The Great Gatsby: the Ragged Transition from Victorian "Self-Made"

1854 words 8 pages
The definition of what it is to be a man is one of fluidity and contradiction. In Gail Bederman's essay "Remaking manhood through race and 'civilization'", she proposed that as the United States entered into the 20th century, the framework behind white manhood was challenged by the economy, women and minorities, as well as by men themselves. This confrontation of the Victorian ideals resulted in a tumultuous transition from the hard-working self-made man to its antithesis, the leisurely well-rounded man. The various stages and conflicts of this transformation can be seen in F. Scott Fitzgerald's turn-of-the-century novel, The Great Gatsby. Using Bederman's essay as a guide, it becomes apparent that four of the male characters, Tom, …show more content…

His switch from one to the other occurred on a lake (water being an important sign of rebirth) as he rowed out to a yacht. On the shore he was James Gatz, son of a farmer, by the time he reached the yacht he was Jay Gatsby, aspiring millionaire and bootlegger. He fully enjoys the life of parties and frivolity, celebrating a life of ease. According to Bederman, who said that "many middle-class men...[found] identity in leisure instead of work" (13), Gatsby has achieved that aspect modernity. He is not only laid-back but also an educated man, an Oxford-man (if only for a minute), which makes him an intellectual in the eyes of others. The large variety of people that attend his parties, from movie producers to importers, gave him an impression of variety, that not only was he smart and relaxed, but well-rounded. Gatsby was a modern man, however his dishonest conquest of this title drew much scorn from the other characters in the novel. While Wilson and Gatsby represent the two extremes, Tom is stuck in limbo between Victorianism and modernism. He leads two lives, one of the new male order and one of the old, however, as seen in Wilson, these two are in constant conflict and cannot coexist peacefully; it's either one or the other. These battling ideals take place in two distinct locations: the country (East Egg) and the city (Long Island, NYC). His body is one of a