The Theme of Carelessness in The Great Gatsby
The idea of carelessness plays an important role in The Great Gatsby.
Daisy, Tom, Jordan, Gatsby and Nick were all careless at some points throughout
the book. Daisy and Tom were careless about their relationship, their money,
and many of their daily activities. Gatsby was also unconcerned with his money.
Jordan was blasé about the way she treated other people
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy
- they smashed up things and
creatures and then retreated back to 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. . . ."(189) This was an accurate description of the way Tom and
Daisy acted. They were constantly neglectful of the way they behaved and when
they realized they were wrong, they would retreat back to their money. It was
always other people that had to pay for Tom and Daisy's careless mistakes.
Daisy also admitted that she was careless in a dialogue with Nick.
"I am careful."
"No, you're not"
"Well, other people are," she said lightly.
"What's that got to do with it?"
"They'll keep out of my way," she insisted. "It takes two to make an accident."
"Suppose you meet somebody just as careless as yourself."
"I hope I never will," she answered. "I hate careless people."(63)
She quickly responded to Nick that she doesn't need to be careful.
Daisy implied that it is the other person's responsibility to be mindful of her.
She also said that she hates careless people right after she admitted that she
was careless. Daisy was indifferent about her relationship with Tom. She knew
that her husband was having an affair with another women but Daisy did not do
anything about it.
Tom was careless in a much more obvious way. He was brutal as well as
destructive. Tom felt that he could do anything he wanted and get away with it.
He would never admit that he was dispassionate because he was egotistical. Tom
was careless in his relationship with Daisy, his wife, and Myrtle Wilson, his
lover. He allowed Gatsby to win his wife's love. After Gatsby and Daisy fell
in love again, all Tom could do was take his wife back and leave town for a
couple of days. Tom was also unconcerned with his lover, Myrtle. He let his
wife, his friends, and even Myrtle's husband know that they were having an
affair. Obviously, Tom did not want everyone to know what he had been doing,
but his careless actions revealed the truth.
Gatsby was a spendthrift with his money. He spent thousands of dollars
on parties, his house, and all of his possessions just to impress his lover,
Daisy. In other ways, Gatsby was overly careful. When Daisy killed Myrtle
Wilson with his car, he took great precautions about the situation. He told
Nick, "I got to West Egg by a side road," he went on, "and left the car in my
garage. I don't think anybody saw me but of course I can't be sure."(151)
Jordan was careless during a golf tournament. She won the match by
kicking the ball into the hole when no one was looking. She was mindless
because many people were watching her while she cheated. After this incident
she was known as a cheater.
Meyer Wolfshiem, in comparison, was very careful. He tried to stay away
from death and things that could cause trouble. He once told Nick after the
death of Gatsby, "I can't do it - I can't get mixed up in it."(180) He also
commented, "When a man gets killed I never like to get mixed up in it in any way.
. . ."(180)
The theme of carelessness in The Great Gatsby
was very definite. Each
person displayed characteristics that were either careless or mindful. The
carelessness of the characters generally affected them in a negative way. They
were careless about their relationship, their money, and many of the activities
they did every day. These personality traits were almost impossible to change.
The careless actions of many of the characters in The Great Gatsby affected
their lives and those around them.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York: Scribner Classic, 1986.