Our great cities and our mighty buildings will avail us not if we lack spiritual strength to subdue mere objects to the higher purposes of humanity” (Harnsberger 14), is what Lyndon B. Johnson had to say about materialism. He knew the value of money, and he realized the power and effect of money. Money can have many effects, however money cannot buy happiness. Many people don?t this fact, and many continue to try and actually buy things that make them happy. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Fizgerald shows us how Jay Gatsby is one of these people. Gatsby believes that if he has money, he can have many great goals. Gatsby is a sensible man, But he has many false conceptions. Jay Gatsby believes that money can recreate the past, can buy him happiness, and can be helpful in achieving a level of prestige in the rich East Egg.
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Jay Gatsby believes he can buy happiness and this is show through his house, his clothes, and through Daisy. He owns a large portion of finances due to some mysterious source of wealth, and he uses this mystery source to buy his house, his clothes, and Daisy. Gatsby’s house, as Fitzgerald describes it, is “a factual imitation of some Hotel 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” (Fitzgerald 9). This house, as Fitzgerald fabulously enlightens to, is an immaculate symbol of Gatsby’s incalculable income. “The house he feels he needs in order to win happiness” (Bewley 24), is an elegant mansion; that of which an excellent symbol of carelessness is displayed and is part of Gatsby’s own persona. Every Monday after a party, this house is kept by eight servants. It has its own entrance gate, and is big enough to hold hundreds of people at a time. His careless use for money to impress others is portrayed through his clothes, a gold metallic hat, silver vests and gold jackets. The shirts and clothes that are ordered every spring and fall show his simpleness in expressing his wealth to his beloved Daisy. His “beautiful shirts . . . It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before” (Fitzgerald 98). It seems silly to cry over simple shirts, but “It is not the shirts themselves that overwhelm her but what they symbolize . . .” (Cowley 43). These shirts represent the simple awesome manner of Gatsby’s wealth and his ability to try and purchase Daisy’s love, this time through the use of his clothing. Fitzgerald shows how Gatsby uses his riches to buy Daisy. In the story, we know that “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy–they smashed up things . . . and then returned back into their money” (Fitzgerald). By this, we know that Daisy’s main (and maybe only) concern is money. Gatsby realizes this, and is powered by this. He is driven to many and sometimes illegal actions. He feels he must be rich and careless for his five year love, and when expressing Gatsby’s readiness to spend any amount of money for his hopeful wife, a poem must be stated. “Then wear the gold hat, if that move her; If you can bounce high, bounce for her too, Till she cry “Lover, gold hatted, high-bouncing lover, I must have you!” ( ). This poem is a perfect description of how Gatsby tries to buy Daisy, and her love. All these enlighten us to Gatsby’s personality, we know Gatsby is willing to use an unlimited source of income to actually buy many things to prove his worth to Daisy. He will buy a house that takes, even him, three years to pay for and purchases clothes every Spring and Fall. He does all he can in order to buy, what he feels is his only happiness, the woman he has watched for five years, the woman who’s only concern is money, Daisy.
Gatsby’s obsession is with the buying power of money, but, this obsession does not limit itself just to possessions, but also to physical looks. Jay Gatsby attempts to recapture his past with money. He also says he has a past at Oxford, he spoils Daisy with wealth, and sometimes tells absolute obvious lies. In his past at Oxford, the author uses a prestigious, ivy league school that Gatsby visited in order to imply that Gatsby did come from a high class background. Fitzgerald avoids saying for how long, for what reasons, or why he has attained entrance at Oxford. Being misplaced by the Military at this local prestigious college unfortunately serves as a hindrance. Gatsby shows Nick a picture “A souvenir of [his] Oxford days . . . ” (Fitzgerald), as if to imply that he was there. In all actuality, Gatsby had only dreamed of attending a school such as Oxford, and even a small, dishonest taste of this makes him dream of changing his past. This, as Malcom Cowly states, “past holds something that Gatsby [longs] for, a simpler, better, nobler time . . .” (Cowly 45). With a photograph, Gatsby effectively, and almost unmistakably, recreates his past. Not only does Oxford involve untruths, but most of this recreation involves numerous obscene and unbelievable lies. Gatsby “live[s] like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe . . . ” (Fitzgerald), as Nick, incredibly notes “With an effort I managed to restrain my incredulous laughter” (Fitzgerald). With documentation like this, Fitzgerald effectively proves Gatsby’s statements to be lies. Even “When Nick asks him where in the Midwest [Gatsby] comes from, Gatsby ignorantly, but elegantly, tells him San Francisco, geography losing to the pretensions of the romantic imaginations” (Lehan 60). These and numerous other lies prove how James Gatz tries to recapture the past through the use of enamorous mendacity. There is one reason only why Gatsby tries so desperately to alter his past, his pursuit of one money stained Daisy. Jay tries to buy Daisy in various ways. Not only does he buy many material items to impress her, but he continues to accumulate as much money as he can in order to physically buy her. As Jordan states, “He wants her to see his house, and you live right next door” (Fitzgerald). Perhaps the only reason he does is to show how much money Gatsby possesses. When Daisy finally realizes this, a problem occurs. “He innocently expects that he can buy anything–especially Daisy. She is for sale, but he doesn’t have the right currency” (Bruccoli vii). Clearly Gatsby has the money, unfortunately he does not have the right type of money, he comes from the wrong class of society. Due to the dream of attaining a higher social class and for Daisy, Gatsby tries to recapture his past, even if he is being forced to tell emaculant outlandish lies.
