Part One During the twenties, America faced an economic boom, where jazz grew popular and the ban of alcohol led people to discover new forms of entertainment. Through the characters of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays money cannot buy their happiness, if all that makes them happy is the one person they cannot have. The value of The Great Gatsby emphasizes the hope in achieving the American Dream and being satisfied with one’s’ successes.
However, to be satisfied, the characters are found to be selfish as they try to fulfill their desires. To find happiness, Jay Gatsby comes to the conclusion that he does not want things, he wants Daisy. He wants to go back in time so he can have her all to himself, revealing his greed. Fitzgerald is able to utilize the American Dream to criticize American society of the morality and modesty of being materialistic and being wealthy. Readers are able to distinguish between old money and new money. Tom and Daisy Buchanan can be categorized as old money, whereas Jay Gatsby is new money, leaving Nick Carraway to pursue the American Dream. Tom was able to grow up wealthy, raising him spoiled.
Jay inherited the money, however, he is more humble when his wealth is being discussed. Nick continues to work to find success and pursues to work towards achieving the same American Dream as the people surrounding him. The old money versus new money conflict emphasises the social repercussions of being materialistic and successful. Part Two Many comparisons can be made between the novel, The Great Gatsby, and its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Both the novel and Fitzgerald’s life took place in the 1920’s. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Nick Carraway attended Ivy League schools.
They did not attend their universities as long as they intended to. They both dropped out to fight in World War I. During the war, Fitzgerald fell in love with a woman named Zelda and Gatsby fell in love with Daisy. Zelda made Fitzgerald work for her affection, since she wanted a rich, successful man. He started to write books, like how Gatsby threw parties to impress Daisy.
When Gatsby died, almost no one came to his funeral. Nick made an effort to call as many people as he could, then realized that Gatsby was a private person and Nick seemed to be his only friend. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s funeral was attended by only twenty to thirty people, including his only daughter. The 1920’s were also considered the “Roaring Twenties” or the “Jazz Age”, as people lived carelessly. It was the end of World War I, and with the end of war came a new, modern way of living. Women gained freedom, like the right to vote, and African Americans were becoming famous for their taste of jazz music. There was a mass production in the automobile industry as well as an increase in job availability.
Soldiers came home, hopeful to forget the war. In order to forget, the men often turned to alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol was prohibited upon their return. As a result of people’s drinking problems, the government forbid it. The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declared the production, transport, and sale of alcohol illegal. Although it was illegal, people continued to drink.
Parties, similar to the events that Gatsby hosted, continued to serve alcohol. During the 1920’s, as the author often hints, there were differences amongst the upper social classes. As previously mentioned, there was the old money and the new money.
The newly rich, at this time, mostly gained their wealth from taking part in criminal activity. Gatsby, not only inherited some money, but he also took part in criminal activity, like bootlegging.Gatsby sees that the Buchanans are of a higher class, which motivates him to believe that you can always turn back time and live in the past. By living in the past, Gatsby would have Daisy to himself and would not have to compete with Tom regarding their wealth. “Gatsby lacks the maturity to realize that Daisy cannot be obtained by money alone and in a vulgar display of conspicuous consumption, he flaunts his nouveau wealth,” (Canterbery, E.
Ray). This quote can connect to the scene where Daisy visits Gatsby’s house and he begins throwing shirts at her, to “shower her in his wealth” and ends with Daisy crying over his wealth and the amount of shirts he has. “By displaying his wealth in this manner, Gatsby tries to impress Daisy, as he once was impressed by her house, when he could not believe that people actually lived like that. What Gatsby really does is that he shows Daisy his ability to spend money” (Fälth, Sebastian). Gatsby was able to recognize that Daisy is materialistic.
