Money And Feelings In The Great Gatsby

Richard M. DeVos once said that “money cannot heal ruptured relationships”, and to that should be added: regardless of eternal love. Everyone has experienced love at least once in their life; a love they will not soon forget. A novel which demonstrates such an unfading love would be “The Great Gatsby”, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. This tragic story tells the tale of an undying love between Daisy Buchanan and the self-made millionaire protagonist, Jay Gatsby. Gatsby grew up as a poor citizen of North Dakota, who yearned for wealth in order to impress the beautiful debutante, Daisy. Throughout his venturesome life, Gatsby worked hard to build his American Dream and gain wealth to not only win Daisy’s heart, but to have all the riches and means to forever please her. Eventually, Gatsby’s materialism and constant need to obtain and prove his wealth indirectly leads to his unfortunate and untimely death. The love between Daisy and Gatsby was only an illusion stemming from the American Dream. This means, their love for each other came second to their love of wealth. Materialism dictated the nature of their love. Little did they know that millions of dollars could not suffice to fully rekindle their love from years ago. In contrast, there is the relationship between Tom, Daisy’s husband, and his mistress, the poor Myrtle Wilson, whose love affair is only partly affected by materialism, with one party expressing a love which is genuine and pure, though the authenticity of the other party’s love can be questioned.

To begin, there is the delicate relation between materialism and love when discussing Daisy and Gatsby’s story. Gatsby was an ordinary man, born in a poor family, who fell in love with a beautiful and rich debutante named Daisy. Her parents told her that Gatsby was not a wealthy enough man to marry into their family. And so, she ended their relationship, though her thoughts in regard to his then lack of wealth remain unclear. Despaired that he was not yet the right man for her because he lacked wealth, Gatsby decided to join the army and go fight in the war, in hopes of meeting death: “Then the war came [...] it was a great relief, and I tried very hard to die” (66) He thought death would have been an easy way out of his seemingly impossible love story with Daisy, but he somehow managed to survive the war and was even awarded honours. Afterwards, Gatsby returned to America to try once more to win Daisy’s heart, regardless of her parents’ approval. Through illegal endeavours, he finally received the wealth he longed for. Towards the climax of the story, Gatsby tells Daisy’s cheating spouse, Tom Buchanan: “she never loved you [...] she only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!” (130). This is the prime proof that materialism and an unhealthy need for wealth got in the way of Daisy and Gatsby’s eternal love. Gatsby’s status was the reason Daisy did not want to marry him. However, wealth was much more important to their relationship rather than true love. Daisy did not want Tom for who he is but rather want his possession and belongings. Gatsby was poor which meant Daisy did not want him, but now that he is filthy rich Daisy is getting attracted to his money, not him. This proves Materialism is the reason why Daisy is giving Gatsby another chance. Gatsby tells Tom “but both of us loved each other all the time, old sport, and you didn’t know.” (131) He then continues on to state that the wall that had grown between them whilst being separated for 5 years broke down when they caught sight of each other; though, according to Richard M. DeVos, this cannot be entirely true. It can be assumed that Daisy could have refused to wait for Gatsby to become rich, and marry him in that moment, regardless of his lack of wealth. Perhaps it is safe to assume that materialism got in the way of Daisy’s love for Gatsby all those years ago, and that Gatsby’s yearn for wealth and materialism let her walk away. Their undying and passionate love was limited, restricted and dictated by materialism.

As a continuation of this idea, it is crucial to mention Gatsby’s uttermost materialistic action accomplished in an attempt to prove his love for Daisy: his extravagant parties. He believed that the only way to win Daisy’s heart was to build his status and to gain immense wealth, because it seemed like if he did not have all of which she desired, she would have none of it instead. Gatsby hosts extravagant parties in hopes of impressing her. The narrator, Gatsby’s neighbor, describes an outside perspective of one of these parties:

“There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.”(31) Daisy’s friend, Jordan Baker states, “I think he half expected her to wander into one of his parties, some nights.”(79)

Half expected means, Gatsby set his parties in was a romantic way to attract Daisy. He planned all his parties so that Daisy would be interested in him. He hosted these parties in hopes of impressing her into reciprocating his love, disregarding her marriage with Tom. Can there be anything more materialistic then trying to impress someone with lavish parties? Could he not instead send her a letter written with poetry so beautiful it could only be inspired by a love that is genuine and pure? Daisy could not have cared any less about his parties, having rarely attended. Gatsby’s love is genuine and pure, but his demonstration of his affections is too materialistic and lacks a heartfelt touch. Through Gatsby’s lavish and extravagant parties, and their lack of intended effect, it is obvious that materialism is getting in the way of their love.

