Anti-Semitism And Stereotypes Of Jew In The Great Gatsby Research Paper Example
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It is broadly claimed by literature critics that The Great Gatsby signifies a fine specimen of the time it was written, an epoch in which Prohibition, American Anti-Semitism and nativism individually epitomize significant themes of literary discourse for the 1920’s. More notably a cautious examination of the novel reveals the amount to which these two tendencies are so narrowly linked. Dominant to this construction and to the story as a whole is Gatsby’s professional identity and his even more vague religious characterization let alone his class status and roots. Jay Gatsby is a Jewish American who has masked his distinctiveness in order to rise above class, ethnic and religious barricades.
In the 4th chapter, the introduction of the Jewish character Meyer Wolfsheim aids in an intensification of Nick's as well as the reader's suspicions regarding Gatsby's righteousness. Nick quickly comes to believe that the stories of Gatsby's connection to organized crime and the underworld (with activities like bootlegging) may not be entirely incorrect.
Jordan's story regarding Gatsby is an antithesis portraying him as an idealistic, strained to adore his love interest from a distance. And though Jordan suggests that there was something in Gatsby's past that made Daisy's parents to clash with their possible marriage, it is apparent that Gatsby, in his youth, was a gentleman of flawless merit. Fitzgerald bases his writing upon times of quixotic banalities to introduce Gatsby as the model lover: a fighter leaving off to war, courageous and beautiful, young and uncontaminated. Nick's uncertainty towards Gatsby, in which he discovers himself always changing back and forth between esteem and revulsion (the reader recollects that Nick found the excesses of Gatsby's party revolting) is highlighted in this chapter. The inconsistency is innate in Gatsby's personality between his naive optimism and alleged ethical corruption and Nick’s suspicions are also fortified.
It is significant to remark that Wolfsheim, the story's allegorical description of the "criminal factor" is clearly Jewish: the writer gives this persona a handful of stereotypical physical traits like a large nose and a small height that were fundamental aspects of racist exaggeration in the 1920s . Throughout this period, anti-Semitism in the United States of America was at a record height: Jews, as a consequence of their "typical greediness," were held accountable for the corruption of the whole spectrum of the nation. The writer seems to draw – unfavorably- on this prejudiced ideology in his demonstration of Wolfsheim; the persona seems to be nothing more than an outrageous standard of Jews.
In the 4th chapter the reader also finds out the object of Gatsby's desire which has been evident since the 1st chapter: her name is Daisy, and his love for her is what triggered Gatsby to reach out in the direction of the enigmatic green light. The green light work as a sign for a handful of things: among them are Gatsby's confident idealistic optimism, Daisy herself, and the American dream as a whole.
F. Scott Fitzgerald asserted his aversion for Jews with his stereotypical portrait of mobster Meyer Wolfsheim in this particular chapter. The vital but marginal character is not once defined and sketched with detail, save for an honest statement that he is “a small, flat-nosed Jew” with “tiny eyes” and “two fine growths of hair” wallowing in his intensely charming nostrils, which seemingly either fascinated or sickened Gatsby since he refers to them numerous times. Undeniably, for Fitzgerald, the Jew’s most noticeable and important feature is his adjustable nose, at once “expressive” and “tragic” and which has the devious talent to “flash indignantly.”
Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel has extensively been negatively assessed for its depiction of Wolfsheim as more of a Jewish parody than an actual character. According to Richard Levy, Fitzgerald’s Wolfsheim remarkably and deliberately connected Jewishness and dishonesty. The character and the descriptions that come with him, a Jewish, with suspicious associates, dealing in illegal transactions etc. is drawn as a man to be loathed as much as he is to be dreaded. Concealed threats, unfinished accounts, grasps of sour rumors that go along with an inadequate amount of discussion are all the reader has of him in F. Scott Fitzgerald's work. Yet, in his inexplicableness, Wolfsheim turns out to be the emphasis and the energy of the book’s doubts and fears. The exact same, that were also the doubts and fears of those fascinating and uncertain times.
