Nuances of Money in The Great Gatsby

Essay by engelliliaUniversity, Bachelor's April 2009

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No American writer has understood money more than F. Scott Fitzgerald has, says James L. W. West III . "He knows money has a deadening effect on morality. It insulates people from the pain of others." Fitzgerald's books seem to give a clear picture of the influence of money upon people's behaviour and relationships during that time. The Great Gatsby is his most reflecting book of his deftness in showing how money and class distinguish mattered for the characters and how it affected them.

Right from the first chapter, Fitzgerald displays a world of money, Nick describes Gatsby's mansion:My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a enormous affair by any standard-it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin eared of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.

Through nick's description, we can see that the mansion is an enormous, fabulous place. It is an accurate imitation of some Norman Hotel, with a tour on one side, a pool and a huge lawn. This is situated in West Egg where he lives, across the bay there was the fashionable palaces of West Eggers: "Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water" . On his first visit to the Buchanans, Nick is astonished by the grandeur of their palace:[…]Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion, overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens-finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold and wide open to the warm windy afternoon […] .

Tom and Daisy's house is described as one of the regal mansions across the courtesy bay that separates the East and West Eggs. The description of the Buchanan house landscape is adorned with a beautiful green lawn that "jumps over sundials and brick walks and burning gardens" . Their Georgian mansion is opened with French windows and doors, reflecting the year that the couple had spent living in France in the early years of their marriage. The beautiful outside of the house is similar to the outward appearance of Tom and Daisy's marriage. While they seem affectionate and proper on the outside, the relationship is truly littered with scandal and infidelity. The living room, as it is so aptly named, perfectly describes the married life of the Buchanan's: "The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon" . This parallels Tom's fickleness in that he was aptly able to waver between two women, who are anchored to him. While Tom rests permanently, all the other furniture in the room can be subject to change.

Nick's house is located on the "West Egg-the less fashionable of the two," (5) but shares a view of the sound only across the bay from the white mansions of the East Egg. Nick's house reflects both his economical and social status. His house is only eighty dollars per month, which he can afford with his white-collar office job.

Then, in chapter three, nick describes Gatsby's parties as follow: "There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars." They were extravagant parties, people came in from all over the places, some not even invited to the parties. They enjoyed themselves in all sorts of amusements: diving from the tower of the raft or taking sunbaths in the lawn drinking and eating what they want as there was plenty of food:" five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York". And these same oranges and lemons would leave the mansion in pyramids of pulpless halves. The air of the party is full of music; the orchestra was an amazing feature of these lavish parties. It was not a thin five-piece affair as did Nick Caraway put it but, a whole pitiful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolo. And they played famous Jazz songs where men and girls dance till the morning. Nick describes the guests as moths attracted to the glamour, richness and extravagance of Gatsby's parties.

The car, in the novel, is a major symbol of status. Gatsby's car a Rolls-Royce a very expensive one, is an embodiment of his wealth. It is:"[…]a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns" which obviously shows his materialism. Its color is yellow an image of money and wealth.

From the beginning, we are introduced to wealth and richness, in comparing the two description of Nick we notice that both West and East Eggers are rich people yet, there is something that differentiates between the two of them, which is social class. Those living in the East Egg are those privileged who inherited their wealth and status. They never had to work to get money they lived in a sort of close city. A city which does not admit people from the outside. And people from the outside think that just by earning enough money they could get inside. this clash of classes is always present. It is personified in the characters themselves. For instance when Tom says to Jordan:"About Gatsby! No, I haven't. I said I'd been making a small investigation of his past.""And you found he was an Oxford man," said Jordan helpfully.

"An Oxford man!" He was incredulous. "Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.""Nevertheless he's an Oxford man.""Oxford, New Mexico," snorted Tom contemptuously, "or something like that.""Listen, Tom. If you're such a snob, why did you invite him to lunch?" demanded Jordan crossly.

"Daisy invited him; she knew him before we were married - God knows where!"Tom demonstrates that wealth alone cannot win a man entrance to the upper echelons of society. And he ironically call Gatsby " Mr. Nobody from Nowhere:"Self-control!" Repeated Tom incredulously. "I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out […] Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white."Tom scorn for Gatsby is based on his background; lack of money, education and class. And not on the fact that he had an affair with his wife.

On the other side, there are the newly rich people, who try to integrate into the wealthy society. Gatsby who climbed the social and economic ladder and succeeded by way of shady dealings of bootlegging realised that he could not access Daisy's world as for example when he says to Nick when they were visiting the Buchanans:"I can't say anything in his house, old sport.""She's got an indiscreet voice," I remarked. "It's full of -" I hesitated.

"Her voice is full of money," he said suddenly.

That was it. I'd never understood before. It was full of money - that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals' song of it… high in a white palace the king's daughter, the golden girl […]"Gatsby feels unable to speak in the Buchanans' house because of the barriers of wealth. Although he has money, it is not the kind that allows him into Daisy's world. Even her voice, the very essence of her character, is off limits for him. In fact, Nick and Gatsby find commonalities in feeling excluded from the Buchanan's world.

At the end, we can say that the novel was nothing but a mirror that reflects the American society. The effect of materialism on people how it dispersed them blowing in the air the expression that says:" all men are equal"bibliography:Editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott FitzgeraldAnna Maria Gillis, The Nuances of Money []F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p: 13F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p: 13F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p: 14F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p: 19F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, p: 30