We learn the most important lessons from the characters that we do not like.
Published in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Great Gatsby,” often referred to as a Jazz age masterpiece, contains important messages about the dangers of materialism, along with the corruption of the American Dream, and the hollowness of the upper classes. Set during the “Roaring Twenties,” the narrative follows the mysterious Jay Gatsby, as he seeks to reclaim the love of the luminous Daisy Buchanan, a member of the social elite and “old money” aristocracy that Gatsby yearns to be a part of. During this time period, an idea that true purpose could be obtained through an increase in material wealth, began to grow significantly. Fitzgerald’s work remains extremely relevant in today’s world, where materialism is still very prominent, leading to a false hope of purpose in life that does not exist.
Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, and Jay Gatsby are important characters from within the novel and are often despised and judged by Fitzgerald’s audience, however this does not prevent them from teaching the reader important moral lessons, about the nature of those consumed by wealth, along with those who are obsessed with obtaining that wealth through any means necessary, and just how far the “disease” of materialism has corrupted our society.
The character of Daisy Buchanan is introduced early on in the book, as a high-ranking socialite who, like her husband, is one of the “old rich,” who reside in East Egg, opposed to West Egg, which is where Gatsby lives alongside those who have recently obtained their wealth, through unconventional means. Through her actions and shallow personality, the audience may form strong opinions of hatred towards Daisy, however despite this she displays an important truth about the hollowness of the upper classes. Her true colours are shown shortly after Myrtle’s death which was directly Daisy’s fault, when she conspires with Tom, to let Gatsby take the blame. When Nick watches Gatsby observe the two talking through their window, he remarks, “That there was a natural air of intimacy about the picture, and anybody would have said that they were conspiring together.” Alluding to the outcome of their combined decision, Carraway suggests that Tom and Daisy would come closer together, to avoid any chance of scandal. In addition to this, Daisy is shown to live a fake and unfulfilling lifestyle, that she attempts to hide through her expressive and yet empty conversation. In reality, her financial and material wealth, condemn Daisy to a sad life, devoid of any real meaning, as we see in her shallow nature.
Fitzgerald uses the character of Daisy Buchanan, to convey to the reader, that despite having all the material belongings that one might envy her for, this does not equate to happiness and in fact results in dissatisfaction, as we see that underneath her visage, she is a emotionless, spiteful and some would go as far to call her cruel, for her actions. This mirrors many in today’s society, that like Daisy have all that they could ever want in a monetary sense, but they are shown that this leads to ennui, and a boring life.
Tom Buchanan, is the large, muscular husband of Daisy, and another member of the East Egg social class. Despite his status as one of the most disliked characters within Fitzgerald’s Jazz age masterpiece, due to his abusive and controlling nature, he still is implemented with poise by the author, to demonstrate important lessons to the reader. Introduced as a brutish, physically imposing figure, Tom seeks to find purpose in life by elevating himself above those who lack the “old money” status that he possesses, while also using his “nordic heritage” to find a point of difference, in his jaded unitinetersting life. Nick comments “Something was nibbling at his stale ideas, as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.” Tom wishes to find his own purpose in life, that he has not found through an abundance of money and material possessions. He is often greatly disliked by the reader, for his racist ideas and a brutish controlling personality, but in reality the other members of his social niche are not too dissimilar, but the difference is Tom displays his thoughts and ideas outwardly and is unafraid of being who he is, largely because he is unafraid of the worthless opinions of those who he would deem to be of less worth than himself anyway.
The author uses the much-despised character to show his audience that financial security does not provide someone with honest and pure morals. Like Tom, there are a countless number of members of the higher class in our societies, who struggle with their identity and often look down on others, because it gives them something to do as they believe they are “set apart,” from those less privileged than themselves. This belief is just strange, and is responsible for a great deal of animosity directed towards Tom, by the reader.
A third and final character that may be disliked by the audience, but one that still teaches valuable and insightful lessons to the reader is Jay Gatsby, who’s desire to retain the approval of Daisy is the focal point of the entire narrative. However despite his intentions, one could question the motives behind Gatsby’s decision to focus his entire life towards gaining Daisy’s favour, and also the means that he achieves his newfound wealth, through the illegal sale of alcohol during prohibition. Gatsby is also not immune to the same ideals that corrupt his own warped version of the American Dream, and that continue to corrupt many in our real world society. “It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy-- It increased her value in his eyes.” He is revealed to have these unrealistic expectations towards obtaining acceptance into the society that Daisy is a part of, as he believes that this is the path to a life of true purpose.
Nick speculates “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.” Gatsby devotes his existence towards this, and fails to appreciate anything else in life, or allow any meaningful relationships in his life to form, because he is so focused on one thing. Fitzgerald uses Gatsby as a character that many may decide to not like, but the undeniability of his dream remains constant despite any judgement from an onlooker. But this quote also illustrates the danger of holding onto something for so long, that you fail to appreciate all that is around you, that is so relevant in today’s society as we are constantly exposed to social media and advertisements, taking our focus away from what we should be thankful for, and trying to drive us towards material pursuits, that offer nothing but emptiness.
Within F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notable 1925 novel “The Great Gatsby,” there are several characters that can be easily disliked by the reader. These include Tom and Daisy Buchanan, along with Jay Gatsby himself. Daisy shows the hollow and empty lives lived by those who are seemingly “blessed” with extreme wealth, condemned to eternal mediocrity in their own eyes, as in Daisy’s words, “I’ve been everywhere and I’ve seen everything and I’ve done everything.” Tom, provides an outwardly expressed example of a man, who is searching for a reason to keep living, despite having all that he could possibly want. Fitzgerald purposefully uses The Buchanans to critique his own society, one that has endured in many ways to today’s. Gatsby’s dream of success, built through questionable morals, brings about eventual disappointment in all possible outcomes. While none of these characters are grateful, and happy for what they already possess, which is another reason to suggest why they can be so despised, as we can often see reflections of ourselves through them. We still see a search for this purpose through money and belongings, and even Gatsby is no different, as he too searches for the same thing that unbeknownst to him, Tom and Daisy are still yet to find, which is a purpose. The sooner that society begins to look around, instead of reaching out, the sooner we will find that greater wider purpose.