Great Gatsby

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"'Her voice is full of money,' [Gatsby] 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" (127). This jarring reference to the intoxicating allure Daisy Buchanan holds over Jay Gatsby is the essence of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Gatsby, throughout the novel, is utterly infatuated with Daisy in an extravagant, idealistic, and narcissistic fashion. Gatsby's former lover from his days as a military officer in Kentucky, Daisy – radiant with glamour, prestige, dignity, sophistication, social grace, and all the blessings bestowed by the gods of wealth – has since married the effete, aristocratic Tom Buchanan. Gatsby, a diligent and resourceful man and one of literature's great Platonic dreamers, literally creates a new identity for himself in hopes of achieving the intrepid and impractical goal of retrieving his long-lost love. What at first appears to be genuine romantic love one would expect to find in 19th century romanticism is actually a thinly veiled form of materialistic lust. While Gatsby professes to adore Daisy, this is because Gatsby's fantastic worldview has objectified Daisy into a consumer product to be acquired through his own accumulation of wealth: what Gatsby holds so dear is not Daisy's frightful personality, but rather her wealth and luxurious lifestyle. Fitzgerald aptly laces profound socioeconomic arguments into the novel by exploring contemporary themes, including materialism, class stratification, changing morality, the hopelessness of "the lost generation" and, above all, the ultimate unraveling of the American Dream and its ideal of economic mobility. Gatsby instills Daisy with a kind of idealized perfection that she neither deserves nor possesses. Gatsby's dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American Dream in the 1920s is ruined by the unworthiness of its object – money and pleasure. Fitzgerald uses the moral contrast between Gatsby's meretricious materialistic instincts and his diligent idealism to lucidly illustrate how materialism and the unrestrained pursuit of wealth lead to the unraveling of the traditional American Dream. Gatsby is at heart an idealist, and yet throughout the novel his actions and emotions are driven by meretricious impulses. From the reader's first introduction to Gatsby, his persona – at once gaudy, ostentatious, charismatic and irreverent – reeks of his nouveau riche status. One scene describing the usual Saturday night parties at his garish West Egg estate is especially telling: "At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvres, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold." (39) The sheer material excess of Gatsby's opulent parties should be enough to dull the morals and egalitarian instincts of any reader. Gatsby's parties are the scenes of such prolonged drunkenness and debauchery that they reach the level of a materialistic escapism stemming from the revelers' decayed moral values and lack of nobler goals. Morality or the absence thereof is an important theme in The Great Gatsby. Indeed, that the book is devoid of any reference to organized religion suggests that even established religions, the ancient standard-bearers of traditional morality, have been replaced by something more sinister and capricious. As the novel's opening scene indicates, materialism is the incumbent deity of the jubilant 1920s: "This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and,...
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