Bootlegging to riches: Faulty technology

November 14, 2010

“Nouveau Riche (French for “new rich”), or new money, refers to a person who has acquired considerable wealth within his or her generation. This term is generally to emphasize that the individual was previously part of a lower socioeconomic rank, and that such wealth has provided the means for the acquisition of goods or luxuries that were previously unobtainable.”

During the 1920’s in Long Island, New York, there existed a dominance of the social elite.  In The Great Gatsby “bootlegging” becomes the form of technology used to transcend an individual from low social class into the Nouveau riche (newly rich).  Gatsby, who was once from a poor family attains great wealth without education or financial inheritance.   However, bootlegging is not seen as ethical as it is an illegal business of smuggling alcohol.  Gatsby merely gives in to the image of success through bootlegging but doesn’t realize the harmful effects of this as faulty technology.  It can detach individuals from their old identity and leave them not fully able to adjust to their new identity.  Although Gatsby’s attains wealth, Tom calls it “ill-gotten gain” as this money comes from crime, gambling, and bootlegging liquor.

The most intriguing thing about Gatsby’s residence is his decision to live in West Egg.  While Nick assures us that East Egg is the wealthier region, Gatsby resides in West Egg due to comfort. Even though Gatsby is so wealthy it is clear that he has not yet integrated into the group of the social elite.  He cannot be part of an aristocracy of wealthy individuals because he has used bootlegging to climb up the ranks instead of relying on inheritance.

By the end of the novel we find ourselves observing the negative consequences of using faulty technology.  Gatsby’s pursuit of wealth only leads him to a false association with aristocracy.  He is nothing like Tom but he was fueled by Daisy’s choice of Tom in marriage to pursue wealth.  He became an instant millionaire however wealth did not lead him to true success.  He did not win Daisy over with money and by the end of the novel only a few people including Nick and Gatsby’s father attend his funeral.  Bootlegging is faulty technology because it did enhance Gatsby’s lifestyle with riches, but at the same time it brought detachment because of how difficult it makes individuals to disassociate oneself with the old, and associate with the new.


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