Buying Happiness and Love
The American Dream is starting with nothing and through hard work and determination one can achieve millions of dollars and all the happiness one can handle. This may not be true, if that person tries to buy the past to regain the happiness he will never succeed and mostly likely end up very unhappy. A good example of this in fiction is F. Scott Fitzgeralds, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald criticizes the American dream in his novel, The Great Gatsby, by showing Jay Gatsbys tragic flaw, his belief that money can buy happiness and his love for Daisy.
The first example of Gatsbys belief that money can buy his happiness is when Nick Carraway describes the subdivision in which he lives, West Egg. The subdivision across the water is East Egg. The houses are very luxurious to say the least. On the other hand, there is a distinction between the two. The West Egg house are more recently built and are elaborately decorated, where as the houses in East Egg are still as big but very conservative in architecture. The two neighborhoods represent the division in the upper class at this time in America. During the 1920s, the conservative old rich despised the new rich. A good example of an old rich family would be the Rockefellers, where as a new rich family would be the Kennedys. The East Egg represented the conservative money of the old rich. For generations their money passed down giving them the belief that the new rich with their newly acquired wealth were still lower and not equal to them. The new rich liked to display their wealth in lavish ways that the conservative wealthy did not approve. In addition, the new rich often did not earn their money in legitimate ways; most earned their money from boot legging. Carraway in an ironic way is neither new rich nor old rich. He lives in a rather modest house compared to Gatsbys huge mansion.Gatsby owns a huge house but is the only person living there besides some servants. Gatsby tries to use the house to win the happiness and respect from others. Another reason for the house is to hide the way in which he really makes his money.
The next example in which Gatsby tries to buy his happiness is the extravagant parties he has at his house every weekend. At the parties guest marvel over his bright yellow Rolls Royce and his swimming pool. A personal pool in the 1920s took and extraordinary amount of money to operate. At the parties, guests had a buffet and there were fresh cut flowers everywhere. While touring the house, Carraway wonders into the library. There he runs into Owl Eyes, who remarks that none of the books was cut. When book were published back then all the pages were stuck together at the top and when someone read the books, they had to cut each page.All these expenditures show that Gatsby is trying to use his money to buy his happiness.
The lavish items that he buys are not just for his happiness though; he is also trying to attract Daisy. His house happens to be directly across the water from Daisys house. Her house is visible at night only buy a green light at the end of the dock. The green light is a reoccurring symbol in the book.The green light symbolizes the Gatsbys attempt to retrieve the past love for Daisy. As A. E. Dyson says, In his own private world past and future can de held captive in the present(117).
Daisys and Gatsbys relationship start years before in Louisville. As Gatsby and her had an affair, Gatsby fell in love. Before he left for the war she told him that she would wait for him, she did not. This was highly unlikely because Daisy was someone of wealth stature where as Gatsby had very little money at the time. Instead of waiting, Daisy married Tom Buchanan. Tom, like Daisy, was a member of the old rich and made him the perfect choice for Daisy. The reason for this is Daisy love money. Knowing this fact, Gatsby tries to lure her to his mansion and party. Gatsbys love was foreshadowed when we first meet him. Carraway returns from dinners at the Buchanans house and see Gatsby staring across the water with his arms in the air at the green light.
Another example of Gatsbys aspirations for Daisy is his behavior at his parties. Firstly, he throws a part every weekend and makes it clear that all affluent people are welcome. He also makes his past very secretive. While attending one of his parties, Carraway over hears gossip about his past. The rumor was that he was the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm, the ruler of Germany during World War II. Gatsby was again trying to hide the fact that he was newly rich. Another example of his strange behavior at the parties was his appearance. Gatsby never drank and seemed to shy away from people as if was waiting for someone. Unfortunately, that guest, Daisy, never did attend one of his parties. Also, Nick notices that Gatsby give a rather formal good bye to everyone while leaving.A formal wave is not the correct way to say good-bye to people at an informal party. As Marius Bewly say, he is a creature of myth in whom is incarnated the aspiration and the ordeal of his race(17). Gatsby is caught up with regaining his love for Daisy he limits his social life at the chance of meeting her again.
After the unsuccessful attempts of luring Daisy with the parties, Gatsby tries to get Carraway to arrange a meeting between the two. He does not do it in person though he tries to get Jordan Baker, Carraway’s girlfriend, to convince him. This is when the truth comes out about his passion for Daisy. After agreeing and returning home, Gatsby confronts Carraway on his lawn and trys to be extraordinarily nice to him. Gatsby invites him to Coney Island, a swim in his pool, offers to get his lawn cut, and even tries to give him money. This shows that money means nothing to Gatsby and will use it to gain his happiness or love for Daisy.
The day of the meeting and Gatsby is terribly nervous. As Daisy arrives Gatsby, being the sly person he is, quickly sneaks out not to let her know that he was really behind this meeting. He runs around the house in the rain and acts as if he was coming over just for a visit with Carraway. Their reunion was awkward as well, Gatsby knocks over a clock, symbolizing Gatsbys want for the time to stop and live in the past. For once, a clock breaks it will always be stuck on that time in the past until repaired.After the initial awkwardness, Gatsby and Daisy hit off and he invites her back over to his place. There he can impress her with his wealth and expenses.At the house Daisys fascination with wealth, becomes very clear. He woos her with all the material things he has collected, such as he extensive silk collection.
After achieving what he always wanted, Gatsbys dream comes crashing down around him. Upon hearing about his wifes affair, Tom confronts them both. Now Daisy learns how Gatsby really makes his money, buy bootlegging. Tom paints Gatsby as no more that a thief that makes his money illegitimately. Gatsby still believes that Daisy is the perfect image in his head and it crushes him when Daisy does not choose him. According to Bewly what this did to Gatsby was, its immediate functions is that it signals Gatsby in to his future, away from the cheapness of his affair with Daisy(21). On a vain and ironic move, Tom lets Daisy and Gatsby return to West Egg together.On the way back, they hit a woman. The woman turns out to be Toms mistress. After being so upset that his wife might be sleeping around, he was doing the same thing.
The last example of money leading to the downfall of Gatsby is the car he drives. When returning home Daisy was driving Gatsbys yellow Rolls Royce. The husband of the woman hit saw the car and comes to Tom to find out whom it belongs too. Tom shows his discontent for Gatsby, immediately points the finger at him. Not once did he mention the fact that his wife was in the car. The man so distraught at the loss of his wife, who he too was suspicious for cheating, thought Gatsby was the adulterer and the murderer. Therefore, he shot Gatsby and himself.
Gatsby stands for a deeper malice in the culture- a sickness that dives young men to think that riches can obliterate the past and capture the hearts of the girls of the dreams(Hermanson 56). Buy the time that Gatsby realizes his love was for the ideal woman in his mind and not the real one he dies. Even if Gatsby were not shot, he probably would not recover emotionally. He tried most of his adult life to retrieve the past and then rejected at the culmination of that dream would have destroyed him. Trying to use money to buy happiness and love will only leave one emotionally dead.