The Great Gatsby and Money’s Effect on Society
One may equate a grand amount of wealth with success and fortune, but it can be proven otherwise. Money is, rather, a burden on society, as it makes people boastful, shows an apparent divide in society, and a change in morals. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, ‹The Great Gatsby, discusses the wealthy lives of the residents in East and West Egg and adulterous behaviors. The Great Gatsby expresses the idea that an abundance of money does more destruction to society than it does help.
Money is destructive to society because it makes people pompous.The Great Gatsby expresses this idea through the actions of Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby. Tom Buchanan tended to find himself to be superior over other races. Ronald Berman states in his article that Tom worries about the white race being ‘dominant’ and keeping ‘control’ of its civilization (Berman). This shows Tom’s sense of pride and his support for white supremacy. This pride comes from his economic privilege and status that the less fortunate do not have.
Jay Gatsby liked to show off his wealth in order to impress others. He was especially trying to impress Daisy Buchanan, the girl he loved who lived across the lake. Gatsby held fancy parties every weekend with caterers, elaborate decorations, a full orchestra, and an open guest list (Fitzgerald 39-41). Gatsby clearly wanted to attract attention to his house and show Daisy what he could do with the money that he made. Gatsby measured his worth in money and hoped his wealth would win over Daisy. Scott Donaldson says in his article that Gatsby’s lavish house and possessions were an attempt to establish himself as Somebody, or at least not Nobody (Donaldson). He believed his money would make him one day worthy enough for Daisy.
Money causes social division. Two characters greatly exemplify this claim: Myrtle Wilson and Jay Gatsby. Myrtle Wilson came from the working class and thus was made to feel like she was less than. She would wear fancy dresses and make Tom buy her expensive gifts because she wanted to feel valued and have a powerful status. She believed her purchases showed the type of person she wanted to be (Berman). When Myrtle insisted that she should have be allowed to say Daisy’s name, Myrtle and Tom got into an argument, and Tom punched Myrtle and broke her nose (Fitzgerald 37). When Tom hit Myrtle, he reminded her where she stood in society and that she was lower than him. Myrtle was poorer and less experienced than someone of Tom’s status. As mentioned in an essay by Sebastian Flth, Myrtle kept silent about the abuse because she was dependent upon Tom for buying everything she wanted and paying her bills, and she did not want to lose that (Flth). Myrtle was in an unbalanced relationship because she depended on Tom and had less power than him.
Jay Gatsby came from a poorer background just like Myrtle. Gatsby had dreamed that one day Daisy would proclaim her absolute love for him and would chose him over Tom. Fitzgerald explained that Gatsby symbolized the unfairness of a poor young man not being able to marry a girl with money (Donaldson). Gatsby did not succeed in having his dream come true because he was never be good enough for Daisy. He was always going to be viewed as the poor man she met years ago. No matter how hard Myrtle and Gatsby tried to be successful and rise in status, their poor roots held them back. As stated in an article by Scott Donaldson, Myrtle and Gatsby were guilty of crucial error in judgement, as they were unwilling or unable to comprehend that it was not money alone that mattered, but money combined with secure social position (Donaldson). In Flth’s essay, he states that Tom and Daisy looked down upon people like Gatsby who were wealthy people but with a different socioeconomic background (Flth). Their history and wealth they came from prevented them from being seen as equal to the residents of East Egg.
A CHANGE IN MORALS
Money destroys mankind by changing people for the worse. After Gatsby and Daisy’s death, Tom and Daisy Buchanan left East Egg. Nick Carraway commented that they were careless people who smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness and let other people clean up the mess they had made (Fitzgerald 179). Tom and Daisy had the financial security to leave the chaos they created and they felt no obligation to deal with it. They also showed no sense of remorse for what had happened. Daisy had not even sent a message or a flower, showing no sign of resentment (Fitzgerald 174).
Gatsby showed a change in morality when he resorted to illegal businesses in order to reach his dream. Thomas Pauly argued in his article that presumably Gatsby handles all public relations for the alcohol and stolen bonds that Wolfsheim supplies, and that people never considered that behind his shakey facade of Waspish gentility Gatsby would have needed to be a more cunning criminal than Nick allowed to have amassed so much wealth.(Pauly). Gatsby had stooped to bootlegging in order to make money. He took a path that would make him lots of money in a short time. Gangsters were on the rise during prohibition because not only were they gaining more wealth and power, but they were presuming to status and respectability as well (Pauly). Gatsby might have chosen to be affiliated with illegal business because he could perhaps gain the respect and wealth that he thought he needed in order to win Daisy’s love.
The Great Gatsby takes on the idea that money destroys society rather than helping it. Having great wealth is seen as a luxury that everyone should want, but it is rather a curse. This is shown through the pompous behaviors of the characters, the apparent social gap, and the characters’ moral carelessness. When a person acquires an abundance of money, it shows what type of character they really are.