Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby is about a young millionaire called Gatsby. He is madly in love with a stunning young woman named Daisy and is obsessed with accumulating money so that he can marry her. The narrative simply depicts women’s desire for men who can offer luxury and material resources. By constructing a large and luxurious home, Gatsby creates an impression of himself through materialism (Engrose and Clausen 53). Via the characters Daisy and Tom, the novel examines social gender norms.
Daisy is described as a woman who is unable to cope with life and lives in a fantasy world. She is a beautiful socialite trying hard to hide her pain of bearing her husbands infidelity. For instance, Daisy together with her friend Jordan Baker dresses in white as a sign of purity (Engrose and Clausen 53). Her way of speaking denotes the superficial nature since she speaks in a voice that can draw people towards her way. She does not seem to care about the real world despite the fact that Gatsby loves her. Daisy is used to represent the moral values of aristocracy. She is a caress woman as described by Nick and her actions are evil. For instance, she leaves Gatsby to take the blame for killing of Myrtle Wilson yet she was the one driving during the incident. Again, when Gatsby dies, she does not attend his funeral but instead, she leaves with Tom without a word of condolence. Zelda Fitzgerald is a beautiful but materialistic girl as depicted by her decision to delay the wedding until her husband could prove his success. She was a socialite and had a desire for attention especially from men. Being materialistic led her to break their engagement and moved in with other men until Fitzgerald became successful (Bunce 164). She was a symbol of a liberated woman and her flashy lifestyle was similar to that of Daisy in the novel. Zelda was interested in breaking the traditional barriers imposed on women and focused on wealthy and good life. Just like Daisy, Zelda represents aristocratic moral values since loves good life involving partying and love for money. The two marry their husbands for their money and not love thus they are materialistic.
Symbolism has been used in the narrative by use of objects that represents various concepts. For instance, green light is used to represent future Gatsbys dreams and hopes (Engrose and Clausen 14). His quest for Daisy can be associated with the American dream. In chapter nine Nick associates the green light with how America rising out of the ocean appeared to the early settlers. Another symbol used is the valley of ashes, which is between Wet Egg and New York City that was created through industrial dumping of waste. This portrays the social and moral decay, which result from pursuit of wealth for own pleasure. It can also symbolize the problems the poor are facing such as George Wilson living among the dirty ashes. The valley of ashes also symbolizes the failed American dream, since it is decaying and barren and only the poor lives in it (Engrose and Clausen 14). The eyes of doctor T.J ECKLEBURG on an old advertising billboard over the valley of ashes represents God staring down on America ready to pass judgment for its moral decay. The eyes can also be taken as representing the meaninglessness of the world as people invest in material wealth. Gatsbys car was a symbol of his wealth since it was made in Britain. Not many people had cars during this time and owning one meant that somebody was rich. The car can also be taken to symbolize the American dream of living quality and flashy life. Everybody wants a good life and people tend to associate class with the type of car one drives. The books used in the story are also symbolic representing Gatsbys fraud since they have not been cut open. In the story the books pages are uncut if no one has read them since one has to cut them open before using them. Gatsbys uncut books reveal that he pretends to be well-educated and has read several books yet the books are still closed. The unread books, which are not opened, can also represent Gatsby since he is eternally mysterious You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody’s looking at him I’ll bet he killed a man” (Scott 30). This quote reveals some hidden facts about him despite trying to live a fabulous lifestyle.
The theme of materialism is well depicted in the story in many instances. For example, Tom and Gatsby have the most expensive cars on the market revealing their interest in material items that people can see and admire. They are interested in living comfortable lives regardless of the cost. Tom refuses to sell his car to Wilson, which shows that he values his car and considers it to be of higher status compared to Wilson (Bunce 164). Women are depicted as materialistic going for rich men who can give them a comfortable life. Men and women in the story are interested in merrymaking and consuming liquor despite the fact that alcohol is banned from public consumption. There is a mention of Champagne and Mint juleps in nearly every chapter. Relationships in the narrative reveal materialism and people are respected based on the amount of money they have (Engrose and Clausen 16). For instance, Gatsby feels that the more money he has the greater are his chances of winning Daisys heart. He is convinced that Daisy will love him for his money and wealth and struggles very hard to acquire them. Despite the fact the Gastby is single and lives alone, he owns a mansion filled with books to show the world how much he has read. However, the edges of the books have not been cut open casting doubts on his education status. Daisy cries after touring Gatsbys house claiming, never seen such beautiful shirts before (Scott 118). His clothes are imported from England to impress people and portray his importance.
The Great Gatsby can be considered as a tragedy in which Gatsby can be referred to as a tragic hero. His rise from a poor clam-digger to great wealth portrays him as modern hero who rises from rags to riches. However, he is very proud and lives an extravagant lifestyle as depicted by his big mansion and imported shirts. He strongly believes that he can buy the world and get the woman of his dreams (Bunce 164). He has several flaws since his wealth is sourced through corruption and is prepared to do anything to win Daisys love. For instance, he sells grain alcohol across the counter and buys side-street drug stores yet he does not feel guilty of his actions. He can also represent a classical tragic hero since the author has set him apart from the other characters due to his wealthy status. However, his life ends up tragically, as when he dies only a few people attend his funeral. Even Daisy does not attend and his funeral is full of sadness and pity. The guests voices during the parties he holds can be associated with the choric voices of the Greek tragedies. He is also associated with crime especially the suggestions of him killing a man, which portrays him as a criminal. Gatsby represents a classical tragic hero since he is considered a victim of forces outside himself such as Daisys carelessness and Toms hard malice. Since Gatsby rises from a humble beginning to success and then falls to ruins as the story ends, he can be considered a tragic hero.
In The Great Gatsby, the characters are recognized by the amount of wealth they own and the places they live or work. For instance, the rich people are classified as the upper class society that lives in East Egg and they are commonly referred to as the old Money. Those that live in West Egg are also rich but having acquired their wealth only recently. Those that reside in this area also called new Money and cannot afford the cost of living in East Egg since their wealth is still growing (Bunce 164). Poor people live in the Valley of Ashes and most of them struggle to survive. Wealth has impact on the social status of the characters since it enables them to mingle with the high-class individuals. For instance, Gatsby thinks that by being wealthy he can make friendship with the old-moneyed. However, he finds it difficult to get acceptance in the upper class but finds it in the poor class. The old money high-class people feel that they are better than others are. The wealthy class individuals are rude, naughty, selfish, and have a false sense of superiority thinking that their money can buy everything. However, this is not the case as depicted in the case of Gatsby since people do not attend is funeral.
The novel, The Great Gatsby presents a story of the American dream of living a flashy lifestyle as depicted by various characters. It reveals the theme of materialism through characters such as Gatsby, Tom, and Daisy for their involvement in partying and wealth acquisition. However, not everybody can afford such kind of life, as some people are still struggling and the fact that there is evidence of moral decay in the society. The manner in which people acquire wealth and use it is unacceptable in a civilized society.
Bunce, Selvi. “Love and Money: An Analysis of the Great Gatsby.” Language in India (2015): 164.
Engrose, Felix Kevin, and Thomas Wolff Clausen. “A Dualistic Approach to The Great Gatsby.” (2016).
Scott, Fitzgerald F. “The great Gatsby:[novel]/F. Scott Fitzgerald.” New YorN: Simon&Schuster (1992).
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