Materialism and Happiness in America "The great Gatsby" (Twain) era and today.

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, October 1996

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Materialism: attention to or emphasis on material objects, needs or considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual values.

The acquisition of material has been equated with happiness in this country. This is true today, and it was true during the 1920's, the setting of F.

Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. That the majority of Americans believe that wealth and happiness are the same is a result of our market

economy that encourages consumption and conditions us to think that we need material possessions to be happy. According to Andrew Bard

Schmookler, 'Wealth and human fulfillment have become equated in the predominant ideology of liberal society, even though the great spiritual

teachers of humanity have all taught otherwise.' (17)

What happened to Gatsby's generation? The 20's was an age of a consumption ethic that was needed to provide markets for the new

commodities that streamed from the production lines (Cowley, 53).

The same problem exists today ... our materialistic attitudes are a result of

the freemarket economy in this country. Consumers are taught that they need to have all these things that the businesses are trying to sell.

It's true that this desire for things is what drives our economy. The free market has given us great blessings, but it has in some ways also put us

on the wrong path -- the path to a selfish, unhappy society. Michael Lerner, who worked as a psychotherapist to middle-income Americans

notes that

'The problem is that the deprivation of meaning is a social problem, rooted in part in the dynamics of the competitive marketplace, in part in the

materialism and selfishness that receive social sanction. . . many Americans

hunger for a different kind of society -- one based on principles of caring,

ethical and spiritual sensitivity . .