The relationship between individuals and their physical and social environment is different with people who have been raised with money compared to those who have not. This can be seen clearly with Myrtle Wilson and Gatsby. Myrtle loves the comforts and the luxuries that Tom Buchanan gives her and the physical and social environment he provides. Not only does she become accustomed to it, she begins to act as if it was always a part of her life, or as if she were “to the manor born.”
Nick describes the apartment Tom gets to share with Myrtle on their assignations. as:
“The apartment was on the top floor—a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath. The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles."
Although Nick describes the apartment as too crowded with furniture, it is fairly clear that it trumps the home that Myrtle shares with her husband over the garage in Queens. Myrtle has arrogance about her when they arrive at the apartment. The author says:
“Throwing a regal homecoming glance around the neighborhood, Mrs. Wilson gathered up her dog and her other purchases and went haughtily in. ‘I’m going to have the McKees come up,’ she announced as we rose in the elevator. ‘And of course I got to call up my sister, too.”
The words “regal” and “haughtily” clue the reader in to Myrtle’s supercilious stance because of what she considers the luxury of the apartment. She also has the freedom to call the elevator boy and send him on errands, something that she could never do with her husband and their shared social circle. Her need to behave arrogantly is in sharp contrast to Tom and Daisy, who are both accustomed to beautiful homes and beautiful things. Although they are careless and uncaring about others, they do not behave as “haughtily” as Myrtle.
Gatsby, as a young man, has witnessed people like Tom, Daisy and his friend, Dan Cody. The effects their comfort with the luxuries in their lives have on the choices and lifestyles he makes is that Gatsby not only aspires to having what they have, he also needs to show the world—and Daisy—that he has these things.
He covets what he sees people who have been raised with wealth have. Eventually, he is able to purchase these things for himself, but he goes overboard to show the world—or perhaps more importantly to show Daisy—how far he has come. He is an arriviste. When Daisy first sees his home, the narrator says,
“He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way as though in her actual and astounding presence none of it was any longer real.”
More than anything, he wants to impress Daisy, who takes his golden hairbrush with delight and “smoothed her hair.” This gesture of Daisy’s pleases Gatsby, who then commences to open his closet and drawers to show her his luxury items.