In The Great Gatsby, how does Gatsby's attitude toward money affect how Nick perceives him?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Gatsby's attitude toward money contributes strongly to Nick's perception of him as a romantic personality, a man who lives only to achieve a "colossal" romantic dream. When Gatsby was a boy living in poverty as Jimmy Gatz of North Dakota, money for him was a means of escape. An entry in his childhood journal read, "Study needed inventions," suggesting that he was looking for a way to succeed in business and reap the financial rewards. When he reinvents himself and becomes enormously wealthy through his association with criminal Meyer Wolfshiem, however, Gatsby's attitude toward money has changed; it has become only the means to an end--to bring Daisy back into his life and keep her forever.

Nick becomes aware of this when Gatsby confides in him, explaining naively that he will repeat the past with Daisy, an idea Nick recognizes as a romantic impossibility. As Nick watches Gatsby show off his gorgeous mansion and many fine possessions to Daisy, to impress her with his great wealth, Nick realizes that Gatsby's intention is to convince Daisy that he is a man of substance who can take care of her. Nick also realizes that Gatsby had traveled very far, literally and figuratively, to buy his mansion across the bay from Daisy with the sole purpose of achieving his dream of her; he had thrown his elaborate parties only to draw her to him.

Nick realizes that Gatsby's attitude toward money is far different from that of the Buchanans. Unlike Tom and Daisy, Gatsby does not enjoy wealth for its own sake or for the lifestyle it affords him. For example, he swims in his own pool only once, the day he dies, and he generally does not attend his own lavish parties. Unlike the Buchanans, he does not feel or exhibit a sense of superiority because he is wealthy. Gatsby himself is unaffected by wealth, and the purity of his romantic vision affects Nick deeply, so deeply that Gatsby's eventual destruction sends Nick back home to the Midwest. He despises Tom and Daisy's moral corruption, the result of their own relationship with money. For Nick, however, "Gatsby turned out all right at the end," saved by his "romantic readiness" and "gift for hope."