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Old and New Money in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald in the twentieth century, the “Jazz Age” in America. The writer considers many socially and morally significant topics in the novel, such as love, friendship, social division, and money. The last one is trickier than it seems at first. The concept of “old money” and “new money” is an actual division that influenced many people’s lives in the 1920s, and The Great Gatsby presents how the theme of money confronts other aspects of life.

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In this way, in Gatsby’s world, the difference between “old” and “new” money defines the relationships and actions of the characters. Moreover, it is important to know that, for Fitzgerald, more than for any other American writer of those times, the theme of social classes and money is important in his novels. It is related to the writer’s personal values, as well as the influence of the postwar class distinctions that Fitzgerald encountered at a young age. Events from the author’s life affected his literature works, as well. (Grande 140). It explains why the author pays a lot of attention to the theme of money and class division in his books. Nevertheless, it most likely only makes his works unique and memorable, as it represents the writer’s personality and writing style.

 Thereby, in The Great Gatsby, the concept of money is seen from the perspective of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. Since the beginning, their social divide has been a hindrance to their relationship. Daisy represents the “old money” elite, which implies that she came from a family with fortunes that they earned many decades ago and had successfully built up superior and influential connections in society. They tend to conceal their supremacy behind a façade of civility. While Gatsby represents the “New money” elite, that gained their fortunes during the 1920s boom, and as a result, they lack social connections, which they compensate for with extravagant shows of riches (Cain 455). Thus, the difference between “Old money’ and “New money” is significant enough to become the reason for social divisions in 1920’s.

This social distinction between Daisy and Jay caused the situation that Daisy (who is the object of Gatsby’s affection) married Tom Buchanan. Since he represents an “old money” class, Tom seems to be an appropriate partner for Daisy. Meanwhile, Gatsby earned his fortunes because he wanted to be the one to win Daisy. He did become extremely affluent, with the house, clothes, and parties to prove it. However, all of his efforts appear to have been in vain since Daisy was already married. Even though it did not destroy Gatsby’s goal to be with Daisy, eventually, his aspiration led to his death. According to Saunders, “Gatsby… He appears heroic, larger than life, because he commits himself to an imaginatively conceived, unachievable goal” (169). Therefore, Fitzgerald provided a powerful example of how the concept of “old” and “new” money strongly influences different aspects of his characters’ lives. Moreover, in the following quotation, the author seems to state the conclusive idea of his novel: “We see just how important wealth isn’t. All the money in the world can’t make Gatsby ”worth” Daisy” (Fitzgerald 229). The author has successfully presented how the concept of money gradually losses its importance, when the theme of feelings, controversially, becomes crucial.

To summarize, and make the conclusion, the theme of money and social divisions is, indeed, plays a significant role in the novel and influences fictional characters. Money was abnormally important those times, and the characters of the book proved it. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald managed to present to the readers how much different values affect life; he leaves every person with a choice to make by providing an example of his characters’ choices.

Works Cited

Cain, William E. “American Dreaming: Really Reading The Great Gatsby.” Society, vol.57, no. 4, 2020, pp. 453-470.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Dover Publications, 2021.

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Grande, Per Bjornar. “Desire in The Great Gatsby.” Desire: Flaubert, Proust, Fitzgerald, Miller, Lana Del Rey, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, 2020, pp. 129–174.

Saunders, Judith P. “The Great Gatsby: An Unusual Case of Mate Poaching.” American Classics: Evolutionary Perspectives, edited by Brian Boyd.  Academic Studies Press, Boston, 2018, pp. 138–174.

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