The Great Gatsby: Wealth and Success Do Not Guarantee Happiness
For decades, America has been perceived as the land of happiness with vast success and wealth opportunities. While some people believe that happiness is a state of mind, others argue it can be bought through material possessions and riches. The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates that wealth and success do not guarantee happiness but instead lead to self-destruction. Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man, residing in the West Egg, believes that his ideal happiness lies in his love affair with Daisy, his ex-lover. Despite living miles apart, Gatsby is convinced that amassing a lot of wealth and leading a lavish lifestyle will lure Daisy into loving him and ultimately satisfy his American dream. The deep desire to be happy unfortunately leads to Gatsby’s downfall. Although wealth and success enhance a person’s quality of life, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald demonstrates that they do not guarantee absolute happiness because it leads to self-destruction, social comparison, and a sense of familiarity that hinders the ability to attain happiness.
Wealth and success create a false illusion of happiness that leads to self-destruction. Happiness cannot be achieved through satisfying honor, pleasures, and riches. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald shows that pursuing happiness through wealth accumulation often leads to self-destruction. Self-destruction is inevitable when humans are fixed on riches and attain high social stature. In the novel, Jay Gatsby believes in attaining happiness through a lavish lifestyle and having lots of money. Gatsby risks everything in his power, including engaging in unscrupulous deals and throwing extravagant parties to achieve his illusion of happiness. He had become a “common swindler who would have to steal the ring” (Scott 102) and “bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter” (Scott 103) to acquire wealth. Gatsby’s efforts are geared towards having lots of money to buy happiness, his love for Daisy. He holds on to a false sense of hope that he will one day lure Daisy to fall in love with him again. Sadly, in the end, Daisy leaves Gatsby heartbroken through the expression “I loved you too” (Scott 100). Gatsby thought he could buy Daisy’s love to be happy, but he sadly ends up destitute and lonely when Daisy confesses her love towards Tom. Although Gatsby acquired more wealth than he had received during his childhood, he does not attain the happiness he desired. The pursuit of temporary happiness compels people to strive for the impossible, ultimately ruining their chances of absolute bliss. The desire to be happy got in the way of Gatsby’s ability to see the possibilities of perfect happiness.
Wealth and success lead to social comparison and ultimate dissatisfaction with life. Material possession plays a vital role in determining a person’s social status. Failure to match or align with other people’s perception of high status leads to dissatisfaction even when money is readily available. In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is dissatisfied with his inability to provide Daisy with a good life despite being in love with her. As a result, he engages in criminal activities such as bootlegging and drug rings to acquire money to buy temporary happiness. Gatsby spent most of his time in activities that create stress. Daisy believes that being wealthy and having a good life equals happiness. Her desire to live a good life compels Daisy to monetize her love to acquire the material possessions needed to live a high-quality life.
Although Daisy was committed to loving Gatsby, she is easily lured by Tom through an expensive necklace and the promise of a lavish lifestyle. The desire to attain a high social status distracts Daisy from achieving perfect happiness. She compares Tom and Gatsby in terms of their wealth and settles for Tom, despite lacking an emotional connection. Gatsby was poor and lacked the resources to give Daisy everything Tom gave her. While Gatsby was busy fighting in the war, Tom and Daisy “moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and wild” (Scott 77). Hanging around the young and rich friends indoctrinated Daisy to a lavish lifestyle, and the inability to afford such a lifestyle could lead to dissatisfaction. Wealth and success compel people to drift away from alternative sources of happiness such as domestic life, leading to dissatisfaction with life and ultimate discontent.
Wealth and success have the power of familiarity, making it impossible to achieve happiness. A lot of wealth enhances a person’s ability to afford luxurious materials such as sports cars and mansions. As a result, a person becomes accustomed to these acquired luxuries, and their happiness hormones are standardized accordingly. Like most Americans, in The Great Gatsby, Gatsby was “obstinate about being peasantry” (Scott 68) and struggled to acquire wealth and the sophistication that he lacked from his poor upbringing. Gatsby bought a mansion not only to please his ego but also “so that Daisy would be just across the bay” (Scott 59). Although Gatsby knew that the mansion symbolized his success, he remains a standardized individual in that he does not enjoy the temporary happiness that Gatsby has created for himself. He is fixated on using his wealth to buy happiness to the extent of forgetting alternative ways of attaining happiness.
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In conclusion, wealth and success do not lead to happiness because they create a false sense of satisfaction, increase social comparison, and create a sense of familiarity with material possessions. The Great Gatsby portrays happiness as a harsh reality of people’s life where people fail to achieve happiness due to its associations to riches and wealth. Wealth and success create a false illusion that compels people to surrender their satisfaction with life and happiness.
Scott, Fitzgerald F. The great Gatsby. Рипол Классик, 2017.