The Great Gatsby – Reasons to Become Rich Essay Sample
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The Great Gatsby – Reasons to Become Rich Essay Sample
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a story about wealth, power, love, intrigues and crime, showing the lives of a group of people, all members of the social upper class. One of the stories main themes is wealth and power. This topic concerns all the characters in the book but especially interesting is the relationship which the main character has to wealth and power – Jay Gatsby. He is rich, socially accepted and powerful, but for very different reasons. In this paper I will try to point out his motivations for getting wealthy as well as his relation to money and the social upper class. As Jay Gatsby is the main character of the story this paper should firstly give an insight into his reasons to work so hard and to build up his enormous fortune. And secondly it will look at Daisy´s influence on his relation to money, his reasons for his lifestyle.
The story of The Great Gatsby is set in the early 1920s just after the end of World War I in New York and Long Island. Two of the main characters in the story, James Gatz alias Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, live separated from each other in two different areas of Long Island called „West Egg“ and „East Egg“. As we get to know right in the beginning, the „East Egg“ is the more fashionable of the two areas, where the social elite of the time then lived. The physical separation between the upper class and the absolute social elite functions as a statement, representing the fact that even if you have everything there still will always be something you long for.
IIWealth and Power – Jay Gatsby
Jay Gatsby, who was born as James Gatz, made his way from “zero to hero”. Coming from a poor and uneducated background, he worked his way up to a point where he could afford socialising with the moneyed youth. It appears that Gatsby´s somehow saw himself as determined to be wealthy, even in his childhood, when the only person encouraging him was his father. He tirelessly worked on his personality and his appearance. So when he finally got the chance to change his life to what seemed a better life to him, he took the chance. This chance comes in the shape of Dan Cody´s yacht and Gatsby doesn´t hesitate a second to throw his former life over board. Although his transformation begins a lot earlier, this is the moment when Jimmy Gatz dies and Jay Gatsby is born. When he meets Daisy he feels drawn and closely bonded to her but at this moment he can´t afford offering her the life he finds suitable for the both of them. He is driven by the idea of money and almost feels obliged to belong to the wealthy and rich gentry. His obsession with wealth goes as far as he risks losing Daisy by going away again over richness. Through legal or illegal methods, rumour has it he´s a bootlegger, he compiles a huge fortune and inevitably ends up at Long Island and in New York where the privileged youth gather´s to celebrate their life and wealth.
Despite his enormous fortune, Jay Gatsby lives on the less fashionable „West Egg“ which implies that because of his doubtful origin he hasn´t managed to become a full member of the social upper-class elite. The separation of East and West Egg constitutes not only a physical separation but a distinction by class. Although Gatsby managed to become as rich as all the other´s around, he is still seen as the stranger, who´s origin is unclear and who´s methods for earning money give reasons for speculations and rumours. But despite his doubtful reputation people gather, like insects round the light when Gatsby starts throwing his luxurious, decadent parties. People come together from all of Long Island and New York to celebrate their life and wealth in the mansion of a man, who hardly anyone of them knows in person. Gatsby creates an aura of luxury and carelessness by throwing the most expensive and decadent parties in Long Island. By entering his mansion, people enter a dream world where absolutely nothing is too expensive to be bought or too precious to be used.
In his blue gardens men and girl came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. … On weekends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties … while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. … Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York…” (p. 45)
He gets boxes full of fresh fruits, tons of the finest food and an enormous amount of alcohol, which in times of prohibition represents the special status the upper class then had. Gatsby could effort to break the law in order to entertain his guests. He constantly shows his wealth openly and wants people to know about his fortune. This seems at first sight to be a desperate attempt to establish himself in the gentry. Gatsby knows that his doubtful origin constitutes a barrier to the upper class which he can neither break nor ignore. All he can do is to go on pretending that he is one of them and to try to convince them by proofing that money doesn´t matter for him at all.
One of his guests, Lucille, tells at one of his parties that at a preceding event she experienced Gatsby´s generosity herself.
“When I was here last I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked my name and address – inside of a week I got a package from Croirier´s with a new evening gown in it. …. It was gas blue with lavender beads. Two hundred and sixty-five dollars”. (p. 49)
This states an example for his extraordinary spending qualities and his immense carelessness about money. When Lucille tears her dress apart she gets a new one from Gatsby. This of course is not just an act of pure good heartedness. On the contrary – the only purpose this gift has is to show to the others that Gatsby can afford buying an expensive dress to a strange woman, who he doesn´t even really know and whose own fault it was to ruin her gown. And further it shows how less Gatsby cares about wealth. It doesn´t mean a thing to him at all. Where other rich men try hard to get even richer, this man doesn´t care a bit where all his fortune goes, as long as everybody near him respects and admires him. All this contributes to the image of a noble man, a worldly man and a business man and in the end that´s the image Gatsby wants to convey. Only later in the story we find out that there is a second and more meaningful purpose to his doings, he does all this to get Daisy´s attention. All his parties, all the people he gathered around him, are only there to get Daisy to notice him.
