Wealth in “The Great Gatsby”

Wealth’s role in Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”.

From nearly the beginning of civilization, humans have been obsessed with wealth. Empires have risen and fallen on that single possession. The United States is a country today, partly because the Virginia Company established Jamestown for purely profit-driven reasons. Even today, people work many hours of their day to attain more wealth. As some see it, wealth has many benefits, and it is true that it does. But, wealth cannot do everything. Wealth’s fallacies are a main feature and become very apparent in many of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works, most notably The Great Gatsby, “Winter Dreams”, and “The Sensible Thing”.

In all three of these, Fitzgerald portrays the common theme of wealth not fulfilling its expectation of creating happiness. He shows that wealth does not ensure continued contentment with life, does not ensure a working relationship, and does not ensure the achieving of goals or dreams. Wealth is pursued by many, but not all know that wealth is not everything.

Many people, including the characters in Fitzgerald’s works, may believe that being wealthy directly correlates to being happy. Through what the characters experience, it is shown that this is certainly not the case. Tom Buchanan, a character from The Great Gatsby, is a classic example of a hopelessly rich person in the midst of the roaring twenties. On top of his extreme opulence, he has a beautiful and loving wife, Daisy.

One might think that this sort of wealth would leave Tom very happy, but this is far from the truth. In fact, Tom is so upset with his current status quo that he needs to seek another woman, Myrtle, who lives in the wretchedly disgusting valley of ashes. Unlike Daisy, Myrtle is “faintly stout” and “contain[s] no facet or gleam of beauty” (Fitzgerald 30). Basically, as her name might suggest, Myrtle is a low class, larger woman with little sophistication.

She is very much in stark difference with Tom, who is highly rich with a gorgeous wife. Tom is dating her because he is too unhappy with his own classy life and spouse. This shows that wealth absolutely does not ensure happiness, since Tom has to have an affair to be somewhat content.

A second example of wealth’s inability to ensure happiness comes from Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams”. In the story, a very wealthy Dexter Green wildly chases around a beautiful and equally wealthy Judy Jones.

When he ends up not getting the extremely fickle girl and ultimately destroying his engagement with Irene Scheerer, he becomes extremely unhappy even many years into the future. Though Dexter was still very wealthy after all of this, his unhappiness was clearly shown at the advent of World War 1 because he was “one of those young thousands who greeted the war with a certain amount of relief, welcoming the liberation from webs of tangled emotion” (252).

Even through his failures with Judy and Irene, it would seem that he might still have some gleam of hope left as to start over and find a new woman. This is still not to mention that Dexter still has a very large sum of money. The fact that Dexter lingers over the idea of him not being with Judy, and the fact that he is welcoming the war (and possible death), clearly shows that he is not happy. Thus, wealth does not ensure happiness.

A third, yet lesser example of this failure of wealth is evidenced in Fitzgerald’s story, “The Sensible Thing”. At the end of the book, when George realizes that “there are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice,” the story ends (301). It leaves the impression to the reader that George is very unhappy even though he still is a very wealthy man. This further proves that wealth does not ensure happiness. In all, it is apparent in all three of the stories that wealth clearly does not ensure happiness.

The second common theme that each story possesses is the fact that wealth does not ensure a working relationship. True, some people are attracted to those with money, but this does not mean that their relationship will work out.

The best example of this comes from The Great Gatsby, where Jay Gatsby, a very wealthy man, wants to win back his former girlfriend, Daisy. He has spent the last five years amassing enormous wealth for the sole reason of trying to impress Daisy into loving him. Furthering this idea is when Jordan Baker talks about how “Gatsby bought [the mansion] so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (83).

Eventually, the three of them (Nick, Jordan, and Gatsby) work up a plan to have Daisy come and see Gatsby’s house via a tea party with Nick. The plan works, and Daisy is instantly attracted to him. The two fall in love and so this means that Daisy is in an affair.

Tom, her husband, later finds out, and the whole thing comes crashing down, leaving Gatsby woman less. This goes to show that even though Gatsby is extremely wealthy, he still cannot maintain a relationship with Daisy. This, in turn, shows that wealth does not ensure a working relationship.

A second example of this comes from “Winter Dreams”, where Dexter is extremely wealthy to the point the he says it himself that he is “probably making more than any man [his] age in the northwest” (245).

He soon falls in love with Judy Jones, who is equally as rich, but much more unfaithful. Eventually, their relationship ends a few weeks after Dexter’s engagement with Irene Scheerer does. Judy and Dexter’s relationship ending was not surprising; Judy was “not a girl who could “be won” in the kinetic sense” (246).

This goes to show that a relationship with Judy is near impossible, even with enormous wealth and affluence.

Therefore, wealth does not ensure a working relationship. A third way this is proven is in “The Sensible Thing”, where George and Jonquil cease to date because George had no money to support her. He comes back a year later after having struck it rich in the engineering field and tries to win her back. The meet up to talk, but George soon realizes that they will never love again, because “he knew that though he search through eternity he could never recapture those lost April hours” (301).

This quote exemplifies the fact that George and Jonquil’s relationship will never be able to be renewed, even though George is wealthy this time. This, in turn, goes to show that wealth does not ensure a relationship. In the end, these three stories show perfectly that pure wealth cannot ensure a relationship. It may be shown in other novels, but this is certainly not the case in Fitzgerald’s’.

Another common theme apparent in all three stories is the failure of wealth to get what the character desires. This theme is most clear in Gatsby, when it is revealed by Jordan Baker that Gatsby threw extravagant parties with the sole intention of attracting Daisy to one of them. She said that “he half expected her to wander into one of his parties,” but “she never did” (84).

Gatsby spent five years amassing wealth to get a chance with Daisy by her wandering in, but she never did. This shows that wealth has failed to get what Gatsby most wants. The party scheme for Gatsby failed, so he had to move to a more proactive plan, showing that wealth had too failed.

The second example of wealth’s failure to get what the character desires comes from “The Sensible Thing”, where all George wants is a chance to love Jonquil again. He quickly becomes a very rich man after his work in Peru finally works out for him; however, this is nearly a year after he and Jonquil had broken up. The only thing he wants now is to be with Jonquil and to be able to have another relationship, because “for four long seasons every minute of his leisure had been crowded with anticipation of [their next meeting], and now this [meeting] was here” (297).

Basically, George has been waiting all this time to be wealthy and get with Jonquil. This shows that no matter how wealthy he was, it was not going to help him fulfill his goal. George’s plan to get wealthy and have Jonquil love him again, had failed. In all, both these examples show that wealthy absolutely does not ensure the getting of what is desired.

Wealth is the driving factor for many parts of the world. It destroyed the Aztecs and even created America. It may seem to be the ultimate possession, but in reality, wealth is not everything. This idea that wealth cannot do everything becomes very clear in three of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works: The Great Gatsby, “Winter Dreams”, and “The Sensible Thing”.

Occurring in all three is the theme that wealth cannot ensure happiness, good relationships, or the getting of what is wanted. However true this theme may appear, things in the world do happen against it. Fitzgerald himself is one example of the antithesis of this theme because of what he experienced when he achieved early success and won back his girl.

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