Materialism in the Great Gatsby Essay

“Money Changes Everything” by Cyndi Lauper illustrates the way people center their desires on material things such as money. The speaker in the song leaves the poor man, solely because he does not have money, for the affluent one: “I’m leaving you tonight…There was one thing we weren’t really thinking of and that’s money” (Lauper 1, 6-7). Like Cyndi Lauper, F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates the way people often center their desires on material things such as money in The Great Gatsby.

Daisy falls in love with Gatsby, who is a poor man at the time, and when Gatsby leaves for the war, Daisy marries Tom Buchanan, who is a rich man, because he is “old money,” meaning he will always have the money and status to support Daisy. When Gatsby returns from the war, his pursuit of Daisy’s love reveals his materialism and he eventually becomes rich for Daisy and believes that he can win her back because he now has money.

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The Great Gatsby demonstrates the way the materialistic desire for wealth negatively affects both Daisy and Gatsby, which warns Fitzgerald’s audience of the dangers of materialism. Daisy’s decisions are influenced by her desire for money rather than by her love for Gatsby, who makes her truly happy, and as a result, her life becomes chaotic. Daisy’s words, actions, and feelings exemplify how her materialistic decisions make her unhappy.

Once Gatsby leaves for war, Daisy moves on in search of another man and marries the wealthy Tom Buchanan solely because he is rich, which leads to her complaining to Nick about her unhappiness while he is visiting at her house: “Well, I’ve had a very bad time, Nick, and I’m pretty cynical about everything” (16). Fitzgerald further informs whoever reads the book of how rich Tom really is, which emphasizes that Daisy only married him for his money: “In June, she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago, with more pump and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before” (75).

In addition to only marrying Tom because he has money, materialism affects Daisy so much that even “her voice is full of money” (120). Yet again, Fitzgerald portrays to his audience that Daisy allows materialism to influence her decisions when Gatsby, speaking for Daisy, explicitly yells at Tom, saying, “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me” (130). Daisy’s materialism is revealed when she allows money to influence her decisions, and her life becomes a mess because of it, which is what Fitzgerald tries to teach to his audience.

Gatsby’s love for Daisy propels his materialism, which leads to his ultimate downfall. Gatsby uses his words and specious actions to prove to Daisy that he is rich so she will love him by giving Daisy a tour of his house. Exploring Gatsby’s house is when Gatsby is careful to point out to Daisy his lavish possessions that are present in his many extravagant rooms: “We went upstairs, through period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers, through dressing-rooms and poolrooms, and bathrooms, with sunken baths” (91).

After strolling through Gatsby’s house, Gatsby takes Daisy up to his closet and begins to boast about his expensive clothes so that Daisy realizes that Gatsby is rich, and, “He took out a pile of shirts, and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray” (92). Daisy’s desire and obsession with materialistic things is also evident because after she sees all of these shirts, she begins crying because of their beauty.

In addition to his big house, prolific possessions, and expensive shirts signifying Gatsby’s wealth, Gatsby also points out a picture of his yacht as one last attempt to convey that he is wealthy, and Daisy excitedly reacts: “You never told me you had a…yacht! ” (93). Overall, Gatsby’s purpose for giving Daisy a tour of his house is to prove to Daisy that she can love him now because he has the money to support her. This teaches Fitzgerald’s audience about the dangers of materialism so that they are aware of the consequences that can result from materialistic desires.

Fitzgerald warns his audience of the dangers of materialism by portraying the negative effects materialism has on both Daisy and Gatsby. Today’s society faces a similar issue in that many people yearn to become wealthy and well-known through their material possessions, but many of those people who become rich put their money to waste and wreck their lives. Rangers baseball star Josh Hamilton is a prime example of throwing away money and ruining his life because of it. When Josh was drafted into the major league and cashed his first big check, he blew his money on crack.

Once league officials discovered his habit, Josh was thrown out of the league, lost all his money, and ruined his life. Gatsby parallels Josh by focusing on spending money to obtain material possessions to gain happiness, and not focusing on what he truly cares about the most, which is Daisy. In a similar way, Both Gatsby and the man in “Money Changes Everything” lose the love of their life because both women choose to leave them exclusively because their materialistic desires attract them to men who have more material possessions, especially money.