Great Gatsby Essay “The Romantic Dream”
Dream “If love is only a will to possess, it is not love” (Thich Nhat Hanh). This caveat relates to the social and moral decay of the 1920’s. During this era, every American had one objective to achieve — success. Francis Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, presents a realistic image of American life in the 1920’s. The characters in his novel, like many people in that period, only care for money. Becoming rich is their definition of success, and is their main objective. As a result, their relationships, which are no longer based on love fail.
All of the relationships in the novel are doomed because they are not based upon love, but upon materialism. One example of a failed relationship in The Great Gatsby is the adulterous affair between Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson. Their affair 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 whom he considers to be below his class. Thus, he treats Myrtle as if she is trash. Myrtle Wilson, the wife of poor George Wilson, is disenchanted with her twelve year-old marriage because of her husband’s lack of success.
Her desire for a better life is overpowering, and she believes that Tom will ultimately leave Daisy and marry her. In reality, Tom does not even see Myrtle as a person but as a sexual object. This is shown by his degrading treatment of Myrtle at a party; specifically, he breaks her nose for having the nerve to mention his wife’s name: ” ‘Daisy! Daisy! Daisy! ‘ shouted Mrs. Wilson. ‘I’ll say it whenever I want to! Daisy! Dai – ‘ Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand” (Fitzgerald 43). The pathetic nature of their relationship is revealed when she dies.
After a fight with George Wilson, Myrtle runs away toward a golden car that she thinks is Tom’s. The golden color of the car symbolizes the money and wealth that Myrtle so desires. However, this symbol for the dream that Myrtle had been working so hard to achieve causes her demise. Furthermore, the nature of the relationship between Tom and Myrtle is best symbolized by the expensive dog leash that Tom buys for Myrtle’s puppy. It reflects the fact that Tom is the master, the one who controls his “pet” with money. As the master, Tom is free to do as he pleases. As the “dog,” Myrtle receives gifts for proper behavior.
The unequal status between Tom and Myrtle reflects the cause of the failure of their relationship, which — given its adulterous nature — was doomed to fail from its inception. The Buchanan marriage is also a complete failure. Although Gatsby’s absence during World War I is the initial reason that causes Daisy to decide to marry Tom, the most important factor is Tom’s money and social status. Tom comes from a rich family, so he is able to give Daisy everything she wants. The fact that their marriage is rooted in convenience and not in love is made apparent on several occasions in the novel.
For example, when Daisy gives birth to their only child, “Tom was God knows where” (23). This shows he is not fully invested in Daisy’s or his child’s wellbeing. Furthermore, Tom’s philandering begins after only three months of marriage. Of course, Daisy knows Tom well; she even offers him her “little gold pencil” so that he can ask for the number of a “pretty but common” girl he is interested in at Gatsby’s party. Ultimately, their marriage is founded upon wealth and power. It is what keeps them together and what reveals how emotionally barren their marriage is.
Another failed relationship exemplified in The Great Gatsby is the one between Daisy and Gatsby. Gatsby’s dream is to be reunited with Daisy, to go back into the past, and to marry Daisy. This is his incorruptible dream, as Gatsby tells Nick: “‘Can’t repeat the past? ‘ [Gatsby] cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can! ‘” (117). Gatsby is actually the one who tries to separate Tom and Daisy and end their marriage. After reuniting with Daisy, Gatsby begins an affair that is made possible because he is extremely rich. Daisy is a materialist that is easily lured by money. When they first reunite, Daisy shows little true emotion.
It is only when he shows her his huge mansion and expensive possessions that Daisy displays strong emotion toward him. For example, as Gatsby shows her his expensive clothes from England “with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily” (99). Her reaction demonstrates how strongly Daisy is affected by wealth and by the people who have it. When the affair between Gatsby and Daisy is discovered, Tom and Gatsby confront each other over Daisy. In this crucial scene, Daisy reveals her true feelings about her affair with Gatsby — that it is simply a way of filling in her empty days, for entertainment.
It is also provides revenge for Tom’s many adulterous affairs. Deep in her heart, she is not determined,” ‘Oh, you want too much! ‘ [Daisy] cried to Gatsby. ‘I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past. ‘ She began to sob helplessly. ‘I did love him once – but I loved you too'” (139). Having betrayed Gatsby twice already, Daisy now betrays him for the final time. Unwilling to face the consequences of Myrtle’s death, Daisy and Tom conspire to frame Gatsby for the accident. Gatsby is then killed by George Wilson, as Tom has led him to believe that Gatsby is both Myrtle’s lover and killer.
In the end, the relationship between Daisy and Gatsby fails because Daisy values nothing but material goods; she does not even send flowers to Gatsby’s funeral. Love is essential in a relationship. However, materialism is an essential aspect of all the relationships presented in The Great Gatsby, especially those between Tom and Myrtle, Tom and Daisy, and Daisy and Gatsby. Their relationships are failures because they are founded on the physical rather than the spiritual. As seen in the various relationships depicted in the novel, love based only on materialism will fail in the end.