What quote would best describe how Gatsby is materialistic in The Great Gatsby?

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jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is a scene in Chapter Five in which Jay Gatsby invites Daisy and Nick over to his house with the intent of showing Daisy all that he has acquired since becoming wealthy. He starts by showing off the exterior of the house, then its rooms, then all of the objects within, including "a toilet set of pure dull gold" (Fitzgerald 91).

However, his materialism is best displayed when he opens

"two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing gowns, and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high" (Fitzgerald 92)

This image gives us the impression that Gatsby has amassed far more clothing than anyone is likely to need. His purpose in doing this is to cultivate an image of wealth and sophistication, particularly because that image would appeal to Daisy.

What he does next with the clothing is particularly interesting:

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich head mounted higher... (Fitzgerald 92).

Daisy's reaction to such sartorial splendor is to weep. This passage indicates that it is not, in fact, Gatsby who is materialistic -- that is, he places no value in these things, but instead places value in the love and prestige these objects can afford him. His action of "throwing" the neat pile of shirts, causing them to "[lose] their folds" indicates that he does not really care about them. Instead, he enjoys watching Nick and Daisy "[admire]" his ability to acquire so many luxurious goods. 

Reference: Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

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The Great Gatsby

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