The American Dream as it is seen in the 1920s before the Great Depression was a dream of economic prosperity. In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this dream of achieving wealth and happiness through hard work exists as a materialistic goal for each of its characters to obtain. Materialism can be seen throughout these characters’ actions and behaviors as it affects their lives. Characters such as Tom and Daisy Buchanan, George and Myrtle Wilson, and Jay Gatsby all give up moments important to them because of money or show indifference about losing materialistic things that they own.
Materialism is defined as the preoccupation with or emphasis on acquiring possessions, with little or no regard for their actual value. Materialism can be seen in many aspects of The Great Gatsby:
• Actions: Each character sacrifices time and momentous occasions to acquire wealth
• Speech: Each character talks about nothing but materialistic things
• Descriptions: Each character is described with physical attributes involving materialistic objects such as clothing and jewelry
Tom Buchanan’s desire for materialistic wealth is exhibited from the beginning of the novel. He abandons Daisy, his love interest, to be with another woman Myrtle Wilson who was wealthier than Daisy at first glance. The first moment that Tom and Daisy come together in this novel is when they are both having affairs behind their respective spouses’ backs (Tom with Myrtle). This shows how Tom views Daisy as only someone he can use to gain money or status through marriage; she would not have been good enough for him if she didn’t possess materialistic objects like expensive clothes and jewelry.
After learning about Gatsby’s hidden wealth throughout the novel, Tom betrays Nick’s trust by telling George Wilson where Gatsby lived so that George could murder Gatsby to get Gatsby’s money. Tom is only concerned with materialistic objects and does not care how it affects the other people in his life. Daisy also sacrifices time for her love of Tom. She abandons a riding date with Nick, who she has been dating throughout the novel, to go on a drive with Tom.
She doesn’t show concern that her actions would make Nick extremely upset nor does she show any care for what her actions could do to their relationship. The pursuit of materialistic items shows through Daisy’s actions when she leaves behind someone whom she claims to love for another man because he is wealthier than the former lover.
George Wilson seems to be unaware or indifferent towards materialism throughout The Great Gatsby. When he realizes that Myrtle is spending time with another man Gatsby, George kills Myrtle as a result of his anger towards her unfaithfulness and love for Tom. Although George never tries to gain any materialistic items throughout the novel, his actions toward Myrtle are directly affected by her expensive clothing and jewelry.
Jay Gatsby is obsessed with wealth and material objects throughout the novel and it influences all his behaviors and actions. He receives money from an unknown source (Daisy) but uses most of the money on lavish parties in order to impress Daisy’s friends who were people with great wealth like him. He spends this money even though he has never met Daisy before; proving how much emphasis he puts into materialistic objects rather than the people themselves.
Another example of Gatsby’s materialism can be seen is when he spends half a million dollars on parties only to gain Daisy back as his love interest; she shows no affection towards him and leaves with Tom at the end of The Great Gatsby, which leads to Gatsby shooting himself in the chest. Materialism affects Jay throughout The Great Gatsby:
• When Gatsby learns that Daisy had married Tom, he spends 500,000 dollars on extravagant parties in order to impress her friends who were wealthy like him
• He shoots himself after realizing that Daisy never loved him as much as he loved her and that she will remain with Tom forever
Tom and Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby represent the American view and idea of wanting and acquiring materialistic objects.
The pursuit of materialistic goals can be seen through The Great Gatsby. It leads Tom to go behind his wife’s back when he starts an affair with Myrtle, which leads George Wilson to kill Myrtle in revenge for her unfaithfulness. Materialism also affects Daisy whilst she is married to Tom Buchanan; she abandons plans with Nick Carraway to ride with Tom at a crucial moment where their relationship could have become more serious. It also affects Jay who spends half a million dollars on parties in order to gain affection from Daisy even though she does not love him nor will she ever do so. The novel shows how materialism can have negative impacts on relationships, love and lives in general.
Materialism plays a major role throughout the whole of The Great Gatsby. Materialistic items such as Daisy’s clothes and jewelry play an important part in decisions made by many characters within the novel; these objects also produce consequences which affect several characters of this story. Materialism is shown through Jay Gatsby who puts all of his efforts into impressing people like him who either possess materialistic things or are wealthy; he spends half a million dollars on parties to achieve this but fails to do so because of Tom’s betrayal and Daisy’s disloyalty towards him (she chooses Tom over Jay).
George Wilson who killed Myrtle because she was unfaithful is another example of how materialism can impact people’s lives negatively. Lastly, The Great Gatsby shows the reader what consequences can arise from values that are based on pursuing materialistic goals; it also illustrates how money and materialistic objects affect relationships with other people.
People who like to acquire lots of materialistic items for their own gratification (and not necessarily because they need them) often reach high status within society, but this satisfaction does not last very long. This is because people who are obsessed with wealth tend to want more and more things after having acquired some objects; they cannot be satisfied with what they have already achieved. This only leads them to want more luxurious items, which often result in their lives revolving around earning money to buy these objects.
Instead of being happy with what they have achieved, people who are obsessed with wealth are never satisfied because there is always something else that they want to get. Their lives do not revolve around other people but rather materialistic items instead; this attitude can lead them to ruin other relationships. America’s idea of the “American Dream” highlights how people think that it is possible for them to achieve great things through hard work and determination, which means that it is not necessary for anyone to be born into a wealthy family in order to become wealthy themselves one day.