Does obsession with money and consumer culture of the 1920s dominate human behavior in The Great Gatsby?

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This statement seems to simplify the novel at the very place it seeks to be complex. Were the characters fooled by glamour? Did they believe that happiness could be found in the vast spaces of a mansion like Gatsby's?

The novel suggests otherwise. Gatsby is not happy. Many figures in this story are unhappy. They pursue, model, and talk about wealth often. That's true.

But the issue here is identity above all else. Identifying with wealth or using material status as a means to personal identity is brought into question, not only by the larger story of the novel, but by each character's flaws.

I think we short-change Fitzgerald's empathy for his characters if we say that he presented us with people who truly and deeply believed that wealth was the only valid mode of forming identity. These people were challenged to get past the surface, to deal with the issues of self-hood that motivated them, regardless of status and riches.

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I think the obsession with wealth still dominates our culture, and always has.  It likely always willing.  The Roaring Twenties was a time of marked excess, where it became almost a requirement to throw lavish parties and own fancy cars.  Most people cannot experience that kind of wealth, but they aspire to it.

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Hmmm, this is a more complex question than it seems to be at the surface.  Yes, I suppose if you look at the chapters that focus on Gatsby's parties, this does seem to be the case.  Similarly, if you consider the reasoning behind Daisy choosing Tom as a marriage partner and even in Nick choosing "the East" as a potential place to settle.  However, if you take the title character of Gatsby, money has absolutely nothing to do with his obsession, ... consumer culture doesn't either.  However, BOTH are simply necessary to obtain his TRUE obsession: Daisy.  In order to be Daisy's lover, Gatsby must obtain money.  Once he does so, Gatsby thinks the love of Daisy is a "done deal."  He is absolutely floored and flabbergasted when it is not!  In order to be Daisy's lover, Gatsby must create an environment where it would be socially acceptable to meet up with Daisy again:  parties.  The parties are simply "necessary," but not a part of Gatsby's true obsession and, yet, connected imperatively with 20s consumer culture.  Again, it is a surprise to Gatsby that it is Nick's proximity, not the parties, that allows Gatsby to pursue Daisy yet again.  Thus, I do understand the point of the question, but I enjoy playing "devil's advocate" in regards to the main character of the novel.

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I think this is true about most of the people in the book, but we really need to remember that this is not what motivates Gatsby himself.

Gatsby has been obsessed with getting rich, it is true.  But the money was not an end in itself the way it is for so many of the people in the book.  Rather, Gatsby's obsession is Daisy.  He wants love (or what he thinks is love) and not money.

Given that the main obsession of the title character is love rather than money, I don't think that we can say the whole book is about money.

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I think it is clear that F. Scott Fitzgerald presents us with a world that is obsessed by wealth and how it is acquired. I have included a link to the historical context of this novel below, but you might just like to think about the focus placed on the opulence of Gatsby's partys and Gatsby's lifestyle, and how Nick comments on the amount of money that was spent on the frequent partys that were held at his mansion. Of course, one of the best descriptions of this comes at the beginning of Chapter 3:

At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough coloured light to make a Christmas tree of Gatbsy's enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another.

Note the emphasis placed on the lavish expenditure of money. Hyperbole is used in the way that Gatsby's gardens are turned into a "christmas tree" because of all the lights, and the descriptions of the banquet that was served and the expensive and rare drinks that were available clearly show the way in which we are introduced to a world that is dominated by conspicuous consumption and the visible showing of wealth. As we read on, we see that flaunting such riches was an important part of being recognised as belonging to the upper social stratum of this inequitable society.

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1920s Obsession with MoneyWhat do you think of the view that obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominates Human thinking and behavior?

I don't know if I would say it dominated the 1920s, it was just more present than ever before, or more possible, so the contrast was also more noticeable.

In the present day, I think we are much more materialist.  We work harder, earn more money and spend more money.  We surround ourselves with material goods and every Christmas season, we get very unreasonable with our spending habits.  It's one of the things that makes reading The Great Gatsby more relevant than ever for today's students.

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1920s Obsession with MoneyWhat do you think of the view that obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominates Human thinking and behavior?

