The Great Gatsby portrays three different social classes: "old money" (Tom and Daisy Buchanan); "new money" (Gatsby); and a class that might be called "no money" (George and Myrtle Wilson). "Old money" families have fortunes dating from the 19th century or before, have built up powerful and influential social connections, and tend to hide their wealth and superiority behind a veneer of civility. The "new money" class made their fortunes in the 1920s boom and therefore have no social connections and tend to overcompensate for this lack with lavish displays of wealth.
The Great Gatsby shows the newly developing class rivalry between "old" and "new" money in the struggle between Gatsby and Tom over Daisy. As usual, the "no money" class gets overlooked by the struggle at the top, leaving middle and lower class people like George Wilson forgotten or ignored.
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) ThemeTracker
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Quotes in The Great Gatsby
"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."
He looked at me sideways—and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. He hurried the phrase “educated at Oxford,” or swallowed it or choked on it as though it had bothered him before. And with this doubt his whole statement fell to pieces and I wondered if there wasn’t something a little sinister about him after all.
“Fixed the World’s Series?” I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered of course that the World’s Series had been fixed in 1919 but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people—with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
“How did he happen to do that?” I asked after a minute.
“He just saw the opportunity.”
“Why isn’t he in jail?”
“They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.”
“He wants her to see his house,” she explained. “And your house is right next door.”
“Do you like it?”
“I love it, but I don’t see how you live there all alone.”
“I keep it always full of interesting people, night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.”
Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor.
“Where’d you hear that”’ I inquired.
“I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.”
“Not Gatsby,” I said shortly.
That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money—that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it.
“Who are you, anyhow?” broke out Tom. “You’re one of that bunch that hangs around with Meyer Wolfsheim—that much I happen to know. I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs—and I’ll carry it further tomorrow. […] I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were.” He turned to us and spoke rapidly. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong.”
I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end. First he nodded politely, and then his face broke into that radiant and understanding smile, as if we'd been in ecstatic cahoots on that fact all the time.
He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses. I don’t mean that he had traded on his phantom millions, but he had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe that he was a person from much the same stratum as herself—that he was fully able to take care of her. As a matter of fact he had no such facilities—he had no comfortable family standing behind him and he was liable at the whim of an impersonal government to be blown anywhere about the world.
“Start him! I made him.”
“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was an Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join up in the American Legion and he used to stand high there. Right off he did some work for a client of mine up to Albany. We were so thick like that in everything—” He held up two bulbous fingers “—always together.”