What Does Old Money Vs New Money Mean In The Great Gatsby?

Updated 30 September, 2023
In The Great Gatsby the portrayal of wealth is displayed through two sub categories: old money and new money. The differentiation of the two is the level of intensity that the wealth is displayed and the actual worth it carries pertaining to life itself.
Detailed answer:

The Great Gatsby provides a unique perspective on the roaring twenties as it sets the framework on how social class functioned and how ‘new money’ and ‘old money’ clashed socially despite their similar economic standing.
When discussing old money, this ideal was portrayed through Tom and Daisy. They carried subtle traits of wealth. Having good taste, appearing sincere, and level headed categorized them as old money. Although stability can with the old money ideals, there were few aspects that it would just not be enough. People seemed generally settled in their lives and looked for consistency. Tom had a calm demeanor regarding his wealth, there was not an urge to prove to anyone how rich or well off he is. Similarly, Daisy had a kind hearted demeanor, and a friendly, elegant aura about herself. However, the connection between the two was not strong and true.”They weren’t happy, and neither of them had touched the chicken or the ale – and yet they weren’t unhappy either”. Although the old money provided a stable life and security, it could not buy love. Daisy was indeed a calm individual, however the risk and adventure still twriled in the back of her mind. She was in a sense not “the fool” she wished girls to have, therefore placing herself in a compromising position of love and desires.
In contrast, when discussing new money, this ideal was portrayed through Gatsby. He displayed elaborate acts of wealth through parties, housing, clothing, and outlandish tastes. Having huge celebrations, appearing to be the life of the party, and risky categorized him as “new money”. Gatsby had an overall anxious demeanor regarding his wealth, there was always an urge to prove to any and everyone, especially Daisy, how rich he was and the life he could provide for her. 'She's not leaving me!' Tom's words suddenly leaned down over Gatsby. 'Certainly not for a common swindler who'd have to steal the ring he put on her finger'.
Understanding the social and economic context of the 1920s highlights the distinction between old and new money. Tom and Daisy were born into money and live in East Egg to represent the old aristocracy or ‘old money.’ Gatsby’s wealth is considered ‘new money’, which means he had to work for his money, but his origins are from a poor class.

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