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The Materialism Of Society In The Great Gatsby Essay, Research Paper

The Materialism of Society in The Great Gatsby

Every person has a yearning in her heart, a desire for

greater happiness she needs to fill. Whether it be love, power,

knowledge, or social status, every person at one time strives to

fill an emptiness through material gain. Materialism is the

tendency to prefer material possessions and physical comfort to

spiritual values (Isaacs 924). Today s society is occupied with

materialistic things. The Great Gatsby is a prime example of

this. This materialism of society is shown in F. Scott

Fitzgerald s The Great Gatsby through the following characters:

Jay Gatsby and Tom and Daisy Buchanan.

Fitzgerald found the wealthy glamorous and destructive.

Although he was wealthy, Fitzgerald was never accepted. He was

always on the outside looking in. His obsession for material

characterized him as an author and a man (Magill Critical 966).

He thought his money would make him a better person. Fitzgerald

felt as if the loss of vision was as bad as the illusory

quality of ideals of culture (Magill American 367).

Materialism is one of the main themes in The Great Gatsby.

America had produced an idealism so impalpable that it had lost

touch with reality and a materialism so heavy that it was

inhuman (Mizener 101). America is considered as the continent

of lost innocence and illusions (Way 110). There are many

misunderstandings in today s materialistic society. One can t

buy integrity with money(Bruccoli 52), and young men think that

riches change the past and can recapture love (Martine 9). Both

of these ideas are false. American society has a constant

reliance on money for emotions and identity (Bruccoli 46). The

Great Gatsby is interpreted as a warning to future generations

(Magill Masterplots 2652). The warning is to not base ones life

on material things, because this could lead to a downfall.

Jay Gatsby is a successful bootlegger. He came from poverty

and ignorance (Bryfonski 244),and has come into a new wealth,

which is derived from his business. Although Gatsby achieves

this success, he fails to realize how money works in society

(Tate 104). He thrives on material things. He owns a huge

estate, has expensive belongings, and splurges his money for

show. Jay Gatsby stands for American idealism- so he loses touch

with reality (Lehan 114). He assumes that material possessions

are the way to his dream,and he looks on material things to

satisfy this search (Bryfonski 244). Finally, Gatsby sees that

attaining an object brings a sense of loss and not fulfillment

(Way 107). In the end, he is destroyed by the materials.

Gatsby is in love with Daisy Buchanan. He has loved her

since he was a young man. When he is sent to fight in the war,

Daisy meets Tom Buchanan and marries him. Years later, Gatsby

and Daisy are reunited. By this time, Gatsby is wealthy and

feels as if he is worthy of her love. He still loves her as much

as the day he left and is willing to do anything to win her over.

He thinks that her love can be bought (Bruccoli 51), and tries to

recapture her through his material possessions (Martine 10).

Gatsby is the foolhardy idealist who cannot take the

common-sense view, who refuses to accept an equivocal love

(Piper 102). When Daisy leaves him at the end, he loses

everything. He loses his youth, hope, and expectancy. (Lehan


Daisy Buchanan, is a Southern Belle from Louisville,

Kentucky, and comes from a wealthy family. She is entangled in

materialistic values. Her life is full of money, power, and a

high social status. When she speaks, her voice is full of money

(Lee 55). Daisy loves to go out to parties to dance, drink, and

have fun. She is married to Tom Buchanan, but their relationship

is not a model relationship. They are both unfaithful to each

other, and neither of them seems to care. Daisy has a basic

insincerity towards her marital situation (Piper 108).

Daisy loved Jay Gatsby when she was younger. Although she

loved him, she could not marry him because he was poor. Rich,

young girls did mot marry poor boys. Daisy had two powerful

sources of attraction; they were money and sex (Bloom Modern 90).

That is what attracted Gatsby to her. She was the substance of

Gatsby s dream (Bloom 90). He lived for her. When he found her

again, he expected her to be a damsel in distress waiting to be

rescued (Piper 124). Tragically, she did not meet these


Tom Buchanan came from a wealthy family. He graduated from

Yale as a football legend. Tom was arrogant and obnoxious and

stood for a materialism that was inhuman (Lehan 114). He gained

his assurance from his money and position in society (Bloom

Modern 92). Like Daisy, Tom wasn t faithful for he was having an

affair also. He was a corrupt man and was conceived as the

embodiment of evil by Fitzgerald (Piper 138).

The world of the Jazz Age in which Fitzgerald lived and

wrote The Great Gatsby, was brimming with materialistic values.

Fitzgerald conveys a sense that the original, more spirited

meaning of the American dream has been corrupted by greed (Bloom

Bloom s 37). In the book The Great Gatsby, each character is in

pursuit of happiness through material fulfillment. The book

describes the materialism of an age. It was written in a time

where values were more concerned with self-fulfillment and

happiness than anything. In The Great Gatsby, the pursuit of

happiness through material gain is vain and pointless.

Fitzgerald was not strikingly optimistic about the process of our

nation being damned by our materialism, or of our dreams

surviving its entanglement with a particularly expensive object

(Bloom 24). The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates

the materialism of society through these characters: Jay Gatsby

and Daisy and Tom Buchanan.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Bloom s Major Short Story Writers: F. Scott

Fitzgerald. Broomall: Chelsea House, 1999.

Bloom, Harold. ed. Modern Critical Interpretations: F. Scott

Fitzgerald s The Great Gatsby. New York: Chelsea House,


Bruccoli, Matthew J. ed. New Essays on The Great Gatsby.

Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985.

Bryfonski, Dedria. ed. Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism,

Vol 1. Mendelson, Phyllis, Carmel. 2nd ed. Michigan:

Gale Research Co., 1978.

Lee, Robert A. ed. Scott Fitzgerald: The Promises of Life.

London: Vision Press, 1989.

Lehan, Richard D. F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Craft of Fiction.

Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1966.

Magill, Frank N. ed. American Literature Realism to 1945.

Pasadena: Salem Press, 1981.

Magill, Frank N. ed. Critical Survey of Long Fiction ,Vol 3.

New Jersey: Salem Press, 1983.

Magill, Frank. Masterplots: Revised Second Edition.

Pasadena: Salem Press, 1996.

Martine, James J. ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol 9:

American Novelists, 1910-1945. Michigan: Gale Research

Co., 1981.

Mizener, Arthur. A Collection of Critical Essays: F. Scott

Fitzgerald. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1963.

Piper, Henry Dan. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Critical Portrait.

London: The Bodly Head Ltd, 1965.

Tate, Mary Jo. F.Scott Fitzgerald A to Z. New York: Facts on

File, Inc., 1998.

Way, Brian. F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Art of Social Fiction.

New York: St. Martin s Press, Inc., 1980.

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