2020 Question 6 - The ways that relationships develop help us to understand a text’s important message
Relationships founded upon lies rarely last. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s morality tale, ‘The Great Gatsby’ the development of key relationships is essential to understanding the important message of appearance vs reality. That is to say that Fitzgerald uses the relationships of Gatsby and Daisy, Tom and Daisy, and Myrtle and Tom to emphasise that relationships aren’t always as they appear on the surface.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus during the height of the 1920s in America, a period of time known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’, and the ‘Jazz Age’. It was a time of great economic prosperity and the ‘Upperclasses’ of society ‘lived large’ with magnificent properties and opulent parties. It was also the time of the ‘American Dream’, a dream of betterment, creating one’s own version of success. A success that Fitzgerald believed had been corrupted, therefore, it was his intention to make his readers aware of this.
Gatsby and Dasiy’s relationship was fundamentally built on a lie, and thus it was doomed to fail from the very start. To Gatsby, Daisy was not really a person, rather she was a symbol. A symbol of acceptance into a very elite group of people-the Old Money Aristocracy. If he were to marry Daisy, he believed he would have ‘made it’ socially. She was the missing piece of his version of the American Dream. When talking to Nick Carraway, (narrator), he says, ‘I didn’t want you to think I was some nobody.’ This is important as Gatsby’s entire persona is a lie. His background, name, everything. On the surface, ie his appearance, he is a wealthy businessman. However in reality her is a poor boy named James Gatz who made his fortune through criminal activity. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby’s view of his relationship with Daisy to illustrate the illusion, the appearance versus the reality. He wants his readers to understand that this is a relationship that would never have been able to work for its foundations are lies and money.
To Daisy, however, the relationship is more of a means of passing time. She is competent enough to realise on some level that the relationship cannot survive in the long term. Gatsby is equivalent to fantasy, to illusion, whereas her husband, Tom is her true reality. Gatsby is not someone who would be able to provide for her long-term due to his belief in her appearance rather than her reality. This can be seen in, ‘It makes me sad because I have never seen such beautiful shirts before.’ This reflects that Daisy is overwhelmed by Gatsby’s intensity. Again she realises that she cannot fulfil the fantasy expectations that he has for her. Thus she understands that she is not seen as a person but rather for her symbolic nature. Her reality will never meet his expectations, which is something that Fitzgerald does deliberately. He tries to emphasise that a relationship that is built on lies and expectations is simply not enough to survive. Daisy’s reality was a conflict to the fantasy/appearance that Gatsby held.
Tom and Daisy’s relationship is also one that is centred around lies. They pretend that they are important, and have class - merely because they were born into wealth. They were fortunate enough to live lives with 'fundamental decencies which are ‘parcelled out unequally at birth’. However, they do not use this for the benefit of others. Instead, they choose to live in such a way that their biggest concern is their wealth, ‘Tom and Daisy were careless people-who smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money.’ This emphasises Fitzgerald’s message that appearance is not the same as reality. From the outside, Tom and Daisy look like decent, proper human beings but in reality, they cause harm to the people around them, but because they are so wealthy they can cover all their misdemeanours. Fitzgerald uses their relationship to show appearance vs reality but also the power of the wealthy and how they have corrupted the American Dream.
Again, while Tom and Daisy appear to have an amazing and somewhat harmonious marriage that is luxurious and happy it is not. In reality, it is shrouded with lies, scandal and chaos. This can be exemplified when Daisy is giving birth to her daughter and Tom is off with some other woman, ‘Tom was God knows where.’ They stay together because they know that they are fundamentally the same. They are the same class, have affairs and place the same value on money. Fitzgerald does this deliberately to again emphasise to his readers the way that the relationship develops helps to reflect his important message of appearance vs reality. The appearance of the relationship is that they are a happily married couple and the reality is that their relationship is full of deceit and lies. Fitzgerald tries to show his readers that this is not a healthy relationship. It is not one that makes either side feel fulfilled, it is merely a means to an end, which is a tragic way to live really.
Daisy’s only experience with relationships have with Gatsby (a man fueled by fantasy), and Tom (a womaniser). Therefore her concept around relationships and marriage has become greatly distorted - she believes that all husbands have affairs. This is shown especially clearly when she speaks of her daughter, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl, and I hope she’ll be a fool-that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’ Daisy believes that it will be better for her daughter to be beautiful, (so as to marry a rich man), but also be a fool, so she might remain ignorant to his many affairs. Fitzgerald attempts to show here that Daisy’s relationships have changed her view on reality. Her reality as a woman in the 1920s is much different to that of a woman in the modern era. Fitzgerald highlights that her reality has been altered by her life experiences. Thus her appearance or her persona makes more sense if she were to want to avoid her reality. However, it is important to note that Fitzgerald highlights that Tom and Daisy are ‘cut from the same cloth’ so to speak. That is to say that they function on the same societal level. Daisy would ultimately rather stay with Tom and deal with the scandals and pretences than give up the lavish lifestyle to which she has become accustomed to. Her happiness is not, to her, synonymous, with monetary security.
Finally, Tom and Myrtle’s relationship is used by Fitzgerald to explore the message of appearance vs reality. Myrtle is a character from the ‘lowerclasses’. She believes that she has taste and style but in reality, she has no idea about how to behave in a manner deemed ‘proper’. In having an affair with a member of the ‘upperclasses’ she sees herself as someone special, someone capable of ‘moving up’ socially. However the whole affair is tacky and tasteless, ‘Several old copies of Town Tattle lay on the table…and some of the smaller scandal magazines of broadway.’ Ultimately what Fitzgerald tries to portray is that the fantasy, the appearance of the American Dream has been corrupted. Myrtle and Gatsby have both been fooled into a belief that the only way to attain the American Dream is through wealth and sophistication. An idea that has only come about due to the Old Arisocrisy.
Ultimately both Gatsby and Myrtle are destroyed by their belief in flawed dreams and their association with the Buchanans. The Buchanans use their monetary safety net to escape the damage unharmed but leave behind them a trail of destruction. It goes back to the quote, ‘Tom and Daisy were careless-who smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money.’ They can afford to be careless, (both literally and figuratively, as they face no consequences in life. They use and abuse all of the people around them so that they get the outcome that they want. When Gatsby ‘loses’ Daisy to Tom he loses his dream, and thus his purpose in life. Daisy then knows that she can use him to take the fall for Myrtle’s death. Myrtle Wilson’s dreams die at the same time that she does, in the dust. ‘Myrtle Wilson, extinguished by death, knelt in the road, mingled her thick dark blood with the dust.’ Fitzgerald’s use of the word dust here is important as it is symbolic of the death of dreams. Ultimately the relationships that both Gatsby and Myrtle had with a Buchanan result in their fantasy of the American Dream.
Overall, I agree with the statement that the ways relationships develop help us to understand a text’s important message. Fitzgerald clearly reflects the message of appearance vs reality by cleverly developing the relationships between; Gatsby and Daisy, Daisy and Tom, and Myrtle and Tom in ‘The Great Gatsby’. It is evident to see that these relationships are founded on lies. Thus are predetermined to fail as no relationship can last if it is riddled with lies and deception.