The Great Gatsby Materialism Quotes: The Dark Side of Being Wealthy

Last Updated: November 7th, 2023 by Kerry Wisby (Teacher-BA English Literature, 1920s & Great Gatsby Expert)

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece The Great Gatsby, the opulent world of the Jazz Age unfolds with a dazzling veneer of wealth, luxury, and excess.

The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and narrated by Nick Carraway

At its heart, the novel serves as a poignant commentary on the corrosive nature of materialism. In today’s article, I want to dive into the profound materialism quotes that are scattered throughout the novel.

Together, we can uncover their significance and shed some light on the underlying themes that I believe will resonate with readers to this day.

Fitzgerald’s narrative, set against the backdrop of the Roaring 1920s, introduces us to Jay Gatsby. This mysterious millionaire throws extravagant parties at his lavish mansion, aiming to win back the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan.

Yet, beneath the glittering façade of champagne-soaked parties and ostentatious displays of affluence lies a searing critique of a society consumed by the pursuit of wealth.

Some Quotes and Examples of Materialism in The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a treasure trove of examples showcasing the corrosive effects of materialism on its characters.

  • One example would be Jay Gatsby, the novel’s enigmatic protagonist, who epitomizes the pursuit of material wealth as he throws extravagant parties in the hope of winning back his long-lost love, Daisy Buchanan. His mansion, adorned with opulent furnishings and attended to by legions of servants, symbolizes the excesses of the era.

Jay Gatsby Materialism in The Great Gatsby

In one of Gatsby’s tales about the person he wants to project, he claims: 

After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe — Paris, Venice, Rome — collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago.

  • Daisy Buchanan herself is another prime example. She marries Tom Buchanan, an extremely wealthy man, despite the fact that she’s in love with Gatsby. This showcases how societal pressures and the allure of material comfort can lead one to forsake true love for financial security. Nick Carraway describes her voice as “full of money,” highlighting the way materialism pervades Daisy’s very essence.

    It was full of money — that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…

  • Perhaps the best example would be Tom Buchanan. With his wealth and sense of entitlement, he is the blatant embodiment of materialism. He flaunts his affluence through his extramarital affairs and unbridled consumption, caring little for the consequences of his actions.

description of Tom's wealth

One description of Tom’s wealth goes:

His family were enormously wealthy — even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach — but now he’d left Chicago and come East in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance, he’d brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake 7 Forest. it was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that.

In fact, Tom and Daisy make a perfect couple, as Nick observes:

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…

  • Even Jordan Baker, the professional golfer, is driven by material success. Jordan’s ambition to win at all costs reflects the overarching theme that permeates the novel—success is measured in terms of wealth and social status. While she doesn’t say it outright, it appears that Jordan is also on the lookout for a rich husband so that she no longer has to worry about staying in shape to play golf.
  • The setting of the novel itself, the glittering and glamorous world of New York City, West Egg and East Egg, underscores the materialistic culture of the time.
  • Parties, extravagant cars, and expensive clothing are constant symbols of status and excess. The conspicuous consumption of alcohol during the Prohibition era further emphasizes the link between materialism and moral decay.

In short, The Great Gatsby is replete with examples of materialism, each character and element of the narrative serving as a reflection of society’s insatiable appetite for wealth and status, ultimately highlighting the emptiness that can accompany the relentless pursuit of material success.

The materialism quotes in this novel unveil the characters’ obsession with status symbols, revealing the hollowness of their dreams and the moral decay that accompanies unchecked ambition.

The examples and quotes of materialism are quite rampant in this novel, and it appears that author F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to emphasize how the sole pursuit of wealth leads to pain and destruction in more ways than one.

How Did Fitzgerald Criticize Materialism in The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s critique of materialism in The Great Gatsby is multifaceted and searing!

Through the lives and actions of his characters, he lays bare the shallowness and moral decay that accompany the relentless pursuit of wealth and status in the Jazz Age.

Keep in mind that Fitzgerald lived in these times, so he had first-hand experience and knowledge of the pursuit of materialism.

First and foremost, Fitzgerald paints a vivid portrait of the excesses of materialism through the opulent lifestyles of characters like Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan.

Gatsby’s extravagant parties and his mansion, which is replete with luxurious trappings, serve as glittering symbols of superficiality and the hollowness of wealth when disconnected from genuine human connections. Despite the number of people who come to enjoy Gatsby’s parties and the ostentatious display of his wealth, the man literally has no friends other than his neighbor Nick Carraway.

Daisy, Tom, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan Party at a Hotel

The characters themselves are also deeply flawed by their materialistic desires. Daisy Buchanan, who ultimately chooses material security over love, represents the moral compromises individuals make in their quest for affluence.

Daisy’s husband Tom Buchanan is ripe with arrogance, and his infidelity underscores the moral degradation that often accompanies a sense of entitlement bred by material success.

