The Great Gatsby

Abigail BurnettJanuary 23, 2018LeafAP LitThe Great Gatsby: Jay Gatsby and the Effects of Social Class It is often said that money cannot buy happiness, yet money is still one of the biggest motivators for corruption and fraud. Economic status and the hierarchy of big businesses were the steam engine for the booming American economy in the 1920’s and many people became far too dependent on these monopolies and felonious livelihood. In the novel “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jay Gatsby becomes dependent on his economic status after working his way up from being a poor soldier to the top of the “pyramid”. He becomes enthralled with trying to draw the attention of Daisy Buchanan, his old lover and now a married woman. However, Jay Gatsby does not get Daisy Buchanan, the love of his life. Jay Gatsby spends his entire life in order to raise his economic status. Jay Gatsby firmly believes that in order to get Daisy back he must be more opulent than her husband, Tom. Fitzgerald uses a variety of literary devices to portray the American dream, such as symbolism, to reveal the “illusory nature” of the American dream (Westwood). The “American dream” is reinforced throughout the book as it was the backbone of the time period. Many people set their goals to attain as much money as they could so they could live the American dream and live lavishly. The 1920s were filled with monopolies and corruption of big businesses, many of which were illegally obtaining money through illicit deals and agreements. Jay Gatsby opts to try illegal methods in order to maximize his profit. “He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side street drug stores here in Chicago and cold grain alcohol over the counter,” Nick states (Fitzgerald, F Scott 141). Jay Gatsby’s materialistic desire causes him to be involved in illegal business with Wolfsheim and proves that materialism corrupts him.The Great Gatsby is highly symbolic of the disintegration of the American dream. In Westwood’s article, he states that the main symbols used throughout the book is the green light by Daisy’s house that “symbolizes Gatsby’s hopes and dreams of a life with Daisy”, and he also mentions that the Valley of Ashes is a symbol for the “ugly consequences of America’s obsession with wealth.”  The green light could also be suggestive of the desire that Gatsby feels toward Daisy, and his envy for her lifestyle. Once Gatsby reconnects with Daisy, the green light is no longer lit; this could foreshadow the grave consequences of Gatsby’s actions. Chasers of the American dream would love to see a happy ending for Gatsby, because it will be ensuring their delusion about wealth. But Fitzgerald pointed out the high price for “living too long with a single dream.” by arranging the tragical death of Gatsby. For people who consider the American dream to be their only dream, pursuing it could also be destructive. “Every writer has an inspiration, whether they get inspired from their personal lives or the lives of others, nonetheless they get inspired,” as Ladan Abdullahi explains in her paper, “Materialism in The Great Gatsby”. Inspiration is the root of all great writing, it is the fundamental reasoning behind writing. F. Scott Fitzgerald is no exception. The Great Gatsby is a classic American Novel that “focuses on timeless themes such as ambition, greed and finally love” (Abdullahi). F. Scott Fitzgerald was inspired by various factors in his lifetime that led him to write The Great Gatsby. Many authors base their novels off of events that happen in their lives or on their own upbringing. Fitzgerald was raised in an upper class family with many opportunities to succeed in life, as he had access to many different schools. He’s different in a way from Gatsby as he never struggled for money, yet Fitzgerald could relate to Gatsby as he attains more money and starts being drawn to things of more worth, such as expensive houses and eccentric parties. As stated by Claire Arkett in her article titled, “Jay Gatsby and F. Scott Fitzgerald: Parallels in Characters,” there are a few similarities between the two that could lead you to believe Gatsby is a “fictional manifestation” of Fitzgerald, whether it was intentional or not. In Arkett’s article, she states one of the similarities between Fitzgerald and Gatsby is their “irrational love” for the woman in their life. Fitzgerald was in love with a woman named Zelda Sayre who was schizophrenic, which put a strain on their relationship, yet “despite her illness, her husband loved her, almost irrationally” (Arkett p.2). This love can be compared to Gatsby’s love for Daisy, as he creates an unrealistic image of her during the 5 years they’re apart, and yet still loves her when these expectations aren’t met when they’re reunited. Money and materialism are two common values throughout the entire work. It’s introduced in the beginning when Nick Carraway moves out to West Egg, a rich town just outside New York. Nick realizes that his neighbor is always throwing elaborate and eccentric parties, yet continuously spots him outside by himself, looking into the distance during these festivities. Money was the most prominent contributing factor with most of the relationships portrayed throughout the book; Daisy wanted Gatsby for his “new money”, yet still loved Tom for his “old money”, and Myrtle loved Tom for his wealth, and Gatsby ultimately wanted Daisy because of her status. In the book Tom states about his wife, Daisy, that “her voice is full of money,” and in that moment, Nick realizes that is why Daisy is such a wanted item within their society; the way she carries herself and speaks as if she’s full of lust for wealth, and that’s all anyone ever wanted. (ch.7 par.99). This short, to-the-point quote about Daisy shows that she makes her decisions based on money.  