‘In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald presents 1920s America as a moral wasteland.’ Explore this viewpoint with close reference to Fitzgerald’s craft

The moral wasteland of 1920s America is presented by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby through social and moral decay within society. This destruction is masked by the façade of opulence in East Egg. This can all be directly linked to The Wasteland by Eliot because of the influence Eliot had on Fitzgerald, as both chose to represent the moral confusion of 1920s America. The hollowness within New York is shown in the godlessness of society and that the only physical manifestation of god is that of capitalism in the billboard of TJ Eckleburg. Although Fitzgerald displays this moral wasteland throughout, the intensity of Gatsby’s aspirations highlights another contemporary perception of 1920s America as a place of achievable dreams. Yet, this dream cannot materialise and his dream is transient. Ultimately, the moral turpitude of America prevails throughout the novel and Gatsby’s attempt at dreaming doesn't redeem this society.   Fitzgerald presents infertility as a symbol of the moral wasteland in The Great Gatsby. Travelling from Long Island to NYC, Nick encounters “a certain desolate area of land. This is the valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens”. This ‘valley,’ which has connotations of a bucolic and pastoral landscape, contrasts with the imagery of ‘ashes grow like wheat into ridges,’ where this landscape is reminiscent of former growth. This is furthered by the alliterative transformation of a ‘fantastic farm’ to ‘grotesque garden’. This valley is a byproduct of capitalism that is formed of ‘ashes’ which signifies death, and specifically, the death of a past landscape which represented fertility. Therefore this new landscape presents this infertility as a manifestation of capitalism as a moral corruption. The garden imagery mirrors the biblical imagery of Adam and Eve, in that the capitalist temptations of man have caused this once beautiful place to become tainted, an industrial dustbowl filled with decay. In this way Fitzgerald displays disharmony between nature and modern Americans through the infertile land being misused for capitalist gain. This suggests that this capitalist insatiability derives from the moral misconduct of 1920s America, creating an unfruitful landscape which is also demonstrated in Eliot’s poem, The Wasteland. Eliot’s imagery delineates barren nature and its inability to reproduce through “the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish”. The sordid growth of the ‘branches’ from the ethical debris epitomises the moral turpitude of the landscape and how reproduction becomes a means of extending this decay. 

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