He is also begins to use this to his advantage when he realizes that Daisy finds love where there is money. At this time, the old aristocracy had much more value than those of new money, as “Jay Gatsby wants to live with Daisy Buchanan because she is a member of the established American aristocracy of wealth,” (Canterbery, E. Ray). Gatsby is desperate to live the same lifestyle as Daisy, as he sees that the Buchanans are higher in the upper class system than he is. He tries to show her that he is better than he actually seems, but most importantly, he tries to show her that he is better than Tom.Part Three Critical essays also contribute to the importance of the novel to the emphasis of wealth in America’s society. Lindberg argues whether each character represents or opposes the American Dream and their relation to it. Tom and Daisy Buchanan can be categorized as old money, whereas Jay Gatsby is new money, leaving Nick Carraway to pursue the American Dream.
Tom Buchanan is of the old aristocracy, but displays the worst characteristics of it. He is arrogant, self-centered, and petty. He avoids all responsibility for his actions. But he tries to hold his honor and reputation. He holds too much pride.
Those of Old Money are held to a higher standard of behavior. Tom plays a stereotypical wealthy man that grew up spoiled. With wealth comes privilege, and Tom takes advantage of his privileges with his secret affairs and business deals. He avoids all consequences and turns away from them, leaving them to burden others. Those who categorize as Old Money usually have integrity, do not try and find the easy way out of a situation and put others before themselves.
Usually, they are more humble with their wealth. They prioritize quality of life over a standard of living. They act as role models for those of New Money, because they were higher in the upper class and valued much more.
Gatsby and Tom seem to play opposite roles, as Gatsby is of New Money and he is more humble regarding his wealth. He does not have many friends and he only hosts parties to capture Daisy’s attention. “If talent does what it can and genius what it must, then Old Money does what it should. Gatsby, for all his faults, may have understood that. Tom Buchanan, for all his money, never would” (Tully, Byron). Fitzgerald reveals Gatsby’s vulnerability for Daisy by characterizing him as lonely. He does not have any friends and he does not act like he is of new money, he acts like he earned all of his money by working hard and honestly, and not on the black market. Tom takes his money for granted because he grew up wealthy and he inherited it.
Myers explains how material accumulation over time will not necessarily lead to an increased level of happiness, but rather an initial high of satisfaction to be followed by the same level of happiness prior to the event. This idea can be translated to the marriage between Tom and Daisy; being unhappy before the wedding she ‘… cried and cried’ (Fitzgerald 83), supposedly because she realised that being with Gatsby was no longer a possibility and thus on some level knew that Tom’s money would not make her happy. (Lindberg, Lovisa)This proves that Daisy only loves men for their money, revealing her materialistic traits. When she admits she didn’t love Tom, he names places where the were actually in love with each other and not worrying about wealth. Daisy struggles to see past wealth, but Tom was able to help her realize that wealth did not matter for their relationship.
She was able to see past the wealth and actually love Tom. Snyder analyzes how everyone assumes money can buy happiness, but fails as their American Dream changes. Everyone wants to live the same grand, luxurious life as Jay Gatsby. He has a mansion, he has enough money to host grand parties every weekend, but he did not earn this money honestly. Gatsby earns his money from the black market, mainly bootlegging due to the prohibition of alcohol. “I guess, we live in a world right now where gangsterism is forgivable, and the indulgences of the rich are things we want for ourselves” (Dean, Michelle).
Everyone wants to live the lavish life of parties and to live in the spotlight. His money is earned the wrong way, but everyone still wants to be like him because of his wealth. He can have anything he wants with his wealth but he is still unhappy. He cannot have the one thing that he actually wants because she is married. Gatsby uses his wealth to impress Daisy and win over her love.
He does not care to be wealthy. Gatsby’s longing for the love of Daisy is his American Dream. He wants nothing more than to relive his past when he was soldier and she was the careless young loose cannon she used to be before she met and married Tom Buchanan. He stares at the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock across the water hoping that someday she would come back to him and love him just as he still loves and longs for her. ‘Part of Gatsby’s ‘greatness’ in fact lies precisely in his failure to recognize his dream as always already lost’ (Green 53).
Gatsby had it set in his mind that repeating the past was something that could happen and the minute that he reentered Daisy’s life he would be able to marry her just as they had planned before he left. All the parties that Gatsby throws are just to get Daisy’s attention. He wants to be noticed and wants her to attend so she could see that Gatsby, just like Tom had enough money to afford all the things that she wants. (Snyder, Liamarie)Gatsby continues to live in the past. He wanted to be the Tom in her life. He wanted to support her and be there for her. When he was with her, he only thought of how happy she was and he wished it could be like that forever.