Furthermore, Fitzgerald uses the backdrop of the Prohibition era to highlight the hypocrisy of a society that flaunts its wealth while engaging in illegal activities. The rampant drinking and decadence serve as a commentary on the moral bankruptcy of a materialistic culture.

In short, Fitzgerald criticizes materialism by exposing the moral and emotional bankruptcy it can lead to. Through his characters and the world they inhabit, he offers a cautionary tale about the corrosive impact of valuing material wealth above all else, delivering a timeless message that remains relevant in today’s consumer-driven society.

How Is Materialism Portrayed Overall in The Great Gatsby?

Materialism is a pervasive and damning theme in this novel, which Fitzgerald emphasizes using his critical lens through which the characters and society are examined.

one of Gatsby's parties at his mansion

The Great Gatsby paints a fairly bleak portrait of the Jazz Age, highlighting how the pursuit of material wealth has led to overall moral decay and disillusionment.

Throughout the narrative, opulent displays of wealth and extravagance are literally everywhere, from Gatsby’s lavish parties to Tom Buchanan’s grand mansion.

These symbols of materialism emphasize the shallow values of the characters and the society they inhabit, where superficial appearances and excess take precedence over genuine human connections and moral integrity.

The characters themselves are also deeply affected by materialism. Jay Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of wealth to win back Daisy illustrates the notion that material possessions can buy happiness and love.

Daisy’s choice to marry Tom for his wealth over Gatsby for love underscores the moral compromises made in the pursuit of material security.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan

Tom’s arrogance and extramarital affairs reflect the sense of entitlement and moral bankruptcy that often accompany material success.

Furthermore, the backdrop of the Prohibition era, characterized by illegal drinking and the rampant pursuit of wealth, underscores the hypocrisy and moral erosion associated with materialism.

This novel serves as a scathing critique of materialism, depicting a society where the relentless pursuit of wealth and status has corroded values, led to moral decay, and left individuals ultimately disillusioned and unfulfilled.

What Quotes Show that Gatsby Is Materialistic?

While Jay Gatsby may initially appear as the embodiment of the American Dream, a closer examination of his character and actions reveals his own materialistic tendencies, which are evident through several notable quotes and moments in the novel.

Gatsby's belief that material wealth can bring back the past

One key quote that underscores Gatsby’s materialism is his obsession with the past, particularly his relentless pursuit of Daisy Buchanan. He says,

“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”

This quote illustrates his belief that by accumulating wealth and throwing lavish parties, he can recreate a bygone era and win Daisy back through material displays of opulence. It reflects his materialistic belief that money and possessions can buy happiness, gain him his lost love, and recreate lost moments.

Gatsby’s extravagant parties themselves serve as a testament to his materialistic nature. He throws these gatherings not just for social enjoyment but to flaunt his wealth and draw Daisy’s attention. His opulent lifestyle, symbolized by his mansion and luxurious possessions, is another indicator of his materialistic pursuits.

Gatsby’s mansion, which he happily shows to Daisy as proof of his wealth, is described in Chapter 5 as having “a toilet set of pure dull gold”. His bedroom closet was said to hold “two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high”.

Nick narrates that Gatsby Is Materialistic

It wasn’t enough for Gatsby to simply show Daisy and Nick his closet, his actions, as Nick narrates, also say quite a bit.

He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher…

Additionally, his close association with the shady character Meyer Wolfsheim, who is involved in organized crime and bootlegging, demonstrates Gatsby’s willingness to engage in morally questionable activities to amass wealth. This association reflects his prioritization of material success above ethical considerations.

When Nick hesitates as he describes Daisy’s voice, Gatsby completes the sentence for him, saying:

“Her voice is full of money.”

Some critics doubt Gatsby’s intentions in pursuing Daisy, suggesting that he’s after her wealth, and that’s a point for debate.

Jay describes Daisy's voice in Great Gatsby novel

Even if Jay Gatsby have noble intentions and a genuine affection for Daisy, his relentless pursuit of material wealth, extravagant parties, and questionable associations reveal his own materialistic nature.

These quotes and actions collectively highlight Gatsby’s belief in the power of material possessions to shape his life and relationships, ultimately contributing to the novel’s critique of the destructive nature of materialism.

What Quotes Show that Daisy Is Materialistic?

Daisy Buchanan’s materialistic nature is palpable throughout the novel, and several quotes within the novel vividly illustrate her fixation on wealth and possessions.

Daisy's quote showing her materialism

One notable quote that encapsulates Daisy’s materialism is when she talks to Nick about her daughter, Pammy, in the first chapter, saying:

I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.

Here, Daisy expresses her belief that a woman’s greatest asset is her beauty, which can be leveraged to secure material comfort. This statement underscores her superficial outlook, suggesting that she values external appearances and material security over intelligence or personal development.

Daisy’s response to Gatsby’s wealth and opulent parties also provides insight into her materialistic tendencies. When she first sees Gatsby’s mansion in Chapter 5, she exclaims:

It’s so pretty, but we haven’t looked at it long enough!

