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The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is an intriguing account about love, money and life during the 1920s in New York. The story begins when Nick Carraway, a young man, moves to New York from the Midwest to join the bond business. There, he soon becomes acquainted with his wealthy neighbor Jay Gatsby, and they become good friends. Gatsby confides in Nick and tells him that he is in love with Nick s cousin, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. However, she is already married to the young and successful Tom Buchanan, who is unfaithful and has an affair with poor George Wilson s wife. Later, Nick arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy and soon thereafter, they become involved in a love affair. It is revealed that many years ago, Gatsby and Daisy were in love, but Daisy would not marry him because he was rather poor. Gatsby, however, made his fortune and became determined to win Daisy s heart. Towards the end of the story, however, Tom finds out about Gatsby and Daisy s affair. One day, while they were all in New York City, he confronts Gatsby and Daisy and a heated argument ensues. That fateful night, returning to their homes on Long Island, Daisy, while driving Gatsby s car, accidentally runs over Tom s mistress, Myrtle Wilson. Her deranged husband George Wilson discovers that it was Gatsby s car that hit his wife; as a result, he seeks out Gatsby and kills him. Consequently, The Great Gatsby represents mankind s feebleness by illustrating its blind struggle to find acceptance within society, its materialism, and its naturally sinful disposition through the characterization of Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, and Tom Buchanan.
First of all, the depiction of Nick Carraway represents humankind s desperate struggle to be accepted by society. Nick Carraway, although relatively new to New York, quickly attaches himself to Jay Gatsby. Nick reflects, At nine o clock, one morning late in July, Gatsby s gorgeous car lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody from its three-noted horn. It was the first time he had called on me, though I had gone to two of his parties, mounted in his hydroplane, and made frequent use of his beach (Ch. 4, pg. 63-4). Nick was quite lonesome after his move to New York. He had a decent job in the bond business and lived in a small bungalow. Basically the only acquaintances he had were the Buchanans and Jordan Baker, to an extent. It is not human nature to live a desolate and lonely life; humans are social animals. Therefore, Nick desperately needed company if he were to stay in New York. Once given the opportunity to make new acquaintances, normal human beings would grab such an opportunity and try to make the best possible impression of themselves upon others, and the best way to make a grand impression is to attach oneself to a prominent member of society, like Jay Gatsby. Nick, in order to maintain Gatsby s friendship, agrees to arrange a meeting between Daisy and Gatsby. Nick says to Gatsby, I talked with Miss Baker . I m going to call up Daisy tomorrow and invite her over here to tea (Ch. 5, pg. 82). Apparently blinded by his friendly relationship with Gatsby and by his effort to remain attached to him, Nick agrees to Gatsby s request and arranges a meeting between Gatsby and Daisy, which later becomes a fatal mistake. Nick failed to take into account the consequences of such a meeting and the tribulations that it may later cause. Fitzgerald points out that men are so consumed with trying to maintain their social stature and be accepted that they become blinded and tend to act irresponsibly.
Furthermore, Daisy Buchanan symbolizes mankind s affection towards materialistic things. Later in the story, Jordan Baker reveals that Tom Buchanan had bought Daisy a pearl necklace worth three hundred and fifty thousand dollars before their wedding. Jordan explains, June [Daisy] married Tom Buchanan of Chicago, with more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He came down with a hundred people in four private cars, and hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars (Ch. 4, pg. 77). It appears that Tom had bought Daisy s love with an expensive piece of jewelry. Upon observing Gatsby s wealth, Daisy rushed blindly into his love. Men, consciously or not, try to put a value on everything; and therefore, people like to judge love and other intangible objects with their materialistic minds. For instance, love tends to be judged by wedding gifts and jewelry, whereas happiness usually is based upon wealth. The author uses Daisy to demonstrate how utterly common materialism is and how pathetic it can be. Several years prior to the time frame of the novel, Daisy had refused to love Gatsby on the basis that he was a poor young man, but after discovering how wealthy he had become; she immediately falls in love with Gatsby and his material possessions. Nick describes how Daisy reacts to Gatsby s wealth, With enchanting murmurs Daisy admired this aspect or that of the feudal silhouette against the sky, admired the gardens (Ch. 5, pg. 92). Daisy, forgetting about their past indifferences, falls in love with Gatsby, not knowing and not caring about what kind of person Jay Gatsby is, but about the incredible wealth of Jay Gatsby. Later in the novel, however, it is revealed that earlier, Gatsby was a poor young man; therefore, Daisy would not and could not love him. Fitzgerald writes, But he knew that he was in Daisy s house by a colossal accident. However glorious might be his future as Jay Gatsby, he was at present a penniless young man without a past, and at ant moment the invisible cloak of his uniform might slip from his shoulders (Ch. 8, pg. 149). The human mind is very easy to sway. Given facts or data, one can manipulate the minds of many. This is especially true for materialistic people, since all that is needed to control a materialistic mind is wealth. Gatsby s plan throughout the years was to gain enough wealth to capture Daisy s attention and love. This love, however, is what led to the downfall of both Daisy and Gatsby. The author Fitzgerald warns that materialistic minds are easy to alter and may lead to pain, anguish, and perhaps even death.
Finally, the character of Tom Buchanan symbolizes man s tendency towards sin. Although married to Daisy, Tom is unfaithful and has an affair with Myrtle Wilson. Tom says to Nick, We re getting off, [Tom] insisted. I wanted you to meet my girl (Ch. 2, pg. 24). Fitzgerald uses Tom as the antagonist in the novel, because he gets in the way of the love between Gatsby and Daisy. Yet, Fitzgerald also uses Tom as an example of evil and sin. Men are always looking for adventure and a thrill, even if these adventures and thrills will get them into trouble. In Tom s case, having a mistress is a thrill to him, although it eventually leads to the deaths of Myrtle Wilson and Jay Gatsby. Another example that Tom symbolizes man s tendency towards sin is that Tom s temper often has violent flares that usually have destructive results. Fitzgerald writes, Some time towards midnight Tom Buchanan and Mrs. Wilson stood face to face, discussing whether Mrs. Wilson had any right to mention Daisy s name . Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke [Myrtle s] nose with his open hand (Ch. 2, pg. 37). Controlling human emotions is a very difficult thing to do. Many people often fail in doing so; therefore, they hurt others physically or emotionally. Tom is a man who finds it difficult to keep his emotions to himself so he ends up expressing those emotions, whether appropriate or not; consequently, he becomes a despised character in the novel because he is portrayed as an uncouth and vile man. The author uses Tom to explain that it is human nature to express one s emotions, even if these emotions are dangerous.
The Great Gatsby is a novel that shows man s weak willpower through its anxious efforts to be accepted by society, its love for materialistic things, and its inclination to sin, as exemplified by Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan and Tom Buchanan. F. Scott Fitzgerald successfully captures the lifestyle of the 1920s in The Great Gatsby. This novel has a theme with historical significance, since life during the booming decade was one of extravagance and glamour. People were starving for money and love. Fitzgerald, who lived during this time period, observed first-hand the superficial lifestyle of the American population and was reminded that the human spirit is weak and selfish. He masterfully laces that message into his masterpiece The Great Gatsby to share with future generations.