Analysis of the Book "The Great Gatsby": the Emptiness of Materialist Culture

Topics: Materialism

In The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald captures and transmits multiple uses of stylistic choices by demonstrating materialism and non-materialism by which American culture was swept away during the golden twenties, a time of sudden economic status. In doing so, he provides readers with the hollowness of materialistic culture. Throughout the essay, the author emphasizes the American way by illustrating the use of descriptive imagery by analyzing the book The Great Gatsby.

‘Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York–every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves.

There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.’ As it’s delivered from a fruiterer in New York, we can assume Fitzgerald is talking about an outstanding quality of fruit.

Yet, it takes only a machine and two hundred presses of a butler’s thumb to turn even excellent fruit into a pile of worthless waste. This quote helps to illustrate the materialism of multiple characters in The Great Gatsby. In addition, the author uses descriptive imagery to fulfill the purpose in which he strives to indicate that without money, a man is not a real man and that he endorses his wealth through society. An example would be Myrtle Wilson who is caught in a hefty pile of things, which illustrates that she is hollow and useless like the orange and lemon peels which are put in the trash each Monday morning.

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Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan’s mistress, buys magazines, cold cream, and perfume. A magazine she chooses is the ‘Town Tattle,’ a gossip rag. The cold cream and perfume, having been purchased at the station drug store, are most likely not of the highest quality of products. It seems Myrtle is interested in buying things just to have them. In addition, the way she buys a dog through her taxi window, ‘I want to get one of those dogs,’ Myrtle says from her seat in the taxi. She speaks of the animal as an object, saying she wants ‘to get one for the apartment’ and ‘they’re nice to have–a dog.’ Myrtle’s materialistic interest in the dog is further illustrated by her neglect of the dog once she and Tom reach their apartment. She makes some effort to get it food, but no effort to go out of her way for the dog. Instead, she presents it with a large dog biscuit’ which decomposed apathetically in the saucer of milk all afternoon,’ thus indicating that the dog was not checked on as the day progressed and that there existed no real worry for its hunger or safety. This helps the audience with the imagery of carelessness and the fact that people want to be seen as a pretty image other than deeply characterized. Descriptive imagery is used throughout this quote and also helps capture the sense and the feeling of Tom’s voice as he plays for the dog with no sense of urgency. While Myrtle is busily trying to be the person she wants, she is trapping herself into an alternate existence. She has no real effect on others. Myrtle herself is nothing really special. She is quite the opposite. Myrtle is made to look illogical as, amid her choices, ‘her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment.’ She’s not able to act the part of a high society hostess no matter what she buys, wears, or possesses.

In The Great Gatsby, the American Dream is synonymous with money and status. But even Gatsby, who makes an incredible amount of money in a short time, is not allowed access to the upper echelon of society and loses everything in trying to climb that final straw by making everyone around him happy. Throughout the book, F. Scott Fitzgerald develops each character and shows money does have an effect on your social status and also displays the shallowness of materialistic culture.

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Analysis of the Book "The Great Gatsby": the Emptiness of Materialist Culture. (2022, Apr 27). Retrieved from

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