GATSBY THEME ANALYSIS
Wealth is usually the first and maybe the most crucial indicator of class rank. This theme is evident in the entire novel, The Great Gatsby. This book has certainly touched the lives of many readers and left some with many questions. The book takes the reader on an unforeseen journey whereby things are not always as they appear. The novel can be categorized as a social commentary on American life in the 1920s, that is, the life of the rich. Hence, by creating different social classes, new money versus old money, and no money, Fitzgerald sends strong messages about the elitism evident in every aspect of society.
Old Money vs. New Money -The Upper Class
The 1920’s was a period of great change in America because there was a shift in the classes and the upper class was then split into those of new money and old money. Those with new money refers to people have made their money in different ways. They have built up their own fortunes and not inherited anything from anyone but. Old money, on the other hand, refers to members of the upper class that have inherited their money through their long line of family lineage. They are often thought to be reasonable, stylish and possessed of good taste. They usually look down on people with new money.
Like other newly rich people, Tom Buchanan thinks that Gatsby is a big bootlegger like them. In that time, this clearly shows what people from old money thought of those who had just shifted to the upper class: that they were not worthy and were certainly up to something suspicious. Jay Gatsby is a man who came from rags to riches and established his new identity along with a new lifestyle, and with that moves up the classes to become the newly rich. He is one of those people whom “the old money” people look down on, and has a hard time of it with some of them. They do not accept him as being one of them because he does not come from a respectable and wealthy background; like some of the people he spends time with. Gatsby wants acceptance and to be seen as one of the group. He has high dreams and hopes that he will try to achieve by any means necessary. Some years before the time in which the novel takes place, Jay falls in love with Daisy. She does not know much about him apart from his being in the military and that he is off to war to fight for his country. She makes a promise to wait for him. Gatsby is quite aware that she is from money and is in fear when he is at her house: he feels that he doesn’t deserve this girl but wants to give it a try anyway: “He was aware that Daisy was amazing, but he didn’t realize just how astounding a ‘nice’ girl she could be. She vanished into her rich full life, rich house, leaving Gatsby nothing” (Fitzgerald 117).
Gatsby’s dream is dived into the desire for money and the desire to repeat the past. That is, he has a dream of gaining wealth, which he hopes will let him remember the past and fulfill his visions. His dream is rather complex to put into actual words and for people to understand because they are rather beyond expression. People of old money usually have their wealth tied up in investments and may not be able to spend it as freely compared with the new money people. New money is newly obtained and in most cases not tied up in anything except what the owner has newly spent money on. Gatsby considered wealth would get him the life that he dreamt of, get him the girl he once lost, and everything he wanted in life. Thus, Daisy had married Tom Buchanan, since came from a background of serious money. While Gatsby was far at war, Daisy wanted to settle down, bowing to “some force – of money, of love, of indisputable practicality, that was available” (Fitzgerald 118).
Being newly rich may buy someone new friends for a short period but if he/she is willing to spend money on them, but once the party is over, the old money people stick together and will regroup into their little groups. According to (Fitzgerald 127), after Gatsby’s death, his party guests all vanish and Nick is alone by his side: “At first I was confused and surprised; then, as he lay in his house and didn’t speak, breathe or move, and occurred to me that nobody was interested.” This demonstrates just what the people he wanted to call friends were actually like. They were simply happy to attend his parties, drink his beer and wonder who he really was and never wanted to be his friends in the first place.
James’ story was a rise from rags to riches but eventually he, like Gatsby, fails at achieving what he is after. So after Gatsby’s parties end, he becomes a thing of the past, nobody to others. There are some references in the book to the attractiveness and importance of coming from old money. Gatsby is completely in fear of Daisy; at one point he states that “Her accent is full of money.” Even for people that are not in love with Daisy concur that her voice is attractive and full of money: Nick picks up on it when Gatsby comments and agrees with him, “I’d never understood it before. It was full of money – that was the endless charm that rose and fell in it” (Fitzgerald 94).
It makes Daisy seem more charismatic and pleasant than she really is; it gives a false impression of what kind of person she is. But with money, anything is possible: it can give a false impression of how and what things really are. Daisy and Tom came from old money; they were supposed to be respectable people and “better” than others. Yet, “they were careless because they destroyed things and creatures and then went back into their money or their carelessness, or whatever that kept them together, and let other people clean up their mess” (Fitzgerald 139). They ultimately ruined Gatsby’s life, alongside Myrtle and George Wilson’s lives, yet they can carry on with their own as if nothing has occurred. Tom was sleeping with Myrtle and being friendly and fake with George at the same time (Fitzgerald 22-26). Daisy killed Myrtle by running her over (Fitzgerald 107-112), Tom does not own up to having a relationship with Myrtle and George thought that the person whom she was having the relationship with killed her, making George shoot Gatsby and then killing himself (Fitzgerald 108-126). According to (Fitzgerald 128), Daisy and Tom walk away scot-free and continue with their perfect little lives as before.
Since Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby, a lot has changed. More currently, for example, people who work hard to obtain their own wealth are looked up to. People that earn their money instead of inheriting it are seen as industrialists, and many want to learn one or two things from them. Presently, the self-made rich are not looked upon with the same doubt and suspicion as in the 1920s. They are not considered to be into something dishonest and shunned from particular social groups. There is not the divide within the upper class that there once was. In today’s society, Jay Gatsby maybe would not have been questioned as much by Tom Buchanan, even if he were into something illegal. New or old money does not matter so much in today’s society because people center more on what one has to bring to the table and what they can get out of you.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.
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