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Wealth Distribution

The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath, two of the greatest American novels, both support the current wealth distribution in their own way. In the early 1920’s, the time of Gatsby, it is clear that the wealth distribution is uneven. The rich ones like Daisy, Tom, the people at Gatsby’s party, and of course, Gatsby himself appear to have most of the nation’s money in their pockets. Then there are those who live in the Valley of Ashes, who struggle to make a living and have to endure the unsanitary environment along with the taunting of the riches who pass by every day. Moving into the 1930’s, only about ten years later, the Great Depression reigned the country. The Grapes of Wrath, taking place around the crippling depression and the Dust Bowl, follows the migration of millions of Americans who are chased out of their farms and forced into the West. Again, the riches control most of the nation’s wealth. The great owners think of methods to drive off the smaller farmers, causing them to be “taken by the great owners, the banks” (Steinbeck 284). Thus as time goes on, fewer farms exist.

Comparing with the people in the Valley of Ashes in the 1920’s, the poor in the 1930’s are living in much worse conditions. Sometimes they are not even treated as human. Therefore it is safe to say that comparing to the “Okies”, the poor in Gatsby can be described as the middle class section. However, the rich ones are not changing much, only becoming meaner and less moral in their demeanor. They are still ignorant of the nation’s struggle, only thinking of their own well being. In part, it is the riches’ ignorance or in some cases, their reluctance to acknowledge the financial crisis in the country that lead to today’s wealth distribution: where almost half of the nation’s wealth belong to one person. According to the video “Wealth Inequality in America”, the poorest are so far below the poverty line that their wealth does not even register on the wealth distribution graph.

The short video employs logical and emotional appeal to the audience, making them realize the serious financial issue in America today. By using infographics and percentages, the narrator in the video gives a clear image of the wealth distribution. It also makes him appear knowledgeable and reliable. The soft, heavy background music composed mainly of low tones creates a solemn atmosphere. The comparison between reality and ideal images of the nation’s wealth distribution further provokes a feeling of dismay among the audience.

Combining The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, and the video makes one see that history is repeating itself, with virtually no improvement in economy despite so many efforts made to solve the problem between now and then. No matter how hard the government tries to establish ideal distribution of wealth, if each individual American does not participate in the reform, then the situation will not turn for the better.

Link to Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM

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The melancholy beauty

The poem The Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot conveys a strange sense of beauty through a series of imagery. In the beginning of the poem, Eliot portrays an illustration of a group of people while addressing the reader using “we”, describing us as “the stuffed men/ Leaning together/ Headpiece filled with straw”. Our voices are dry, and when we whisper together, the sounds “are quiet and meaningless/ As wind in dry grass/ Or rats’ feet over broken glass/ In our dry cellar”. The image of the wind, dry grass, cellar and rat create a feeling of despair and disgust We are being described like a pile of scarecrows, lifeless and unintelligent. The author thinks that our daily conversations are pointless exchange of words about trivial matters, and the listeners do not care enough to listen. This part starts off the entire poem with a dark and sad atmosphere.

 

Since the poem was published in the same year as The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, those two literary works share some ideologies. They both think that people seem to be living a wonderful life, their hearts are dead and pulled down by the weight of money and materialism. The beauty of both pieces of literature come from their melancholy. The novel and the poem revolve around the ideas of death and despair that are often connected with the poor especially during the 1900s. The beginning of IV in the poem describes the eyes, saying that “the eyes are not here/ there are no eyes here/ In this valley of dying stars/ In this hollow valley/ This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms”. This part parallels with the Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby, where the eyes of Dr. Eckleberg watch over the death of Myrtle.

Link to poem: http://allpoetry.com/The-Hollow-Men