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The Great Gatsby – An Analysis of Love
“If love is only a possessive will, it is not love.” America in the 1920s was a country where moral values were decaying. Every American had one goal to achieve: success.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, presents realistic images of American life in the 1920s. His characters, like many people of this period, only care about money; getting rich is their main goal. As a result, their relationship, which is no longer based on love, fails.
All the relationships in the novel are failures because they are not based on love, but on materialism.
An example of a failed relationship in The Great Gatsby is the adulterous affair between Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. This business is based on mutual exploitation. Tom uses Myrtle for sex; Myrtle receives gifts and money in return. Tom Buchanan, a resident of East Egg, is “old money”, so he looks down on everyone outside his class. So, he treats Myrtle like she’s trash. Myrtle Wilson, wife of poor George Wilson, became disenchanted with her 12-year-old marriage in the lack of success of her husband. Her desire for a better life is evident when she recounts her first meeting with Tom:
“It was on these two small seats facing each other that are always the last people left on the train. I went to New York to see my sister and spent the night. She had a suit dress and patent leather shoes, and I could not keep my eyes on him, but every time he looked at me I had to pretend that they are looking at the advertisement above his head. When we entered the station he was next to me, with shirt front white he pressed. against my arm, and so I told him I should call a policeman, but he knew I was lying. I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I did not hardly knew I wasn’t getting on a subway train. All I kept thinking, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever” (Fitzgerald 42).
Myrtle even believes that Tom will leave Daisy and marry her. In fact, Tom doesn’t even see Myrtle as a person, but as a sexual object. This is clear from his degrading treatment of Myrtle at the party, especially when he breaks her nose because he had the nerve to mention his wife’s name:
“‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy!’ cried Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I like! Daisy! Dai – ‘Making a quick deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke his nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 43).
The pathetic nature of their relationship is reinforced when he dies. After a fight with George Wilson, Myrtle runs away towards a golden car that she thinks is Tom’s. The golden color of the car symbolizes money, wealth that Myrtle so wants. Apparently, the car is driven by Daisy, another symbol of materialism, and what is happening has a symbolic meaning:
A moment later [Myrtle] running out into the dusk, raising her hands and shouting… the ‘Death Machine’ as the newspapers called it, did not stop… Myrtle Wilson, whose life was violently extinguished, knelt in the road and mixed his thick black blood. and the dirt… The mouth was wide open and slightly shriveled at the corners, as if it had suffocated a little by giving up the tremendous vitality it had long stored up (Fitzgerald 143-44).
The nature of the relationship between Tom and Myrtle is best symbolized by the expensive chain dog Tom bought for Myrtle’s puppy. It reflects the fact that Tom is the master, the one who controls his “pet” and money. As the master, Tom is free to do as he pleases. As “the dog”, Myrtle receives gifts for good behavior. The unequal status of Tom and Myrtle reflects the failure of their relationship, which, given its adulterous nature, was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Buchanan’s marriage is also a complete failure. It is the war that separates Daisy from Gatsby, and his absence is one of the reasons why she marries Tom. However, the most important factor was his money and status. Tom comes from a rich family. He can give Daisy anything she wants. The wedding ceremony proved that:
In June [Daisy] married Tom Buchanan in Chicago, with more pomp and circumstance than Louisville had ever known before. He came down with a hundred people in four private cars, rented an entire floor of the Muhlbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her a set of pearls worth three hundred and fifty thousand dollars (Fitzgerald 82).
This is a marriage of convenience -not love- apparent on several occasions in the novel. For example, while Daisy was giving birth to their only child, “Tom was God knows where” (Fitzgerald 23). In addition, Tom’s philandering starts only after 3 months of his marriage. A journal about Tom’s accident mentions that the maid he was with had a broken arm. Of course, Daisy knows Tom way too well; he even offers him “little gold pencils” to get the number of a “pretty but ordinary” girl he’s interested in at Gatsby’s party, although Tom pretends he wants to change tables for another reason. The fact is that marriages are founded on wealth and power; it is what holds them together, and what reveals what his marriage is like.
Gatsby is the one who tries to separate Tom and Daisy. It is Gatsby’s dream to be reunited with Daisy, to return to the past, and to marry Daisy. This is his incorruptible dream, as Gatsby tells Nick: “‘Can’t the past repeat itself?’ [Gatsby] cried in disbelief. ‘Why of course you can!'” (Fitzgerald 117).
After reuniting with Daisy, Gatsby begins an affair made possible by his wealth; Daisy is a materialist who can be attracted by money. When they first meet, Daisy shows little true emotion. It is only when he shows her his big mansion and expensive possessions that Daisy shows great emotion. For example, as Gatsby shows him his expensive clothes from England; “Above all, with a strained sound, Daisy bowed her head in their shirt and began to weep stormily” (Fitzgerald 99).
When the affair between Gatsby and Daisy is discovered, Tom and Gatsby confront each other about Daisy. In this important event, Daisy reveals her true opinion about her affair with Gatsby – that it was simply a way to fill her empty days, an entertainment. It’s also revenge for Tom’s many adulterous affairs. In his heart, he is not determined: “‘Oh, you want too much!’ [Daisy] cried Gatsby. ‘I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what happened.’ She began to cry helplessly. ‘I loved him once – but I loved you too'” (Fitzgerald 139).
He has already betrayed Gatsby twice, now Daisy betrays him for the last time – not wanting to face the consequences of Myrtle’s death, Daisy and Tom conspire to frame Gatsby for the accident. Then George Wilson kills Gatsby, as Tom made him believe that Gatsby is both Myrtle’s lover and murderer.
Ultimately, this relationship fails because Daisy gives nothing but materialism; he didn’t even throw a flower at Gatsby’s funeral.
Love is essential in a relationship. However, materialism is essential in the relationships presented in The Great Gatsby. These relationships are failures because they are based on the physical rather than the spiritual. Fitzgerald shows that any relationship based on materialism will fail in the end.
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