. Gatsby even initially rejected the love of his life, Daisy, because he felt that he wasn’t qualified financially to marry such a woman at that moment in time.
However, despite Gatsby’s wealth, he still wasn’t regarded as part of the elite, and never could have been; as East Egg resident Tom Buchanan tells Gatsby, ‘we were born different.’ The Great Gatsby suggests that, from birth, your position in society has already been determined. This links in with the portrayal of ethnicity in the film. African Americans do not portray any of the central characters in the story, and are instead shown only as workers and servants. Near the beginning of the film, Tom Buchanan claims that ‘it’s been proved scientifically’ that whites are ‘the dominant race,’ a remark that would not be tolerated today. The film also highlights the disadvantages of being born female, in that women were totally subordinate to their husbands. Daisy states that ‘the best thing in this world a girl could be’ was ‘a beautiful little fool,’ emphasizing her powerlessness in stopping her husband’s affair.
The Great Gatsby shows that money was more important than anything else, and that even being a gangster was better than being poor. However, it also shows that, no matter how much money you had, your gender, ethnicity, and class would prevent you from fully realising the American Dream.