For Love, or Money?
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a novel about Jay Gatsby’s constant quest to win over his love of the past, Daisy Buchanan. To Gatsby’s misfortune, he finds that Daisy is married to the wealthy but cocky Tom Buchanan. Daisy is a modern day “gold-digger” she fails to realize her own arrogance, and the success of her relationship with Tom is measured upon the size of his pocketbook. Tom’s secret lover, Myrtle Wilson becomes the victim of a hit-and-run.
Tom shows Myrtle’s husband to the door of Gatsby. Gatsby is shot while swimming in his pool for the first time. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the story, witnesses Gatsby’s failure to relive his past and recapture the love of his life. Although Nick admires Gatsby’s effort to use his newly acquired wealth for the intentions of love as opposed to Tom’s use of it to be reckless, he thinks Gatsby’s obsession is foolish.
Before the war sent him packing, Jay Gatsby was seeing Daisy Fay. At that time Jay was not very wealthy, but he had high hopes as to what it would take to win over the girl of his dreams. After the war Gatsby was shocked, but not set off track when he found that Daisy married another man. Nick is constantly in awe of Gatsby’s undying affection towards a woman that is married to another man, and is the same woman that betrayed him in the past. At first Nick thinks that Gatsby is not able to see through Daisy’s lack of emotion until Gatsby says, “Her voice is full of money.”(127).
Gatsby says this because he realizes Daisy is a different person than he once knew. Gatsby can almost hear the difference in the odd cheerfulness in her voice. At that point in the novel, Nick realizes that Gatsby does not care what Daisy is like now, but he learns instead that Gatsby is in love with the Daisy he knew before the war. Gatsby’s entire life and his only reason to become wealthy were to win over his love from the past.
Tom Buchanan comes from “old-money”. “Old-money” is a term for people that have money passed down to them from different generations. He has never had to work for anything, and his incredibly large amount of money is sufficient enough to allow him to be as careless as he wants. He never thinks about his actions because he knows that money is on his side and everybody sides with money. Tom cheats on his wife without a care in the world. His most recent desire is a Myrtle, the wife of a gas station owner. An example of Tom’s carelessness and brutality is when he intentionally whacks Myrtle’s face and breaks her nose after saying his wife’s name, “Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her [Myrtle] nose with his open hand.”(41).
After doing this, Tom showed absolutely no signs of regret for his actions. This evil gesture of Tom’s was not by itself. He figured to show his ownership of her by buying her a necklace that is much like the collar Myrtle put on her new puppy that was given to her from Tom. Myrtle could not argue with receiving gifts. Myrtle does not mind any of Tom’s actions towards her because she sees him as her only ticket out of poverty. Tom figures that Myrtle is from a lower class than he is and therefore he can do whatever he wants with her.
Another strange character in the novel is Daisy Buchanan (Daisy Fay). Before the war, she was the girlfriend of Jay Gatsby. At this time she probably did not care at all about how much money he made. At that time, all she knew was that she was going to wait for Gatsby to return from the war. This is when she changes. She changes from waiting for her poor boyfriend to come back from war to a person that would marry the first man she met as long as he was filthy rich. She too is now just as careless as her husband Tom Buchanan. All she cares about is herself, her child, and her money. She admits to never actually loving Tom when she tells Gatsby, “Why,-how could I love him-possibly?”(139).
At this point in the novel she begins to question herself as to what she wants more. She now faces a situation where Tom and Jay both are loaded. The difference between the two is obvious. Jay is completely devoted to Daisy while Tom just keeps her for his image. The only reason that she could have married Tom without loving him was to dive into is riches. Now that Gatsby is even richer than Tom, Daisy is left trying to choose. Unfortunately she takes too long to choose and hits a speed bump that indirectly chooses for her.
All the time in the novel Nick is just watching and occasionally speaking, but he never actually helps this troubled group that he is caught in the middle of. Instead he watches their problems escalate and through all this he never bothers to answer why. Nick understands all of the problems that each character has, and he probably knows how to fix their problems. He has an opinion of each character after carefully studying their personalities and the problems they present. Throughout the novel the reader might wonder why Nick never steps in to set the characters straight when he knows exactly what should be happening. Nick has made his judgment, but like he said in the very beginning of the book, he remembers what his father told him, “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”(5).
This is the reason that Nick is almost completely detached. He was taught early to be the viewer rather than the actor. When Nick sees people with problems he calmly backs away from it and watches how they solve it. He won’t criticize or point any fingers because he simple believes that they might not have had the same advantages that he had. This is the reason that Nick is the narrator of the story. He does not interfere with anybody. In the end he notices things that stand out about people. In this case it was Gatsby’s great outlook on his life as opposed to Tom and Daisy’s reckless lifestyle.
When people read a novel such as this, after the first two to three chapters the reader registers the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. Because of the nature of American film and literature it is needless to say that you can expect the “bad guys” to either get caught or killed, and the “good guys” save the day, get the girl, and live happily ever after. That is why it is such a shock to see Gatsby fail in his attempt to capture the women that he loves and save her from her beast of a husband.
It is also very strange to see the narrator, Nick, just stand their and watch all these crazy things happen. Although Gatsby dies as a failure to his one goal, Nick does not see it that way. Nick sees Gatsby as a man that worked his way to the top. Nick admires Gatsby for his ambition. Gatsby did not care at all about fame and fortune unless it included Daisy. Nick understands Gatsby’s obsession, and he feels that out of all the characters that he has met throughout the story, Gatsby is far better than any of them.
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