In The Great Gatsby, how are the differences between new money and old money shown?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The differences between old money and new money are depicted during the interactions between Gatsby and the Buchanans, as well as in the attitudes of the wealthy guests from East Egg attending Gatsby's extravagant parties. Jay Gatsby is the epitome of new money and resides in West Egg. Citizens with old money reside in East Egg and view individuals like Gatsby with contempt. Citizens of East Egg are portrayed as selfish, arrogant, and insensitive. Both Tom and Daisy are depicted as careless, selfish individuals who take advantage of others and look down on those with new money. Tom absolutely detests Gatsby's party and is condescending when he speaks to Jay.

In contrast, Jay Gatsby is depicted as naive and a bit more reckless. In chapter 6, Gatsby offends Tom Buchanan and Mr. Sloane by agreeing to attend dinner with them when he is invited by Mrs. Sloane. Tom and Mr. Sloane criticize Gatsby for taking the invitation literally and are portrayed as arrogant, callous people. Gatsby and the guests at his party are also less refined than the East Eggers and unapologetically engage in reckless behavior later in the night. Essentially, the East Eggers, with old money, are equally depraved as those citizens with new money, but they can hide behind their prestigious family names and aristocratic backgrounds. Unlike Jay Gatsby, who hosts wild parties in the public eye, Tom Buchanan chooses to engage in similar revelries in his downtown apartment behind the scenes.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The perception of Gatsby is one way in which the difference between old and new money is shown.  The folks of old money, such as Tom and Daisy and Jordan, are going to consistently use Gatsby as the host of elegant and elaborate parties in order to give him some level of acceptance.  However, the acceptance given is one that is predicated upon him being conscious of his place.  The forces of old money will never be able to fully embrace him because of his status as new money.  For his part, Gatsby understands this and covets only this acceptance.  It is in this light that he pursues Daisy and envisions himself in the manner he does.  Gatsby's dreams revolve around the idea of being considered, at some point, part of the accepted old money clique.  This motivation or desire is something that is fruitless, yet is something that does not deter Gatsby.

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