From The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, compare Gatsby to today's man who might be trying to impress a lost love through overkill of materialism.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question though I'm not sure comparisons between today's materialism and that of the 1920s and 30s can be an accurate or logical comparison since, in the 20s and 30s, the kind of unrestrained wealth a farmer's son like Gatsby was able to accumulate was an essentially new social phenomenon while today it is no longer a surprisingly new phenomenon. The starting place is to look at Gatsby's objectives and actions.

Gatsby might be ill-described as "trying to impress" Daisy. It might be more accurate to describe him as trying to rise to Daisy's level then exceed her level to offer her more than she had ever had in order to prove himself worthy. Thus "trying to impress" would best be replaced by "trying to prove himself."

Nonetheless, within a context of "trying to impress," we might say that he held lavish parties in attempt to demonstrate a careless attitude about limits to his wealth. We might say he acquired impressive material possessions, like his mansion and yellow car, in order to demonstrate that no material object (or collection of objects) was out of his reach. However, according to the text (e.g., Gatsby's conversations with Nick about reuniting with Daisy), I don't think these are accurate descriptions of Gatsby.

There is a set of men today, from varying economic levels and from high school to the boardroom, who do display the attitudes described in the preceding paragraph. These men seek to impress by displaying arrogant attitudes of lavishness (on any financial level) to demonstrate attitudes of limitlessness in which even large percentages of their take-home pay are thought of as "pocket change." They seek to impress by the acquisition of material objects (even if paid for by their parents) and display the attitude that no acquisition is out of reach, even if the acquisition at the moment is only a car stereo system. On the upper end of the financial wealth scale, lavishness and acquisition take on larger price tag yet the arrogant attitudes remain the same. Note though that this description runs contrary to the way the text characterizes Gatsby.

[Daisy] turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes. ... For half a minute there wasn't a sound. Then from the living room I heard a sort of choking murmur... (Chapter 5)

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The Great Gatsby

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