Three works Cited Materialism started to become a main theme of literature in the modernist era. During this time the economy was good causing jazz to be popular, bootlegging common, and an affair meaning nothing (Gevaert). This negative view of money and the gross materialism in F. Scott Fitzgerald
’s The Great Gatsby
serves to be a modern theme in the novel. Throughout the novel, the rich possess a sense of carelessness and believe that money yields happiness.
During the whole story, the rich have a sense of carelessness of money and material goods that are usually unobtainable by most. Prime examples of this carelessness are the huge parties that Gatsby throws; everybody who is anybody would attend: the party guests “[arrive] at twilight . . .” (Fitzgerald 111) and stay until daybreak, and “sometimes they [come] and [go] without having met Gatsby at all, [come] for the party with a simplicity of heart that [is] its own ticket of admission” (45). Gatsby puts enormous amounts of money into these parties, even though he does not enjoy them one bit. He, however, continues to have them because he believes happiness can be bought (101), that the glitz and glitter will ultimately bring Daisy to love him (Swilley). To Gatsby, he must continue to throw these parties. Gatsby is new money and he has to show off his money and prove to the world that he is rich (Karen). In addition to his elaborate parties, he wears extravagant pink suits with gold ties and drives an eye-catching yellow car. All this he does in order to gain Daisy’s attention (Gatsbylvr). In contrast, the opposite is true for Tom. Karen says that Tom is old money and, therefore, does not have to show the world that he has money. Tom does not need Gatsby’s flashiness; his house is arranged to his liking and he seems to be more conventional -- Tom rides horses as opposed to driving a flashy car (Karen).
The idea of money being able to bring happiness is another prevalent modernist theme found in The Great Gatsby
. According to Sparknotes, Fitzgerald acts as the poster child for this idea. He, himself in his own life, believes this as well. He puts off marrying his wife until he has enough money to support her (SparkNotes). Fitzgerald’s delay to marry his wife and Gatsby’s quest to buy Daisy’s love are parallel (Gatsbylvr). Money being an object to obtain happiness is an idea that starts from the first page of the novel when Nick’s father says, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone . . . just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had” (Fitzgerald 5). Nick does not necessarily agree with the idea that money brings happiness. Hudson Gavaert agrees with this when he says that Nick sees through the emptiness of Gatsby’s extravagance, Tom’s collectiveness, Daisy’s false ideals, and Myrtle’s utopian dreams. The idea of money yielding happiness is the driving force behind Gatsby and the other characters except for Nick (Gevaert). Gatsby climbs his way through the social-classes to be on top so that Daisy will love him, and, in Gatsby’s mind, the only way Daisy will love him is if he were rich (Fitzgerald 137). Surprisingly enough, this does come true. Daisy does end up admiring his nice shirts, extravagant cars, his humongous parties, and his newfound social status (Gatsbylvr). All of these are forms of material happiness and love, and “materialism is, in fact, empty” (Swilley), so this love and happiness will not last.
Wilson and Myrtle both fall victim to the idea that money does acquire happiness. When Wilson finds out about his wife Myrtle is cheating on him, he believes that the only way he can be happy is to make some fast cash and runaway with his wife (Fitzgerald 130). Wilson’s wife is finally happy now that she has Tom. Tom’s money brings her happiness, makes her leave her husband, and ultimately causes her death. To Tom, she is just another woman. When Myrtle is with Tom, she has not a care in world. She buys a dog (Fitzgerald 31), gives away a dress with no more reason than she has “got to get another one tomorrow” (40-41), and she smokes and drinks at the apartment, two very risqué actions for a woman to take part in the 1920s and 1930s. Gevaert states that basically one could say that Tom buys Myrtle the same as he buys the leash for the dog or the clothes Myrtle so easily gives away (Gevaert). In all reality, Myrtle is nothing to Tom.
Money is Gatsby’s means to obtain the American dream. Of course people, question where Gatsby’s money comes from because little is known about the man except for the rumor that he is a bootlegger. No one seems to question his money as long as it is still flowing freely. Gatsby is buying their happiness, why should they object (Fitzgerald 48)? The undisputed fact is that Gatsby’s money does come from illegal sources (Karen). By obtaining his money through questionable means, Gatsby did not follow the unwritten rules of the American dream (Gevaert). Because he failed to follow the rules of the “game,” Gatsby is destined to fail.
The end result of the novel is money does not bring happiness. One could say that because of Gatsby’s dishonesty, nothing but collapse comes at the end of the novel. Gatsby’s ill-gotten money brought sorrow and death, and not happiness or love. When Gatsby stops throwing parties, nobody seems to care. They just move on to the next party while the jazz continues to play and the “boos” continues to flow. Myrtle is dead, and Wilson’s life is ruined, both due to the quest for money and material goods. The Great Gatsby serves as an example of the negative view of money and gross materialism brought about in the modernist era.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner
Paperback Fiction, 1995.
“The Great Gatsby – Context.” SparkNotes: Online Study
Guide. 2 March 2000 <http://www.sparknotes.com/guides/
Gatsbylvr. “Re: Emptiness of Materialism as a Philosophy:
Fitzgerald’s Campfire.” Online posting. 20 Nov. 1999.
Jolly Roger. 29 Feb. 2000 <http://www.killdevilhill.co
Gevaert, Hudson. The Great Gatsby: A Beginner’s Guide. 2
Feb. 2000. <http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/38
Karen. “Re: Old Money and New Money?: Fitzgerald Campfire.”
Online posting. 27 April 1999. Jolly Roger. 2 March 2000 <http://www.killdevilhill.com/fitzgeraldchat/mess
Swilley, L. “That Elusive Emptiness: Fitzgerald’s
Campfire.” Online posting. 19 Nov. 1999. Jolly Roger. 29 Feb. 2000 <http://www.killdevilhill.com/fitzgeraldc