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Reflection of Historical and Social Contexts in the Novels ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’

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Novels are often reflections of the contexts in which they were produced, and still have value for readers today. Examples of such novels include ‘The Great Gatsby’, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s, ‘Jasper Jones’, written by Craig Silvey in 2009, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’, written by author Jane Austin in 1813. All three of these novels portray a reflection of the context in which they were produced, whether that be at the time they were set, like ‘The Great Gatsby’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or a later time which presents a more modern portrayal of its context, such as in ‘Jasper Jones’. Through the characterization of characters, their attitudes and values, important plot details and focusing on certain contextual details, these novels are reflections on the historical and social contexts in which they were produced, and most certainly still have value for readers today.

The novels discussed are all reflections of the contexts in which they were produced, and still have great value for readers today, through the messages they teach. The novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ provides an insight to the corruption, recklessness and materialism, economic rise created in the 1920s, and that readers today should not lose sight of their true dreams, as Gatsby did. In the novel ‘Jasper Jones’, author Craig Silvey, suggests that 1960s Australia was very racist against indigenous people, and that the reader shouldn’t make false predicaments and assumptions about a person based on the color of their skin, as Jasper Jones is presumed by the townspeople to have committed the murder, even though he’s innocent. The novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ portrays a society where a woman's reputation is seen as utmost important, and can be put under scrutiny from others if they don’t look, speak, or behave a certain way, however Austin shows the reader that individuality and integrity are just as important to have through the characterization of Elizabeth. All three novels reflect the historical and social contexts of the time in which they were produced, and that by reading them, the reader will learn an important lesson that is still valuable today.

‘The Great Gatsby’ is a reflection of the historical and social context of the 1920s, at which the novel was set and produced. Despite the 1920s being seen as a time of great optimism and economic expansion after the end of World War I, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays a desolate view of this time, focusing on corruption, recklessness and materialism. As people began seeking stock market fortunes, the novel focuses on the nature of the ‘American Dream’ and the belief that if you work hard, you can achieve happiness and wealth. However, as seen through the character of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald suggests that easy money can corrupt this dream. Gatsby originally sought wealth to win over Daisy, in the belief that if he owned enough possessions and made enough money, he would become equal in status to her. However, in the journey to achieve this goal, he pursues money via unlawful practices and loses Daisy’s love, despite the large amount of money he acquired. Gatsby’s failure to claim Daisy’s love doesn’t mean that the American Dream is unachievable, but rather proves the foolishness of bypassing that dream by allowing corruption and materialism to prevail over hard work and real love. Nick states, “Perhaps Gatsby no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream”, suggesting that although the American Dream wasn’t necessarily unachievable during this time, it was an unwise goal that led many people into corruption. This message still has value for readers today as it outlines the importance of not losing track of your dreams, even when other temptations arise. Towards the end of the novel Nick says, “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night”, which suggests that Gatsby’s original dream was already behind him, as he had been so focused on his wealth, rather than his happiness and love, making it impossible to achieve. ‘The Great Gatsby’ reflects the corrupt nature of the economic rise in the 1920s, leaving the reader with a valuable lesson to not lose sight of their goals.

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The novel ‘Jasper Jones’ sets in the 1960s, is a reflection of racism in Australia during this time, and shows how readers today should not have preconceived ideas on others based on the color of their skin. Throughout the novel, a young ‘half caste’ boy tries to discover who murdered Laura Wishart, as an attempt to not be blamed for the crime himself. Even though Jasper didn’t actually commit the crime, he lives with the assumption that the murder will be pinned on him and he will be automatically arrested for her murder because of his troublemaker reputation and the color of his skin. This can be shown when he says, “Bloody hell. Listen, Charlie, we can’t tell anyone. No way. Specially the police. Because they are gonna say it was me. Straight up. Understand?”. Although the novel is set in the 1960s, it was produced in 2009, which suggests that the author, Craig Silvey, has purposely made Jasper innocent to highlight the racism and false accusations against indigenous people during the 1960s, which we began to have a fuller understanding of in 2009. At the end of the novel, Charlie realizes that Jasper will most likely be blamed for the fire at Eliza's house, as despite not actually being guilty, the racist assumptions the townspeople have of him will always lead him to be wrongly accused. Perhaps the most valuable lesson for the reader is that although Jasper was innocent, it was because of preconceived and racist ideas people had of him that he was routinely blamed for other people’s crimes. ‘Jasper Jones’ is a great reflection of a modern viewpoint of racism in the 1960s and holds large value for the readers about judging people based on appearances.

‘Pride and Prejudice’, a novel written by Jane Austin from the late 1700s to early 1800s and published around the same time, can be seen as a reflection of the social context, such as the importance of reputation during this time period. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ depicts a society where the reputation of a woman and her family is very important, and that by not behaving, speaking or looking a certain way, women can put themselves under scrutiny from others. This can be seen when Elizabeth walks three miles to Netherfield, to look after Jane, her sick sister. Mrs. Hurst states, “She has nothing, in short, to recommend her, but being an excellent walker. I shall never forget her appearance this morning. She really looked almost wild”, which suggests that Elizabeth is different from the upper-class women who would choose to keep their good reputation, over visiting a sick family member. Elizabeth considers herself to have a high level of integrity, so therefore behaves in ways that accord to her definition of integrity, despite what others may think. This is a very valuable lesson to readers today, as even though Elizabeth was pressured to act in accord with the social norms, she was proud of her individualism and didn’t give in to society’s habit to maintain a perfect reputation. This can be seen when she rejects both Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy’s first proposal, despite the financial and social pressures she was facing, which eventually lead to her marriage with someone who would truly make her happy.

The novels discussed are all reflections of the contexts in which they were produced, and still have great value for readers today, through the messages they teach. The novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ provides an insight to the corruption, recklessness and materialism, economic rise created in the 1920s, and that readers today should not lose sight of their true dreams, as Gatsby did. In the novel ‘Jasper Jones’, author Craig Silvey suggests that 1960s Australia was very racist against indigenous people, and that the reader shouldn’t make false predicaments and assumptions about a person based on the color of their skin, as Jasper Jones is presumed by the townspeople to have committed the murder, even though he’s innocent. The novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ portrays a society where a woman's reputation is seen as utmost important, and can be put under scrutiny from others if they don’t look, speak, or behave a certain way, however Austin shows the reader that individuality and integrity are just as important to have through the characterization of Elizabeth. All three novels reflect the historical and social contexts of the time in which they were produced, and that by reading them, the reader will learn an important lesson that is still valuable today.

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Reflection of Historical and Social Contexts in the Novels ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’. (2022, December 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-of-historical-and-social-contexts-in-the-novels-the-great-gatsby-jasper-jones-and-pride-and-prejudice/
“Reflection of Historical and Social Contexts in the Novels ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.” Edubirdie, 15 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-of-historical-and-social-contexts-in-the-novels-the-great-gatsby-jasper-jones-and-pride-and-prejudice/
Reflection of Historical and Social Contexts in the Novels ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-of-historical-and-social-contexts-in-the-novels-the-great-gatsby-jasper-jones-and-pride-and-prejudice/> [Accessed 2 Mar. 2024].
Reflection of Historical and Social Contexts in the Novels ‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Jasper Jones’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 15 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/reflection-of-historical-and-social-contexts-in-the-novels-the-great-gatsby-jasper-jones-and-pride-and-prejudice/
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