There are other occurrences which demonstrate Gatsby’s use of materialism in hopes of impressing Daisy. For example, he buys a house “so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (78) to feel close to her and to forever stare at the green light across the bay, knowing that it meant he was looking at the end of her dock, where she may be as well. Sounds romantic, until the house he bought is described: “a colossal affair by any standard—it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.” (5) The house was a host to “period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, […] dressing-rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms with sunken baths.” (91) Gatsby’s “dresser was garnished with a toilet set of pure dull gold.”(91) On page 147, the narrator describes how enormous Gatsby’s house is with all of its great rooms, curtains like pavilions, innumerable feet of dark walls, electric light switches, a ghostly piano, an inexplicable amount of dust in the musty rooms, beyond the amount of help that Gatsby could afford. All of these great amenities, which he acquired in hopes of impressing Daisy, can lead to questioning: Though the location of the house proves a sweet love for her, was it truly necessary to rely on such materialistic means to try and attract her back to him? His incommensurable wealth blew away Daisy once she came to visit the house. Gatsby shows her the contents of his closet, claiming he’s “got a man in England who buys [his] clothes. He sends over a selection of things at the beginning of each season.” (92) Gatsby shows his collection of expensive shirts to show her that he is modern, tasteful, classy, and above all, rich. Daisy starts sobbing and replies “it makes me sad because I’ve never seen such - such beautiful shirts before.” (92) The irony in this passage is that if Daisy is crying because she is in awe at his fortune, then her love and affection is not directed towards Gatsby himself, but rather his money and material goods. As a materialistic woman, she does not care for Gatsby as much as she does for his wealth.

As previously mentioned, Tom Buchanan was a cheating spouse. He had a mistress named Myrtle Wilson, a fairly poor woman married to a mechanic. A secondary character named Catherine says of Tom and Myrtle to the narrator: “Neither of them can stand the person they’re married to.” (33) From this passage, we can assume that their affair may not have stemmed from an undying love, but rather of lust and unhappiness rooted in the lack of love they have towards their spouses. Myrtle says of her husband “I married him because I thought he was a gentleman [...] but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe [...] the only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I had made a mistake.” (34-35) She never married him out love, but it wasn’t out of lust for his wealth either. We must take into consideration that if a rich man lays with a poor woman, his acts are not dictated by materialism, though the inverse may be true. Therefore, Myrtle may have been having an affair with Tom in hopes of touching his wealth, but Tom may have had a veritable love for her, which simply could not have been nurtured by materialism, considering her lack of wealth. Another proof of their unquestionable love is their intention to divorce their respective spouses and to marry. Catherine says of their relationship that “it’s really his wife that’s keeping them apart. She’s a Catholic, and they don’t believe in divorce.” (33) Could it be true that Myrtle’s affections for Tom go beyond his wealth? Can she really be inoculated to the temptation of materialism?

Finally, Gatsby’s love for materialism ended up being the causes of his death. Myrtle was accidentally hit and killed by Gatsby’s car when, “Daisy stepped on it. I tried to make her stop but she couldn’t.” (144). Therefore, though Daisy had been the one driving the yellow car, Gatsby, in a loving attempt to protect her, accepted to take the blame. Consequently, Myrtle’s grieving and infuriated spouse came to Gatsby’s house and shot him dead. Materialism was the direct cause of him being murdered because had he not bought a very expensive yellow car to impress Daisy and had instead limited his spending to an average and cheaper vehicle, he might not have been blamed for Myrtle’s death; he would have gotten away with murder. The reason Gatsby tired to be materialistic was to impress Daisy’s heart, which she did not want but instead want his belongings. His lavish spending allowed him to buy a car just to win the love of his life’s heart led him dying in the same car. Had he ignored his love and exposed Daisy for her careless driving and manslaughter, she would have been in jail before Myrtle’s husband would have had the time to take revenge on Gatsby for his wife’s death. George did not bother asking Gatsby questions because he thought he was the one who was having the affair with his wife. As he states, “ You may fool me, but you can’t fool god.” (159) It was obvious Tom was trying to find the man who slept with his wife, however he thought the death was a setup by the one she was having an affair with. As George mentions, “Then he killed her [...] he murdered her. [...] I’m one of these trusting fellas and I don’t think any harm to nobody, but when I get to know a thing I know it. It was a man in the car. She ran out to speak to him and he wouldn’t stop.”(158-159) Since being told that, Myrtle and Gatsby always spent time together and since the yellow car belonged to Gatsby, Mr. Wilson thought it was all his fault. If Tom did not drive his car to New York none of this incident would have occurred. Myrtle would not have assumed it was Tom driving back. Materialism was the cause of Gatsby’s death as he tired so hard to achieve his dreams yet the methods he used lead to his demise. He did all he could to keep Daisy happy however, she was not aware of his true love but only what he had. If he showed Daisy pure love and not wealth he would not have died in a such a tragic manner.

The story between Gatsby and Daisy was a tale of an undying love. Gatsby went from rags to riches all to win back Daisy’s affections, taking a more materialistic approach rather than an emotional and romantic one. This appealed to Daisy’s materialistic nature as she did not want him, but rather his wealth and possessions. In the novel “The Great Gatsby”, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents the American Dream as an illusion of means to happiness for Gatsby. His constant abuse of wealth and his materialistic ways, matched by his undying love for Daisy, led to a bullet through his chest. The intertwining of love and materialism can also be seen through Tom and Myrtle’s relationship. This novel shows an interesting interaction of love and materialism in many of its characters and this can lead to many questionings of whether or not the characters motives were dictated by love or materialism.

10 September 2019
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