Materialism in The Great Gatsby

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 830 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Words: 830|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Mar 20, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The American Dream and Materialism
  2. The Illusion of Happiness
  3. The Destructive Effects of Materialism
  4. Conclusion

Set in the 1920s, a time known for its excess and opulence, the novel follows the lives of the wealthy and glamorous residents of West Egg and East Egg, two fictional towns on Long Island, New York. The characters in the novel are obsessed with wealth and luxury, and their pursuit of material possessions drives much of the plot. Through the characters and their actions, Fitzgerald critiques the shallow and empty nature of materialism and its destructive effects on individuals and society as a whole.

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The American Dream and Materialism

One of the central themes of The Great Gatsby is the American Dream, the belief that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve success and prosperity through hard work and determination. However, Fitzgerald presents a cynical view of the American Dream, showing how it has been corrupted by materialism. The characters in the novel are driven by their desire for wealth and status, and they are willing to sacrifice their morals and integrity in pursuit of these goals. Jay Gatsby, the titular character, is a self-made millionaire who throws extravagant parties in the hope of winning back his lost love, Daisy Buchanan. His entire existence is defined by his material possessions, from his opulent mansion to his collection of expensive shirts. Gatsby believes that wealth and luxury are the key to winning Daisy's affection, and he is willing to go to great lengths to attain them.

Similarly, Daisy Buchanan is a symbol of the shallow and superficial nature of materialism. She is married to Tom Buchanan, a wealthy and arrogant man, but she is also involved in a romantic relationship with Gatsby. Daisy is attracted to Gatsby's wealth and the luxurious lifestyle he offers, and she is ultimately unable to resist the allure of material possessions. Her inability to look beyond the surface and her obsession with wealth lead to tragic consequences for herself and those around her.

The Illusion of Happiness

Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald depicts materialism as a source of false happiness and fulfillment. The characters in The Great Gatsby are constantly surrounded by wealth and luxury, but they are ultimately empty and dissatisfied. Gatsby's lavish parties are a facade, a means of projecting an image of success and opulence to the outside world. Despite his outward appearance of happiness, Gatsby is consumed by his unattainable desire for Daisy and the material possessions that he believes will win her back. His pursuit of material wealth is ultimately a futile attempt to fill the void in his life, and it leads to his downfall.

Similarly, Tom and Daisy Buchanan, despite their wealth and social status, are deeply unhappy. Their marriage is marred by infidelity and deception, and their pursuit of material possessions only serves to mask their inner turmoil. The characters in the novel are trapped in a cycle of consumption and excess, constantly seeking more and more material wealth in the hopes of finding happiness. However, their pursuit is ultimately in vain, as they are left feeling unfulfilled and empty.

The Destructive Effects of Materialism

Materialism in The Great Gatsby is not only shown to be hollow and unsatisfying, but it also has destructive effects on the characters and their relationships. Gatsby's obsession with wealth and status leads to his moral decay, as he becomes willing to engage in criminal activities in order to achieve his goals. His single-minded pursuit of material possessions ultimately isolates him from those around him, and it leads to his tragic demise. Similarly, Tom and Daisy Buchanan's materialistic values cause them to neglect the needs and feelings of others, leading to betrayal and heartbreak.

Furthermore, the pursuit of material possessions in The Great Gatsby is shown to have a corrosive effect on society as a whole. The novel portrays a world where wealth and status are the ultimate measures of success, leading to a culture of superficiality and excess. The characters in the novel are constantly competing to outdo one another with their displays of wealth and luxury, and this competition leads to moral degradation and the erosion of genuine human connections. The emphasis on materialism in the novel is a reflection of the shallow and materialistic values of the Jazz Age, and it serves as a critique of the destructive effects of the pursuit of wealth and status.

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In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald presents a scathing critique of materialism and its impact on individuals and society. The characters in the novel are consumed by their desire for wealth and luxury, and their pursuit of material possessions leads to empty and unfulfilling lives. Materialism is shown to be a source of false happiness and a barrier to genuine human connection, leading to moral decay and the erosion of societal values. Ultimately, The Great Gatsby serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive effects of materialism and the emptiness of a life defined by the pursuit of wealth and status.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Materialism in The Great Gatsby. (2024, March 20). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“Materialism in The Great Gatsby.” GradesFixer, 20 Mar. 2024,
Materialism in The Great Gatsby. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2024].
Materialism in The Great Gatsby [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 20 [cited 2024 May 29]. Available from:
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