Fitzgerald presents images of the post-war generation of ambitious and materialistic middle class Americans enjoying the consumer lifestyles. This is significantly expressed by the characters of Tom and Daisy. In chapter two when Nick, Tom and Myrtle Wilson (Tom’s mistress) travel to the New York Tom is throwing his money around on Myrtle. This is shown on numerous occasions throughout the novel the following is example used in chapter two: here’s your money. Go buy ten dogs with it. ‘ Tom has snobbishly brought his mistress a dog which is supposedly a pedigree he is fully aware that the dog is cheap but, he has the money.
While Tom is using his money as status symbol and to occupy his pursuit of pleasure ( Myrtle) there are others who are suffering in poverty and are living in the ‘Valley of Ashes. ‘ The valley of Ashes was created by the dumping of industrial ashes or it could be interpreted that it is made out of decaying civilian’s dreams or even their corpses from trying to achieve them. The Valley represents the moral and social decay which has resulted in uninhabited pursuit of wealth while the rich indulge in pleasure. Also the valley of Ashes could symbolise the unfortunate conditions of the poor for example George Wilson.
The symbolic ash heaps are indication that George Wilson is not alive he is described as being a ‘grey man’- ‘ash grey man’ this, is an indication that Wilson is drained from vitality and from life. Unlike her husband Myrtle is full of vitality and represents are more dominant character however, by her flower name we are able to tell that Myrtle is desperate to achieve her dream. A myrtle plant is a beautiful climbing plant however, due to her surroundings Myrtle is not allowed to realise her impossible dream therefore, Myrtle is as lifeless as her husband.
Fitzgerald contradicts the idea that America is the land of the ‘free’ through the characters of Tom and Daisy who both live in East. Egg. This location represents the aristocrats and West Egg is a representation of the ‘newly rich’. The East Eggers are presented as being elegant , graceful and beautiful ‘they were both dressed in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. ‘ This quotation was used in chapter one as Nick romantically fantasises that Daisy and Jordan are beautiful angels.
This quote has been suggested by Kathleen Parkinson that Nick presents an illusion that Jordan and Daisy are pure and elegant however , this is quickly contrasted with Daisy ‘s actions. Daisy seems to be fully aware of her charms and tends to exploit them ‘her voice has a singing compulsion’ and ‘(I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her. )’ Fitzgerald could be suggesting that Daisy is like one of the sirens suggested in the Odyssey which, lure the sailors to their deaths.
This could be true due to fact that it was her charms that lead to Gatsby’s disillusionment of love and may have lead to his death. Furthermore it has been suggested by Phillip Alan that Nick uses enthusiastic adverbs and adjectives to describe Daisy . The following adjectives and adverbs were used to describe Daisy in chapter one ‘excitement in her voice’ , ‘charming little laugh’, ‘thrilling voice’ and ‘passionate mouth’. This is contrasted with her manner and actions which, display the opposite effect ‘the other girl Daisy made an attempt to rise. In addition Fitzgerald has expressed that the power of materialism is so strong, it has even had effect on Daisy’s affections towards her two year old daughter. We are only first introduced to young Pammy in chapter seven ‘that’s because your mother wanted to show you off. ‘ Daisy is using her daughter as a possession almost like a bag to show off occasionally. The East- Eggers may seem elegant but, they lack in heart and personality in chapter seven Daisy and Jordan are now described as wearing ‘ small tights hats of metallic cloth’.
One may interpret that the effects of the post- war consumer lifestyle has taken it’s toll on the two women who were once pure and beautiful have now become cold hearted. Whereas the West- Eggers are represent as being vulgar, un-educated Gatsby drives a’ yellow car’ and wears a ‘pink suit’. Furthermore Gatsby is presented as being loyal and kind hearted in chapter seven after the tension of the confrontation even though, Daisy has chosen Tom. Gatsby waits outside her home to make sure that Tom does not harm her. ‘I want to wait here till Daisy goes to bed.