A notorious participant of the ill-reputed gangland, Wolfsheim is presented to Nick as a trade associate of Gatsby. Profoundly caught in the tangles of organized crime and possibly guilty of rigging the 1919 World Series, his persona is a bizarre mixture of savagery and sophistication –the author describes that his cuff links are created from human teeth-. The anti-Semitism of Fitzgerald’s artistic manner is established with the special attention Fitzgerald gives on religion; it is one of the narrator’s initial priorities to label a new character according to his religion. This interpretation finds a keen spokesperson all the way through the novel as Tom expands on the supremacy of the Nordic race and criticizes the disgrace of interracial marriages. Moreover, Wolfsheim brings class strains to the front part of the stage. The people of Fitzgerald's universe are totally divided –the affluent versus the non-affluent, new money vs. old money. Every person has an image to live up to: the old upper class have coolness about costs. The luxury is strengthened by a firm birthright. The new upper class are much louder about costs. As a result, the old money have a contemptuous view of the new money since they absence the right dynasties. In the 7th chapter of Fitzgerald’s novel:
“Gatsby tells him that his friend, Walter Chase, was more than willing to join with Meyer Wolfsheim and Tom interrupts by saying that he let Walter go to jail. He reminds him that Walter could have gotten him into trouble but Wolfsheim scared him into shutting his mouth.” (23)
So, when Wolfsheim has the means to threaten Walter Chase and buy his silence, the upper-class Tom becomes frantic; a man of his stature should not to be indebted to
an insensitive criminal. Though, the fact remains that Meyer Wolfsheim has that kind of influence because he is in an even better financial state than the “old money” that Tom represents.
In this fine the between reality and imagination, Gatsby walks the finest path. Other characters take pride on themselves on being educated and cultured by the numbers of shelves filled with books of blank pages that they own, but Gatsby takes the magic to a whole new level by asserting that he has actual words in the books that fill his shelves. Wolfsheim is delighted and takes pride in his proclamation that he formulated Gatsby into the gentleman he is. Nevertheless, all that is created is the notion that a person's disguise is merely a wisely selected pool of lies. It is a seldom circumstance that one can uncover all the mysteries and riddles of another person and hardly ever can a person form the perfect façade.
In 1947 an article was published concerned with the issue of anti-Semitism in “Gatsby” stating that: “The novel reads very much like an anti-Semitic document.” (84)
The writer, Milton Hindus, reasoned that while he considers “Gatsby” to be an outstanding piece of work in its entirety, he thought that the account and the characters are all-purpose and archetypal rather than specific and limited. Wolfsheim especially, he emphasized is without a doubt the novel’s most loathsome character.
Hindus credited this depiction to the predominant anti-Semitism of the novel’s period. The writer was, in the end, part of the American upper class of the 1920s, an epoch in which a quickly growing middle class was drastically reformulating well-established traditional concepts of privilege and right of entry. This power play among social classes was disrupting, and as the unrefined common people began to blend with the prosperous elite, including Gatsby and the masses present to his mythical parties, the old elite who criticized all this sought refuge in a loyalty to tradition and loathing of the modern proletariat. As a result, Hindus debated, all this led (or connected) to a general social suspicion of the Jew. Additional predominant norms of the time, both religious and literary, also discovered ways to blame the Jew as the root of many existing harms.
Similarly infuriated by the domination of the middle class whose societal and fiscal gains successfully stood opposite of the scholarly class with its superior teaching and cultural open mindedness, a class enjoying its just rank in the American social divisions, the Jew becomes as a disturbing outcome a substitute for the loathed middle class. And in cliques whose values for social modesty did not give room for open and bare anti-Semitism, the writer was therefore given a pass to display in his novel the anti-Semitic sentiment that was else covered by the rest of well-mannered society.
All in all, Wolfsheim’s existence adds a healthy façade in a disintegrating age as he is depicted like a fashion statement of the times, and not as a full blown anti-Semitic comment.
Berrin Danielle. «The Great Gatsby's jew.» Hollywood Jew 23 May 2013.
Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2000.
Fitzgerald F. Scott, F. The Great Gatsby. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925.
Levy, Richard S. Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution. ABC-CLIO, 2005.
Li, Lucy. «Cornell Unversity.» n.d. Barbarism and Refinement: An Analysis of the Conflicts in The Great Gatsby. 18 February 2015.
Shukert, Rachel. «Gatsby’s Jew.» Tablet 10 May 2013.
Tredell, Nicolas. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: A Reader's Guide. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2007.
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