Term Paper: Great Gatsby the Old Rich

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[. . .] By living in excess and behaving lavishly, he hopes to draw her to himself again, especially taken by her vow to wait for his return from the War. He pins that expectation not only on the power of money and material possessions but also on the very real power of these over Daisy. Jay Gatsby and Daisy have a materialistic attitude in common but their individual motives deviate and prevent them from ending up with each other. Although Daisy occasionally feels she loves Jay Gatsby, she is much more in love with her material self-interests and luxuries, which are secure in her husband Tom, whom her family well approves of (Fitzgerald).

As a child, Jay Gatsby was a poor nobody. He was a drop-out from Olaf's College and he hates that life he does not reveal until the latter part of the novel. He saw Daisy as an illusion because she looked unattainably affluent and remarkable while he was a destitute and unremarkable nothing. He turned to the illegal and often quicker means of achieving objectives and it seems to work for him because he makes it big. It may also appear to the reader that it was Daisy's characteristics that he pursued obsessively more than lusting after her without realizing it. But since it was Daisy's jewels, costly clothes, daintiness and charm that dazzled him first, he could have perceived that those possessions were the stuff that made her and so sought to acquire the same material characteristics in order to attract her to him again.

6. Jay Gatsby's idolatry of Daisy and their brief affair. Both derive from their shared materialistic views and sustain as well as frustrate and destroy both the idolatry and the affair. These fundamental, materialistic views led Jay to reject his poverty and look up to the status of Daisy, which even then she astonishingly exuded. She appeared to him the goddess of his own dreams for himself and the longing to become as she was to his eyes pushed him to great lengths to achieve a comparable economic status with Daisy (Fitzgerald). Physical desire may be bundled up with his desire of what she represented or looked to him in the mire of his poverty, but materialism is both physical and tangibly objectified. He goes so far as enshrining her in his subconscious as a divine goal and using all material means to attain it, without checking out if she possesses that "divinity" or is worth all the effort and time. He had a short relationship with her in their youth in Louisville and he thinks he can recapture that relationship through the power of money. For a while, he (or his money) does draw Daisy into a short extramarital affair but for which he later pay very dearly.

Jay Gatsby is really responding to his own materialistic view of himself and his life in "adoring" and pursuing Daisy from his youth. Being poor and un-educated, he saw himself as worthless and unacceptable. In contrast, he saw the glory and beauty of the aristocracy, Daisy's luxury and splendor in particular. Her resplendence and beauty hit him hard only because of his perceived lack of these, which, in turn, led him to want to acquire the objects and looks of material wealth that would fill the void. The standards he used in measuring the desirability of Daisy were the same as what he used in determining his undesirability in his poverty and lack of education. A lust for Daisy is only the sexual or biological component of the deep and unconscious obsession and hunger for possession and status - both translating into materialism.

And because Daisy epitomized or epitomizes the external, material and sensible filling of that void in him, he becomes direly willing to sacrifice even his life just to keep her - and what she means to him - with him.

7. The character of Daisy. Fitzgerald image of Daisy derives partly from his wife, Zelda, who also comes from Louisville, Kentucky (Spark Notes). Daisy was a very popular debutante in her youth, especially among young military officers, one of whom was Jay Gatsby. Born to an already aristocratic family, Daisy has been accustomed to a life of ease, luxury and money. She was deceived into an infatuation with Jay only because of misrepresentation. She swore to wait for his return from the War, but she agreed to marry Tom Buchanan, who not only was her family's choice but also assured her of a life of security and opulence much more than Jay could have. She was a material girl and has remained a materialistic, insensate but cold wife and mistress. She could not live out of that predetermined aura of charm, wealth, sophistication, and bounty, which made her personality up. If any, she has very little or weak loyalty. Having too much and being too pleased and too beautiful simply bore her and bring out the coldness and frivolity in her. The boredom results in sarcasm, which is revealed by what she says about her daughter in Chapter III (Fitzgerald):

hope she'll be a fool - that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, beautiful little fool."

She cannot imagine her daughter being anything else but what she herself has been - a beautiful fool. Beauty is her only tool and mission that can come only from luxury, grace, reputation and money.

Otherwise, Daisy has been shallow, fickle, and cold and does not deserve Jay's elaborate regard and for whom he lives, struggles and eventually risks his very life. For a while, she agrees to an extramarital affair but only because of the exuberance of Jay's pursuit. Her indifference towards other people's feelings and lives does not prevent her from running her car over and killing Myrtle, Tom's mistress, who has insisted that Tom should leave his wife. It may be Tom's infidelity that drives Daisy to take on Jay Gatsby or simply her innate insensitiveness and self-indulgence. When Tom confronts Jay at his mansion in Chapter VII, however, she drops him for Tom, her husband, not only to save herself and all her established advantage, but also because whatever she and Jay feel for each other is negligible when compared to what Tom amounts to in her life. She is merely willing to philander as part of her flightiness and not because Tom means to her as she means to him. She may even have done so in retaliation to Tom's carrying on with Myrtle, hence, she can run her car over the mistress without the pangs of conscience. She assumes that she is worth more than Myrtle's life and Jay Gatsby's adulations - there is no conscience to disturb. She has already purchased and silenced it with privilege. Daisy is not only material but also amoral and even inhuman. She not only displays an incredible nonchalance towards Jay Gatsby's utter sacrifice in claiming the accidental killing of Myrtle, but also brazenly ignores the twinge of conscience when she deserts the scene of Jay Gatsby's funeral. Fitzgerald uses Daisy effectively as the personification of the amoral values of the East Egg society.

8. The green light at Daisy's dock (Fitzgerald Chapter I) has symbolized a number of things to the readers of the novel. Some translate it into Jay Gatsby's hopes and dreams for his future. Some view it to represent the hopes of the early settlers that rise from the ocean (Chapter IX). And still others perceive it to symbolize plain wealth, the color of money, the color of the American dollar or "greenback," of which Daisy has a superfluity as the base of her existence and essence.

9. The valley of ashes that lies between the West Egg and New York City points to the byproduct of disintegration in society and the world itself, and much of it is in material form. This byproduct consists of industrial ashes, garbage and other residues of the un-repressed pursuit of pleasure and wealth in this sector. It is a desolate dumpsite, the receptacle of the rubbish of the indulgent ways of the rich and the recklessness and misery of the poor (Fitzgerald Chapter II). This dumpsite graphically illustrates the extremes in that indulgence and the depth of the want for that indulgence in the poor that inhabit the valley, one of them being George Wilson, the husband of Myrtle. This valley of ashes is a tangible reflection of the level of materialism of the era as captured by Fitzgerald and made into a backdrop in this Chapter. It calls attention to the reality that materialism was (and is) not confined to the filthy rich who were (and are) responsible for this gargantuan heap of environmental trash in the valley. The poor who did not (and do not) have the same wealth were (and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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