In the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one subject that comes up time and time again is money.
Money seemed all-important to people, whether they are from old money, such as Tom and Daisy, new money, such as Jay Gatsby and Meyer Wolfsheim, or have no money, such as George and Myrtle Wilson.
Wealth and societal class were central subjects to the novel, and the author spoke eloquently about these matters through his characters.
Fitzgerald definitely saw first hand the division that money played in the lives of people. He was unable to marry the first woman he loved because he was poor at the time, and she was wealthy.
These aren’t such obstacles 100 years later, but some themes remain the same ( discover what is the main theme of The Great Gatsby ).
Each character in this American novel has something to say about money, wealth, or their lack of it!
Nick Carraway’s Quotes about Money and Wealth
On the start of his journey towards earning wealth, Nick rents a cottage in West Egg, a place in Long Island, where people with “new money” live. Nick is probably trying to make it on his own and doesn’t see the sense in spending money on a big mansion just for himself.
Is Nick’s Family Wealthy?
While Nick never says very much about his family’s own wealth, he must come from a family that is very well off since he attended Yale.
Nick does say that his family owned some hardware stores. He is also related to Daisy Buchanan, who is from old money. So while Nick may not be on the same wealth scale as Tom and Daisy, he isn’t poor like George Wilson ( read George Wilson Quotes ).
In the very first chapter, Nick hints at the family wealth with this quote:
In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Nick also explains a bit about how he came to New York that summer- to learn the bond business and hopefully earn his own fortune.
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today.
[…] Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go east and learn the bond business.
Nick walks a delicate balance in this novel, living with the newly rich, friends with old money, and trying to make a name for himself in the big city.
Discovering the Surprising Parallels Between Nick Carraway and F. Scott Fitzgerald
Perhaps Nick’s best quote comes to us from Chapter 5:
“Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.”
Nick’s comment about American’s not liking being seen as poor rings as true today as when this was written nearly 100 years ago.
Jay Gatsby’s Quotes about Money and Wealth
Gatsby tells many stories about his past, and they don’t always add up.
In Chapter 4, he talks about coming from a wealthy family:
“I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West — all dead now.”
However, in Chapter 5, Gatsby gets caught in one of his lies and tries his best to get out of it. When Nick asks what happened to the wealth he supposedly inherited, he is quick to say:
“… I lost most of it in the big panic – the panic of the war.”
Why Does Gatsby Say Daisy’s Voice Is Full of Money?
In Chapter 7, Gatsby speaks about Daisy’s voice:
“Her voice is full of money.”
It was only then that Nick realized what made Daisy’s voice so charming- it has “the cymbals’ song” of money.
Daisy’s voice reeks of money, class, and old-world charm. That’s part of the reason Gatsby is in love with her. Gatsby is obsessed not only with Daisy’s love but also with wealth.
This is one aspect of the novel that shows how people are obsessed with the American dream as Gatsby pursues Daisy’s love and wealth in equal intensities.
Myrtle Wilson’s Quotes about Money and Wealth
What Reason Did Myrtle Give for Marrying George Wilson?
In the second chapter, Myrtle tells Nick:
“I married him because I thought he was a gentleman… I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”
Disappointed that her husband hasn’t given her the lifestyle she wants, she deems George as unworthy of her, despite the fact that Myrtle has no money either!
“I knew right away I made a mistake. He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in, and never told me about it, and the man came after it one day when he was out…
I gave it to him and then I lay down and cried… all afternoon.”
How Does Myrtle’s Personality Change in Nick’s Observation?
During the party at Tom and Myrtle’s apartment, Nick notices how Myrtle’s personality changed.
Myrtle loves playing the part of a rich socialite, and Nick tells us in Chapter 2:
Mrs. Wilson had changed her costume some time before and was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffon, which gave out a continual rustle as she swept about the room.
With the influence of the dress, her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur.
Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment, and as she expanded, the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.
Myrtle only seems to value money, although she has none. Her hard-working and loyal husband George is a second thought to her.