As the story goes on, money covers up things that occur, such as Myrtle being hit by Gatsby’s car, and then eventually Gatsby’s demise at the hands of Myrtle’s husband, George Wilson. If any of these things had happened in a lower class society, they would have never been able to cover it up how the wealthy people could. This just emphasizes the corruption that went on during that time. At the news of Gatsby’s death, Nick seemed to be the only one that cared, as Daisy and Tom were obsessed with their wealth and their station in life to care and everyone who attended Gatsby’s parties could not of cared less. This event causes the reader to realize many people in Gatsby’s life were only there because of his money and wealth, and money cannot buy happiness in the end. Materialism has a negative influence on the characters in the novel, The Great Gatsby. As stated by Malcolm Muggeridge, “the most terrible thing about materialism even more terrible than its proneness to violence, is its boredom, from which sex, alcohol, drugs, all devices for putting out the accusing light of reason and suppressing the unrealizable aspirations of love, offers a prospect of deliverance.” This quote states that people get bored with the things they have when they get new things all of the time. When they get bored with these things, they turn to stuff like sex, alcohol, and drugs. Throughout the novel, Gatsby, Daisy, and Myrtle are greatly influenced by the boredom of their wealth and turn to mainly sex. Both Myrtle and Daisy turn to another love interest other than their husbands. Myrtle is embarrassed of her husband as he is not wealthy, she exclaims in the book, “He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in, and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out…I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried…all afternoon.” The reason for her affair with Tom is obvious, he has the money and can provide Myrtle with materialistic things that George couldn’t. If her husband gave her the same things that Tom did, she most likely would not be having an affair, but the fact that he provides her with things such as a dog, and an apartment in New York City, affect her decisions greatly. Along with Myrtle, Daisy also gets a share of the wealth, being Tom’s wife. From the beginning, Daisy is knowledgeable about the affair between Myrtle and Tom. She chooses to be oblivious to the whole situation because of money. Materialism negatively influences her because she lets him continue to be with her, because she doesn’t want to lose Tom, or more importantly to her, the money. The decay of morality is a major theme during the Roarin’ 20s and throughout the novel, “The Great Gatsby”.  After World War II, the Victorian values were disregarded. There was an increase in alcohol consumption, and the Modernist Era was brought about. Fitzgerald uses the characters in the novel–specifically the Buchanans, Jordan Baker, and Gatsby’s party goers–to represent the theme of moral decay in society. Tom Buchanan in particular epitomizes the advent of moral uncertainty in the Modernist Era, as Fitzgerald makes it very evident upon introducing Tom that he is unapologetically having an affair with another woman and only cares about his money.  Both Daisy and Tom are portrayed as having a corroded morality as Nick states, “they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made” (179).  This consummately describes the couple as neither of them seem to have any remorse after Gatsby’s murder, especially when Tom states, “that fellow had it coming to him” (178), as if he were to scared to face the truth and blame Gatsby for everything. Each character in the book has a different perspective on Jay Gatsby. Nick Carraway views Gatsby almost in a pitiful way, like he wants to help him get out of this hole he’s in. Nick has a moral background that allows him to judge Jay Gatsby accordingly. His descriptions did not only creates sympathy, but also made Gatsby, the outlaw bootlegger, somehow admirable. F. Scott Fitzgerald presented this ethical trick to expose people’s delusions about the American dream, and uses Nick to show sympathy for strivers. Daisy views Gatsby as a love interest but not for actual love, just to satisfy her wants as she is aware of her own husbands affair and is attracted to Gatsby’s money. Throughout the book, “The Great Gatsby” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, we are reminded that money cannot buy happiness. No matter what Jay Gatsby, Daisy, or any character do, they find themselves bored or desiring more. Money is the only thing many of the characters have and in the end, has no value or true meaning. As Jay Gatsby continues on his pursuit towards the “American dream”, we realize how such pursuits can compromise morals and lead people down a very dark road in life. This novel also teaches its audience that everyone wants something they don’t have, like in this case, true happiness with where they’re at in life.


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