The Religion of Money in The Great Gatsby
Near the beginning of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, Mr. Undershaft exclaims in retort of another's question, "well, I am a millionaire, and that is my religion" (Shaw 103). Many people look toward the heavens in search of the power to enable them to live in the world. Others, like Shaw's Mr. Undershaft, look toward more earthly subjects to obtain their power and symbolize their status. Often these subjects, such as money, wealth, or physical beauty and ability, give their owners an overbearing sense of power and ability in all of that they do. Some people become so obsessed with their materialistic power that it becomes their religion and leads them in everything that they do. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, the character of Tom Buchanan is introduced and portrayed as someone who has allowed his physical abilities, money, and wealth, become his religion and lead him in his actions, perceived thoughts and beliefs, and speech.
Nick, the first person narrator of The Great Gatsby, introduces Tom as a "national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax" (Fitzgerald 10). In college at New Haven, Tom relied on his physical abilities, as "one of the most powerful ends that ever played football" (Fitzgerald 10), as well as inherited wealth to give him the power and prestige to be perceived as better than the best. In the beginning of his college career, as Nick seems to suggest, it was this supreme physical ability on the football field that allowed Tom to have supreme reign over all off the field. But, after college, the football legacy ended, and with it, Tom's power associated with the field, died. In search of a new symbol of his self-perceived great status, Tom selected money. Having a family that was "enormously wealthy", allowed Tom to move past the loss of football and obtain power by living a life "in a fashion that rather took your breath away" (Fitzgerald 10).
On Nick's first visit to the Buchanan estate, which is located on the prestigious East Egg, he is overcome by the grandeur and lavish display of Tom's seemingly unending wealth. The Buchanan estate sits on the bay and is comprised of a quarter mile of "lawns... sundials and brick walks and burning gardens" (Fitzgerald 11). But, it is more than solely the outward manifestation of his wealth that allows Tom to be characterized by it. The display of his sense of power is even greater...