This fleeting comment tells the reader that her penchant for the superficial, as she fixates on the aesthetics rather than the substance. Her excitement about the extravagant parties and the lavish lifestyle Gatsby offers her is indicative of her materialistic desires.

Daisy’s decision to marry the wealthy Tom Buchanan in the first place, despite her love for Gatsby, reinforces her materialistic choices. She chooses financial security and societal status over genuine love, highlighting her willingness to sacrifice personal happiness for material comfort.

In one scene, she seems deeply touched upon seeing Gatsby’s shirts and sobs:

They’re such beautiful shirts.

It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such — such beautiful shirts before.

Daisy’s character in The Great Gatsby is depicted as deeply materialistic, driven by a desire for external validation, luxury, and financial security.

These quotes within the novel collectively paint a portrait of a woman whose values prioritize materialism over deeper, more meaningful aspects of life, ultimately contributing to the novel’s critique of the hollowness of the American Dream during the Jazz Age.

Quotes That Show Tom Is Materialistic?

Tom Buchanan’s materialistic nature is also prominently displayed through various quotes and actions throughout this novel.

Tom Buchanan's materialism

One of the most telling quotes underscoring Tom’s materialism is his assertion in the very first chapter:

Civilization’s going to pieces… I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things.

In this statement, Tom implies that the breakdown of civilization is a consequence of societal changes that threaten his privileged position. His pessimism arises from the fear of losing his material wealth and social status.

Another notable quote that exemplifies Tom’s materialistic mindset is also clear in the first chapter when he states:

I’ve got a nice place here…

It belonged to Demaine, the oil man.

Tom’s continual emphasis on his possessions, including his mansion, cars, and polo ponies, and which wealthy person owned the property before, reflects his obsession with material wealth. He uses his wealth as a source of self-worth and to assert dominance over others, particularly those he deems beneath him.

Tom’s mistress, a working-class woman named Myrtle Wilson, also speaks to his materialism, as he indulges her with luxury her husband could never buy.

Tom Buchanan and Myrtle Wilson

His involvement with Myrtle (wife of George Wilson), is driven by his desire for pleasure and the gratification of his materialistic desires. This only illustrating how he prioritizes his own hedonistic pursuits over moral considerations or fidelity to his wife, Daisy.

In Chapter 2, Tom talks condescendingly to a man selling puppies.

Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it.

This dismissive talk is typical of rich people who feel that others are beneath them.

Tom Buchanan’s character in The Great Gatsby is marked by his materialistic values, evident in his obsession with possessions, fear of losing his privileged position, and willingness to indulge in immoral behavior to satisfy his desires.

Quotes That Show Jordan Baker Is Materialistic?

Jordan Baker’s materialistic inclinations are subtly woven into her character with various quotes and actions providing insights into her values and priorities.

Jordan Baker's quote about careless people

Perhaps the number one quote that underscores Jordan’s materialism is her remark about carelessness in Chapter 3:

I hate careless people. That’s why I like you.

On the surface, this quote may not appear materialistic, but a deeper look at this statement reveals her appreciation for individuals who can afford to be careless, suggesting that she associates financial security with the luxury of not worrying about consequences.

Jordan’s overall attitude toward relationships is also indicative of her materialistic perspective. She engages in a romantic relationship with Nick Carraway, the novel’s narrator, partly because of his social standing and financial stability.

Her decision to pursue this relationship aligns with her desire for material comfort and security, as she views Nick as a means to access a more affluent lifestyle.

Jordan Baker and Nick Carraway in Great Gatsby

Jordan’s career as a professional golfer, a sport often associated with wealth and privilege, also reflects her materialistic pursuits. Her success and participation in this high-status activity align with her desire to maintain a certain social image and financial standing.

While it’s suggested that Jordan would come into a sizeable inheritance at some point in her life, the fact that she appears to be more interested in obtaining a rich husband than working on her golf game is clear in Chapter 3. Nick observes:

Jordan Baker instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest.

She wasn’t able to be at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body.

While Jordan Baker’s materialism may not be as overt as that of some other characters in The Great Gatsby, it is subtly revealed through her attitudes toward carelessness, relationships, and her choice of profession.

Final Summary

In this literary masterpiece, the profound theme of materialism is woven into the very fabric of the narrative.

This article delves into the poignant materialism quotes scattered throughout the novel, shedding light on the characters’ obsessions with wealth, luxury, and the American Dream.

Ultimately, these materialistic quotes in The Great Gatsby provide readers with a window into a society consumed by the allure of wealth and status, delivering a timeless critique of the corrosive nature of materialism and its impact on individuals and their dreams.

The Great Gatsby Materialism Quotes: The Dark Side of Being Wealthy
The Great Gatsby Materialism Quotes: The Dark Side of Being Wealthy
Discover insightful Materialism Quotes in The Great Gatsby, revealing Fitzgerald's commentary on wealth, decadence, and the American Dream
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