The Great Gatsby – Idealism Vs. Materialism The Great Gatsby – Idealism Vs. Materialism The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is about idealism and the American Dream, and the downfall of those who attempt to reach its illusionary goals.
The attempt to capture the American Dream is different for different people, but in The Great Gatsby, for Jay, the dream is that through wealth and power, one can find happiness. To get this happiness Jay must reach into the past and relive an old dream and to do this he must have wealth and power. Jay Gatsby, the central figure of the story, is one character who longs for the past. Surprisingly he devotes most of his adult life trying to recapture it and, finally, dies in its pursuit.
In the past, Jay had a love affair with the affluent Daisy. Knowing he could not marry her because of the difference in their social status, he leaves her to amass wealth to reach her economic standards. Once he finds this wealth, he moves near to Daisy, "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay,' and throws extravagant parties, hoping by chance she might show up at one of them. He does not attend his parties but watches them from a distance. When this dream doesn't happen, he asks around casually if anyone knows her. Soon he meets Nick Carraway, a cousin of Daisy, who agrees to set up a meeting, "He wants to know...
if you " ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over.' Gatsby's personal dream symbolizes the larger American Dream where all have the opportunity to get what they want. Later, as we see in the Plaza Hotel, Jay still believes that Daisy loves him. He is convinced of this as is shown when he takes the blame for Myrtle's death. "Was Daisy driving?' "Yes... but of course I'll say I was.' He also watches and protects Daisy as she returns home. "How long are you going to wait?' "All night if necessary.' Jay cannot accept that the past is gone and done with.
Jay is sure that he can capture his dream with wealth and influence. He believes that he acted for a good beyond his personal interest and that should guarantee success. Nick attempts to show Jay the folly of his dream, but Jay innocently replies to Nick's assertion that the past cannot be relived by saying, "Yes you can, old sport.' This shows the confidence that Jay has in fulfilling his American Dream. For Jay, his American Dream is not material possessions, although it may seem that way.
He only comes into riches so that he can fulfill his true American Dream, Daisy. Gatsby doesn't rest until his American Dream is finally fulfilled. However, it never comes about and he ends up paying the ultimate price for it. Gatsby enters a world where money takes precedence over moral integrity. He realizes that life of the high class demands wealth to become a priority. Wealth becomes his superficial goal controlling his quest for love.
He establishes his necessity to acquire wealth, which allows him to be with Daisy. The social elite of Gatsby's time sacrifice morality to attain wealth. Materialism has already overshadowed part of his spiritual side. Gatsby's dream is doomed to failure in that he has lost the fundamental necessities to experience love, such as honesty and moral integrity. Tom Buchanan, a man from an "enormously wealthy' family, seems to Nick to have lost all sense of being kind. Nick describes Tom's physical attributes as a metaphor for his true character when remarking that Tom had a "hard mouth and a supercilious manner arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face… always leaning aggressively forward… … a cruel body… … [h]is speaking voice… … added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed.' The wealth Tom has inherited causes him to become arrogant and condescending to others, while losing his morals.
Rather than becoming immoral from wealth as Tom has, Gatsby engages in criminal activity as his only path to being rich. Commitments between individuals no longer exist once wealth has taken precedence. Family relationships exist superficially among high-ranking members of society. Marriages become simply labels of society rather than bindings between two individuals. The binding marriage between Daisy and Tom became very weak when Daisy told Gatsby in front of Tom that she loved him. Gatsby also accepts the fact that marriages rarely represent true love, and does not hesitate to tell his love to Daisy in front of her husband.
More than the institution of marriage, Gatsby loses all sense of family. His wealth has metaphorically become his family. He relies on his money rather than a family to bring comfort and security to his life. Gatsby tries to regain the loss of family he experiences through his wealth. Because of superficial family relationships, all love for that matter becomes based on social status. Myrtle's love for Tom is ultimately doomed to failure due to her standing in a lower social class than Tom.
This large social gap appears when Tom "had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world.' The couple is never meant to be. Gatsby had experienced this exact situation with Daisy when he was in the army. His love for Daisy was impossible in society because "he was at present a penniless young man without a past… he had no comfortable family standing behind him.' He realized a relationship of love was impossible with Daisy due to his low social standing. Therefore, Gatsby became determined to breach that gap between them to have a loving relationship with Daisy. This idealism is the representation of the American Dream.
The idea of the American Dream still holds true in today's time, be it wealth, love, or fame. But one thing never changes about the American Dream; everyone wants something in life, and everyone, somehow, strives to get it. Gatsby is a prime example of pursuing the American Dream. However, Gatsby, like most individuals today, possessed an extreme imbalance between the material and spiritual sides of himself. His ultimate goal of love changed places with his secondary goal of becoming rich. He portrayed the ultimate failure of the American Dream in that individuals tend to believe wealth is everything.
Ironically, even today, most people still have the same conflict between riches and spiritual happiness. Somehow, we presume that money will solve all our problems in obtaining the beautiful home, the love of our lives, and children, because if we don't have the monetary woes then we can attain that all-consuming illusive Devine peace of mind. Historically, America was and still is the New World of endless opportunity and wealth. Nevertheless, a nation cannot operate solely on materialism. The spirits of individuals are the true composition of a nation. The dream that Gatsby and Nick longed for perhaps was the past; a simpler, better time, a time when people believed in family and religion.
Tom, Daisy and Jordan are creatures of the present, they are consequently rootless and spiritually empty. Bibliography The Great Gatsby.