In order to achieve a certain prestige, so that Daisy will love him (she may already love him, but she won’t live with him), Gatsby uses his dirty money, his association with well known people, and numerous gestures to obtain this level of respect. Gatsby’s “mysterious source of wealth” (Fitzgerald), as Fitzgerald describes is through an activity called bootlegging. This illegal business is very risky, yet very prosperous. Gatsby uses it to “get rich quick”. As writer Henry Dan Piper says, “Bootlegging was after all a more or less acceptable business enterprise . . . ” (Piper 191). While this may be, this enterprise does not raise Gatsby’s level of respect. The kind of wealth he needs is “acquired” wealth. The kind of wealth he achieves is earned. In the prominent East Egg, and with Daisy, this type of wealth is unacceptable. Also, association is used in Gatsby’s struggle for prestige. When taking Tom through his party, he stops at every famous person available. “Gatsby identified him, adding that he was a small producer” (Fitzgerald) is a sentence in which Gatsby directly tries to associate his name with, and in turn earn a level of respect specifically from Tom. Gatsby includes anyone famous, even those who are morally bad. “Meyer Wolfsheim, the man who fixed the world series in 1919? (Mizner 23), is a very famous person with whom Gatsby is (or seems to be) good friends with. However, “fixing” any game, let alone the world series, is something believably wrong. Gatsby actually goes to the extent of putting his name to someone who wears teeth for cufflinks. Even though his money and his associations are important, perhaps the most important way that Gatsby tries to earn his importance is his gestures. Do to the upbringing that reflects any source of money, Gatsby goes so far as to try and alter his form and speech to obtain a respect. “He smiled understandingly . . . It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it . . .” (Fitzgerald). To gain a certain level of integrity, Gatsby modifies his speech, his manners, his whole body language in order to seem respectable. “The ‘gestures’ of course include the clipped speech, the ‘old sports’, the formal intensity of manner, the gracefulness of the ballroom floor, the bending slightly forward to create the impression of an intensity of interest, the meticulous attention to detail–these and many more ‘gestures’ compliment the personage of Gatsby” (Lehan 58-59). By pretending that he is an honest, endowed English college graduate, Gatsby almost perfectly creates the illusion that he is what he is trying to be. What he is trying to be is respectable, and his dirty money, his association, and his “gestures” nearly accomplish that.
So, Jay Gatsby believes he can buy happiness, he can buy Daisy, and he can achieve a level of admiration in succulent East Egg. Gatsby is an excellent personification of someone trying to buy happiness. Buying the American Dream is something that almost everyone does, yet it never works, it is never enough. LBJ believed in personal happiness. He believed that only oneself, no outside influence such as money, could make oneself happy. Therefore, ” . . . Our great cities and our mighty buildings will avail us not if we lack spiritual strength to subdue mere objects to the higher purposes of humanity” (Harnsberger 14).
Bewley, Marious. “Scott Fitzgerald Critisism of America.” F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Arthur Mizener. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
Bruccoli, Matthew J. Preface. The Great Gatsby. By F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. vii-xvi.
Cowley, Malcom. “Third Act Epilogue.” New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,1963.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.