In accord with the previous post, the greed that characterizes The Great Gatsby is only that of the nouveau riche, the rich, and the costra nostra.  For, the average American made only $2000.00 a year.  After World War I, values were conservative.  There was some spending to be sure as the Ford, which could be mass produced, became the car of the middle class.  And, the radio produced a huge craze.  The radio not only reported the news, but it helped to shape it as with millions listening to it, radio's messages could help to solidify the chauvinism of the country, making people feel that they were in unison with thousands of others in their beliefs.

Certainly, radio advertising was responsible for the consumer culture.  Some historians feel that the false advertising of radio contributed to the ignorance of the American people towards anything unpleasant.  Thus, the illusions that radio created helped to "make Americans so mentally unprepared" for the Stock Market Crash of 1929.

In Fitzgerald's novel, the character Gatsby exemplifies this type of American who ignores the darker side of reality.  Gatsby's attitude is not so much one of greed as that of the illusion of the American Dream.  This mental unpreparedness for reality is as much a part of the Jazz Age as that of the spendthrift wealthy.

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1920s Obsession with MoneyWhat do you think of the view that obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominates Human thinking and behavior?

If you are talking about this book in particular, then I would say yes.  I think that Gatsby's party guests and Myrtle are the best examples of this.  They want to be rich or live the lives of the rich, regardless of whether those lives are empty.

However, if you are talking about the 1920s in general, I disagree with this idea.  I think that it may depict the upper class, but it did not apply throughout American society.  Beneath the rich who acted like Gatsby's "friends" during the "Roaring '20s," there were lots of common Americans who were much more interested in trying to maintain traditional values.  (This is, after all, why the KKK was so strong in the North during this time.)

Fitzgerald is only portraying the upper class.  For whatever reason, our vision of the '20s as "roaring" focuses on that class only.

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1920s Obsession with MoneyWhat do you think of the view that obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominates Human thinking and behavior?

I think that this is the setting upon which Fitzgerald is making a direct statement.  The flapper generation or the time period of the Jazz Age where there is so much obsession with wealth and its trappings are what Fitzgerald indicts as preventing a full embrace of both dreams for one's consciousness as well as understanding people as ends in of themselves and not means to ends.  Fitzgerald was able to dissect this culture very well in the book.  His depiction of Tom and Daisy, Jordan and Myrtle, as well as the entire social realm where individuals cannot see past superficiality is something that precludes full and lasting happiness.  When seeing the work in the historical context of the Great Depression that follows the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's insights on the consumer culture and its material end might be even more relevant.  In the end, as much as characters in Fitzgerald's work valued wealth and privilege, the looming economic crisis that America and the world would endure undercut all of this, and shattered such facades of happiness.  In the end, the monuments built with beliefs of material obsession and consumerism were ones of sand with the historical tide coming into wipe them away.

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What do you think of the obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominating human thinking and behaviour in The Great Gatsby?

The first answer gives you good ideas as to how you can see that the people in the book are obsessed with money and with material goods.  But I think you were asking how to write about what you think of the fact that they are obsessed.

That is something you have to decide for yourself.  I would suggest that you think about it in the context of modern times.  Many people think that we are too worried about having money and stuff.  We want all the new gadgets -- iPads and 3D TVs and the newest phone and all kinds of stuff like that.  What do you think about that?  do you think it makes us worse as people?  Do you think it makes us value other people less?  Do we spend too much time at work so as to get money?  Should we instead be spending more time relaxing with our kids?  Should we worry more about being good people and helping others rather than about getting more money?  I would write this by thinking about those and issues like them.

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What do you think of the obsession with money and the consumer culture of the 1920s dominating human thinking and behaviour in The Great Gatsby?

In The Great Gatsby, Nick goes back to the Midwest because he wants no part of the consumer culture of the East.  He sees the hypocrisy, carelessness, and cruelty of the uber-competitive socio-economic structure and refuses to be participate.

Most importantly, Nick sees the destructive power that materialism has on relationships.  Men treat women as objects.  Women treat each other as objects.  And poor men kill rich men because of jealousy over cars and houses as much as women.

All the women in the novel are flat, static, stock characters: temptresses.  They cheat at golf.  They become mistresses.  They are terrible mothers.  They call their daughters "hopeless little fools."  They cry over shirts.  They get slapped for yelling another woman's name.  In short, they are meant to be consumed, run over, pushed aside, and silenced by violence.  Why?  They are status symbols only, like the cars men drive.

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