With Wealth

In the novel, The Great Gatsby demonstrates the consequences of wealth throughout the book. Fitzgerald writes about the lives of the wealthy living in New York by criticizing their social hierarchy, the use of materialism, and their carelessness.

In The Great Gatsby, status is viewed as one of the key elements that is used throughout the whole book. Fitzgerald recognizes the wealthy, who are initially defined by their money. Although many characters described throughout the book are wealthy, not all of them gained their money the same way. This makes the difference in the way they begin to view each other. This sets the social hierarchy within the “wealth hierarchy.” The West Egg is the neighborhood where the “new money” lives and the East Egg is the neighborhood where the “old money” lives. The “old money” gained their wealth from past generations, while the “new money” gained their wealth by mostly working for it. The “new money” is represented by Jay Gatsby and the “old money” by Tom and Daisy Buchanan. “‘Her voice is full of money,’ he said suddenly. 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…. High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl….” (120) The status that you are in depends on your amount of wealth. Relationships begin based on your status. “Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols, weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.” (115) Both Daisy and Jordan have been good friends but there is only one true connection between them that is holding them together and that is money. Meyer Wolfsheim is described to be as one of Gatsby’s life long friends, ‘“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter.”’ (171) Wolfsheim is only mentioned a few times throughout the book but he has had a significant impact on Jay Gatsby’s life because he helped him gain his money.

Materialism is promptly manifested throughout The Great Gatsby, with the description of the wealthy’s clothes, homes, automobiles, and even furniture. The materials that each person owns describes their personality in many ways. When Gatsby was younger he did not have as much money as he did when he grew older, “To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and glamor in the world.”(100) Since the beginning of the her life, Daisy Buchanan has always been wealthy. When Gatsby first meets her, he is amazed by her wealth and her personality. “Her porch was bright with the bought luxury of star-shine; the wicker of the settee squeaked fashionably as she turned toward him and he kissed her curious and lovely mouth.”(150) Daisy seems to be a one of the few  likable characters in the book. Although she is extremely wealthy, she shows intelligence and kindness to others. In the end, Daisy turns out to be like she has always been “brainwashed” in a way, to make it seem like the only way she could ever live a happy and comfortable life was with money and only that. After the death of Jay Gatsby, only a few go to his funeral, showing that most his life he really did not have “real” friends. One of the few people who did go was his father, who he had not seen in years. As Gatsby’s father enters his grand house he is extremely astonished, “He had reached an age where death no longer has the quality of ghastly surprise, and when he looked around him now for the first time and saw the height and splendor of the hall and the great rooms opening out from it into other rooms his grief began to be mixed with an awed pride.”(168)

In The Great Gatsby, many wealthy characters show carelessness through their thoughts, words, and actions. This could potentially be called a personality trait because of the amount of money they have acquired. With wealth, carelessness is shown to be common through the people. The wealthy only care for themselves and getting out of difficult situations. They are held accountable for many things, but because of their mass amount of money, forgiveness is shown very quickly but their are situations where even  wealth can never save you from. “It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back 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) Tom Buchanan is really pictured as a very ignorant character who is completely overcome by his wealth, making him think that he is above all, “‘It’s up to us who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things.’”(13) Tom was very suspicious of Gatsby and disliked him, “A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.’”(101) He believed that Gatsby acquired his money is a bad way and he began to not trust him. Gatsby also showed carelessness when he decided that his destiny was to be with Daisy. He stopped at nothing to show Daisy his love and affections for her through his wealth, which eventually had some negative affects with Tom and Daisy’s relationship and it lead to his death.  

In conclusions, The Great Gatsby written by F. Scott Fitzgerald definitely portrays three significant themes throughout his book. Status, that is boosted by the amount of money the people have. Materialism is shown throughout the book with the purchase of very glamorous items. Most of the wealthy have the personality trait of carelessness that begins to grow with the amount of wealth they have. The book demonstrate a characteristic of carelessness of the wealthy, through their actions and words. Although many thought that the wealthy were living glorious and wonderful lives, they had many of their own problems, to say the least. Fitzgerald describes the life of the wealthy in a very typical way, during the 1920’s.


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