The Great Gatsby: The Destruction of Morals
In The Great Gatsby, the author F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the destruction of morals in society. The characters in this novel, all lose their morals in attempt to find their desired place in the social world. They trade their beliefs for the hope of being acceptance. Myrtle believes she can scorn her true social class in an attempt to be accepted into Ton’s, Jay Gatsby who bases his whole life on buying love with wealth, and Daisy, who instead of marrying the man she truly loves, marries someone with wealth. The romance of money lures the characters in The Great Gatsby into surrendering their values, but in the end, “the streets paved with gold led to a dead end” (Vogue, December 1999).
The first example of a character whose morals are destroyed is Myrtle. Myrtle’s attempt to enter into the group to which the Buchanans belong is doomed to fail. She enters the affair with Tom, hoping to adopt his way of life and be accepted into his class to escape from her own. Her class is that of the middle class. Her husband, Wilson, owns a gas station, making an honest living and trying his best to succeed in a world where everything revolves around material possessions. With her involvement in Tom’s class, she only becomes vulgar and corrupt like the rich. She loses all sense of morality by hurting others in her futile attempt to join the ranks of Tom’s social class. In doing so, she is leaving behind her husband who loves her. Myrtle believes he is no longer good enough for her. “‘I married him because I thought he was a gentleman.’ She said finally. ‘I thought he knew something about breeding but he wasn’t fit enough to lick my shoe.'” (Fitzgerald, 39). With the hope of being accepted into an upper social class, Myrtle’s morals and prior beliefs are gone, being replaced by the false impression that by betraying her loving husband, this new social world will embrace her.
A second character that falls victim to the destruction of their morals, is Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is the supposed hero of this novel “who believes that the riches he traded for honor can buy love and happiness and bring back the past”(Vogue, December 1999). He too abandons his morals; illegally earning the money that he believes will win back the heart of his lost love Daisy. When they had a love affair long ago, she wouldn’t marry him because of his financial standing. The details of his business are sketchy, when asked he usually ignores the question. Tom though, after some investigating finds the true nature of his profession.
“‘I found out what your ‘drug stores’ were.’ He turned to us and spoke rapidly. ‘He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts, I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him and I wasn’t far wrong.'” (Fitzgerald, 141).
Gatsby makes it his life’s mission to become rich, thinking this will be sure to win Daisy over. Daisy is married though, and his life’s ambition of having Daisy fails. Gatsby surrenders his morals by breaking the law to earn the riches he thinks will buy her love but it is done for nothing, Daisy was not won over with his new wealth.
A final character that succumbs to the lure of wealth and discards their morals is Daisy. Daisy is involved in a marriage with a man she is unsure of her love for. Tom is unfaithful, and has been involved in several affairs, yet Daisy remains married to him. Long ago when she was involved with Gatsby, she had ended the relationship because he was not of her “social standing” and was therefore unfit to marry her. Instead she married the wealthy Tom Buchanan.
“In June she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago with more pomp and circumstance then Louisville ever knew before. He came down with a hundred people in four private cars and hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars.” (Fitzgerald, 80)
Right from the beginning Daisy had already had second thoughts about the marriage, getting completely drunk the night before and crying, but she went through with the marriage regardless. By not following her heart and marrying her true love, she abandoned her morals and married a man based on his wealth.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald shows how the morals of society have been destroyed. The different characters each through their actions betray their morals to achieve a different status in society. Myrtle, a middle class, married woman, becomes immoral by having an affair in an attempt to join an upper social class. Jay Gatsby, a wealthy young man who has earned his wealth through breaking the law as an effort to win back a lost love. And Finally Daisy, a woman who marries a man only because of his enormous wealth instead of a poorer man she truly loves. In the end, giving up their morals is useless, they each fail at achieving the status they desire.