He fears that asking her in person might be inadequate and could cause the both of them a great deal of trouble since he knows about her marriage. So he does everything to make himself famous in some ways and to allure her to his mansion where he wants to impress her with what he has achieved in such young years. He succeeds in the end and Daisy and Nick visit Gatsby´s mansion. This scene is significant to show Gatsby´s real reasons for his lifestyle. When he shows them around he makes sure they would go “down to the road and [enter – changed by author] by the big postern” (p. 97). He shows them through the Marie-Antoinette rooms and his impressive library. All of it symbolizes his wealth, education and standard. Since the poor people could hardly effort proper education a library with real books stands not only for wealth but for high education, great knowledge and world openness.
But as we learn from the owl-eyed man in the library, the books have never even been opened. They are simply a tool to impress people – people like Daisy. He presents himself to Daisy as educated, noble man of the upper class, whose wealth he is willing to share. In the beginning he shows them his official property, distanced values like furniture, boats, and books and so on. But later in his own room he gives them an insight into his very own private area, showing them his toilet set made of pure gold and his piles of neat folded shirts all made of the finest material. It is an attempt to let Daisy into his life, to show her that he wants her to be a part of his home. For him the luxury and money loses all its merits if Daisy isn´t a part of it. Nick explains that Gatsby “re-valued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes” (p. 98). Everything he has done in his live had the goal to win Daisy back and now that his dream seems to become true, reality slowly crepes up on him. He has to admit that even in this perfect moment it had happened that
“Daisy tumbled short of his dreams … because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart” (p. 103).
This is when he finds out what Daisy really is – the dream image of a real life person he knew long time ago. Nevertheless he tries to impress her with his possessions, shows her around and presents to her everything that could belong to her if she would just choose him over Tom.
At the end of the tour through his mansion Gatsby forces Klipspringer to play the piano for them. It is another presentation of his power, he is able to command people to serve him never mind at what time or in whatever situation. His only wish is to make his house as much a home for Daisy as possible. When Nick wants to leave the house to give them a moment of privacy Gatsby first seems shocked to be left alone with Daisy because of the awareness he has just made about Daisy´s imperfection. But in the next moment he grabs her hand to show to Nick, Daisy and even more to himself that she is the only thing he desires and that he wants to hold on to her no matter what she is or had become.
For Gatsby this woman is everything he always dreamed of. But since this moment in the music room he has lost a part of the simplicity concerning her. When later in the game Nick asks him what it is in Daisy that fascinated people that much, Gatsby states that a great deal of her charm lies in Daisy´s voice.
“She´s got an indiscreet voice. … It´s full of – … Her voice is full of money”. (p. 126) This sentence as simple as it may seem is a significant statement regarding Daisy and her relationship to Gatsby and people in general. It explains that her personality, her perception and everything about her is depending on her status, her wealth and her power. Daisy defines herself about her role as a rich upper class wife with nothing to think of and worry about than the next trip to New York, the next party or the latest fashions. Her care freeness and easiness is depending on money. She managed to marry, even if it was out of sheer chance and maybe even lovesickness, a wealthy man who offers her the life she wants to have.
Despite all these flaws Gatsby holds on to his obsession to the end. The only moment he wavers is when they all are resembled in the hotel room in New York where he forces Daisy to confess that she never loved Tom and that she will always love him.
“Oh, you want too much! … I love you now – isn´t that enough? I can´t help what´s past. … I did love him once – but I loved you too”. (p. 139) At this moment, Gatsby realises that Daisy had gone on living her life while his only purpose in life was to live up to her expectations. While he had used wealth, money and all the people around him to get to Daisy, Daisy had used all the people around her to get to wealth and money. As for Gatsby he would possibly have managed a life without a great fortune under more simple circumstances if he had only had Daisy by his side.
Gatsby´s relationship to wealth is to be written on the same page as Gatsby´s relationship to Daisy as she is the main reason for him to be the great man he had become. What makes the great Gatsby so great is that he is a great man not because he is rich and generous with his possessions but because of the fact that his life from early days on had a determination in the person of Daisy Buchanan. For Gatsby wealth has no value besides the obvious fact, that wealth brought him as close to his dearest desire as he could have possibly come in all his life. Wealth was the instrument with which he tried to achieve his goal. And although his determination is admirable on the one hand it is sad on the other hand if you think about the possibilities a man like him would have had.