Tom Buchanan’s Quotes about Money and Wealth
Tom Buchanan is extremely wealthy and comes from a family of old money ( see quotes about Tom Buchanan ). He has no need or desire to work and doesn’t seem to have many plans for his cash other than philandering with women and playing polo.
In Chapter 7, when Tom discovers that Jay Gatsby and Daisy have been having an affair, he hypocritically pounces on them-
“I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out…
Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.”
How Does Nick Describe Wealthy People Like Tom and Daisy?
In Chapter 9, Nick makes an observation about the super wealthy, such as Tom and Daisy.
“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.”
In Chapter 7, when Tom and Gatsby have it out over Daisy, Tom makes it known that his social status alone should be enough to keep Daisy by his side:
“She is not leaving me, certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger.”
What Quote Shows Tom’s Bias about People of Lower Societal Class?
Tom also seems to think that money, ‘breeding’, and class are all that matter:
“You see, we were born different. It’s in our blood. And nothing that you do or say or steal… or dream up can ever change that.”
Poor Tom. At least he has his money to keep himself warm.
Tom Buchanan: A Character Analysis
Daisy Buchanan’s Quotes about Money and Wealth
Daisy may have valued love over money in her youth, but this changed over the 5 years that she was married to Tom.
She had the chance to wait for Gatsby, but did as she was told and married the rich man who would support her comfortably and offer her the upper class social life she was accustomed to.
Why Does Daisy Cry Over Gatsby’s Shirts?
In Chapter 5, when Gatsby and Daisy finally meet again, Daisy cries when she sees the many colored shirts that Gatsby owns.
Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily.
“They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such – such beautiful shirts before.”
Of course, Daisy has seen beautiful shirts before. More than the shirts, she’s crying for the lost love that she gave up for money and comfort.
What Passage Shows that Daisy Is Appalled by New Money People?
In Chapter 6, when Daisy and Tom attend one of Gatsby’s parties in West Egg, she is disgusted.
She was appalled by West Egg… by its raw vigor that chafed… and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short-cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.
Daisy may have loved Gatsby, but she couldn’t get used to the idea of living in West Egg with the other vulgar newly rich people.
What Are Examples of Daisy’s Carelessness in the Novel?
In Chapter 8, after she kills Myrtle with Gatsby’s car, Daisy says to hell with love and falls in line behind Tom. She’s fine with letting Gatsby take the fall for her recklessness and forgetting everything about Gatsby.
It’s a repeat of what happened five years ago. When Gatsby left for the war and took some time coming back, she chose to forget about him.
Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season; suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen men, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed.
And all the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately – and the decision must be made by some force – of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality – that was close at hand.”
While one might feel sorry for Daisy’s ambivalence, she’s much more shrewd than she leaves the reader to believe.
Nick establishes himself as a man of means but not of extreme wealth or extreme arrogance as his friend Tom is guilty of.
Nick tries to live a humble life and wants to earn his own money, something Tom Buchanan would never dream of.
Daisy and Tom are both moved and protected by their vast wealth. Anytime things get too sticky or complicated (such as moving from Chicago after Tom’s affair goes public), the couple simply goes on extended vacations or set up a residence elsewhere.
Gatsby’s notoriety may come from his wealth and enormous parties, but his main goal in life is to regain Daisy Buchanan. The sad truth is that Gatsby had many acquaintances, but his only true friend is Nick Carraway.
Even the love of Daisy Buchanan is fickle when she is forced to choose. In the Great Gatsby, money drives the plot and explains the actions of nearly every character in the novel.
In the end, old money buys protection, new money doesn’t buy happiness, and no money gets you a coffin. Or get people to attend your funeral, as was the case with Gatsby.
Written by Kerry Wisby – GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Owner & Founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com
Kerry Wisby, a former teacher with a BA in English, is the founder of GatsbyFlapperGirl.com. With a passion for all things 1920s, including The Great Gatsby novel, her website is the ultimate source for Roaring Twenties fashion, history, and party ideas. Read more about Kerry here.