The Great Gatsby and the Power of Money
In the preface to Major Barbara, the playwright George Bernard Shaw observes that "money is the most important thing in the world--it represents health, strength, honor, generosity and beauty," but, the poet continues, "it also destroys people as certainly as it fortifies and dignifies others" (Shaw 28). Shaw recognized that many people look toward money, the ultimate representation of materialism, in search of the power that enables them to live. But, money can play many parts in the drama of life. It can represent or give the illusion of wealth, prestige, nobility, and power. Those that seek to harness its powers must also strive to conquer its ability to destroy and corrupt. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the repeated image of money, no matter in what form or through whom it is portrayed, is used to such an extent that it becomes central to the development of the story.
The abstract idea of money can be expressed in many ways. Perhaps the most straightforward way is through the acquisition of grand possessions. In the first chapter of the novel, Nick, the first-person narrator who has never had the luxury of personally experiencing great wealth, spends a considerable amount of time describing the estate of Tom Buchanan. Nick becomes overwhelmed by the grandeur and lavish display of Tom's unending wealth and comments of Tom's "lawns. . . sundials, and brick walks and burning gardens" and house that "was even more elaborate than I expected" (Fitzgerald 10-11). Later, in Chapter Three of the novel, the reader is painted a picture of Gatsby's incredible possessions and lavish displays of wealth. Nick comments on Gatsby's Rolls-Royce, servants, grand house, library filled with real books, parties and "champagne served in glasses bigger than finger bowls" all of which are exceptional signs of a great wealth (Fitzgerald 51).
The outward expression of wealth is also demonstrated in the novel through the character's actions and abilities. Again, the two characters...