He is also careless because he does not think of how their live affects other relationships. When they were together, they were actually happy and they did not always need to flaunt their wealth. With Gatsby, however, he used his wealth to win Daisy over. He wanted to show her that he was as wealthy as Tom, if not, more. Daisy chose to be with Tom because she was able to find genuine happiness in their relationship, compared to the period of happiness in the relationship she had with Gatsby.I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. 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… (Fitzgerald, 179)Nick notes that Tom and Daisy will do whatever they want, but they won’t face the consequences of their actions.
Somehow they are still perfect for each other. He says that money is what brings the two together, or their careless personalities. “Finally, near the end of the book, when it appears that Gatsby has lost Daisy forever, Nick surmises that ‘he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.
‘ (Fitzgerald, 162) As a student of mine when I was teaching this book once put it: ‘He had to die at that point. He literally had nothing left to live for.’ ” (McLennan, Dean Scotty). Gatsby had risked everything to win Daisy back. He even took the blame for Myrtle’s death. He did not want her to face the consequences of a murder.
When Daisy chose to be with Tom and Gatsby had lost to her to him, he had nothing left to live for. All of his parties and his wealth, were dedicated to Daisy. Now that she was with Tom, his death was meant to happen. Anything he did would go to waste, as he devoted his life to Daisy.
When Daisy was gone, so was Gatsby’s purpose of life.Part Four There were many different arguments that I found while completing my research. I was surprised by the authors who argued that the “Roaring Twenties” was not all fun and that people struggled to work. Some used Nick as an example of a working man because he was trying to pursue the American Dream. He was neither old money, nor new money. There were many different articles regarding wealth inequality and how there was a great amount of people still in poverty.
I thought that the research process was intriguing because of the different interpretations and analyses. I very much enjoyed The Great Gatsby and I had heard a lot of positive feedback about it. I liked how the novel’s setting was in the twenties and the author was able to describe experience through the characters, as well. As a reader, I was able to picture the flappers and the parties described by Fitzgerald. While there was a fear of change as people began drifting away from traditional views and sought more modern lifestyles, America has changed over time. Compared to the twenties, women are able to become president, we are now developing self-driving cars, and America is much more diverse now. Part FiveWhile many argue that the 1920s were a time of great optimism, Fitzgerald portrays the bitter side by focusing on the society’s wealth differences, the different interpretations of the American Dream, and its fatal consequences as some characters risk it all for others.
Works CitedCanterbery, E. Ray. “Thorstein Veblen and ‘The Great Gatsby.'” Journal of Economic Issues, vol.
33, no. 2, 1999, pp. 297–304. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4227440.
Dean, Michelle. “Class and ‘The Great Gatsby’.” The Nation, 17 May 2013, www.thenation.com/article/class-and-great-gatsby/.Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.
Scribner, 2004.Fälth, Sebastian. Social Class and Status in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
2013, pp. 1–25, Social Class and Status in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, www.diva-portal.
org/smash/get/diva2:667768/FULLTEXT01.pdf.Lindberg, Lovisa. “The American Dream as a Means of Social Criticism in The Great Gatsby.” GUPEA, Gothenburg University, 2014, pp. 1–22, gupea.ub.
gu.se/bitstream/2077/38269/1/gupea_2077_38269_1.pdf.McLennan, Dean Scotty. University Public Worship Stanford Memorial Church. University Public Worship, 2014, pp. 1–9, University Public Worship Stanford Memorial Church, web.
Snyder, Liamarie. Buying into Money Equals Happiness Fails for the Characters in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. English Senior Seminar Papers, 2012, fisherpub.sjfc.edu/english_seniorseminar/5.Tully, Byron.
“The Great Gatsby And Old Money Versus New.” Ivy-Style.com, 13 May 2013, www.ivy-style.com/the-great-gatsby-and-old-money-versus-new.html.