Good night old sport’ In addition Nick tells us Gatsby’s story in chapter six but, he gets rid off the dialogue to put it into his own words. This is an indication that Gatsby is not well educated or articulate as he asserts a childlike language: ‘I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before …… she’ll see. ‘ The character of Jordan Baker is a representation of the new women in the jazz age of America, she is cynical, boyish and a cheat. ‘She was a slender, small breasted girl with an errect carriage.
Her name was influenced by two famous automobile’s trader. This indicates that Jordan Baker is also a representation of the rich mobile aristocrats from the 1920’s. Daisy on the other hand is representation of the traditional women from the hierarchy status. When Daisy Buchanan was Daisy Neefay she was free, romantic, had a personality of her own, had her own car but, the moment she married Tom Buchanan to escape from parental control. Daisy had become materialistic and now desperate to seek love.
Fitzgerald portrays this in chapter one when Daisy looks through the window and claims to see a Nightingale, ‘Must have come over on the Cunard or White star line. ‘ This is a symbolic indication that romanticism had to adapt to America culture. The quotation also give an insight into the sadness behind Daisy’s charms and it suggests her desperation for romance. This quote was influenced by Keats’s Ode of the Nightingale. As well as the Nightingale representing romance it has been said that it also symbolises tragedy.
In Greek Mythology Philomel was a tragic victim of lust and was transformed into a Nightingale. The Cunard and White star Line also represent tragedy as this where the sinking of the Titanic occurred. This gives a sense of foreshadowing of the character of Gatsby and even Myrtle who both become victims of lust. Tom Buchanan’s character is not only a representation of patriarchal society as he seems to believe that women are not people but, are possessions of men that should only be used for desire. He is also one of the representations of the decay of American Dream. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch or these other races will have control over things. ‘
Fitzgerald exposes the truth that the American dream can not be achieved by all, because those who have the power will work to keep it and prevent them from reaching it. However even if they do manage to achieve the impossible the ‘newly rich’ will never stay rich for long and will always be considered as being inferior compared to the aristocracy. In chapter seven when Gatsby’s criminal activities are finally revealed to the readers Tom’s reactions are filled with disgust and anger. Certainly not for a common swindler that would have to steal the ring for her finger. ‘ Tom seems to think that both love and money are interlinked and that Daisy would not leave him as he is extremely wealthy compared to Gatsby. To conclude Daisy Buchanan is not careless if she is careless then it is all down to men who created her existence : Tom and Gatsby. Tom sees Daisy as his trophy wife and Gatsby sees Daisy as his impossible dream. In addition Nick the narrator only informs the readers of the immorality of Daisy Buchanan.
Throughout the novel we are never told of Daisy’s dream and Fitzgerald fails to develop Daisy’s personality unlike the others characters. Therefore our first instinct is too see Daisy as a villain when in fact she is a victim to the patriarchal society and to the materialism of the 1920’s. Tom on the other hand is in fact careless if you take a closer look into the novel you are able to identify that he is the catalyst of the novel. From the very beginning of the novel in chapters one and two Tom’s immortality was giving life to the story I. e. his extra-marital relationship with Myrtle.
If Tom never started his affair with Myrtle then, she would have never had begun to think that she was able to adapt to the new materialised social environment that inevitably lead to her death. Furthermore, Wilson would have never mistaken Gatsby for Tom and killed him for apparently having an affair with Myrtle Wilson. Tom fails to recognise that his actions have consequences even though, he can always retreat back into his money. In addition Tom is a major contribution to decay of religion in this novel he has replaced God with his faith in materialism. Lastly Tom demonstrates the seven deadly sins throughout the novel he portrays:
* Gluttony-his greed for power
* Pride- He seems to believe that his at higher level of social class than the other characters
* Lust -succumbed to lust and has had many extra-marital relationships in the past. (‘I go off on a spree and make a fool of myself but I always come back.’)
* Envy – Daisy was considering choosing Gatsby over him so Tom had him killed.(‘That fellow had it coming to him.’)