The Tragic Consequences of Excessive Materialism in the Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald


The Tragic Consequences of Excessive Materialism in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


Step into the world of the Roaring Twenties, where dreams are made, fortunes are lost, and the American Dream takes a dark and dangerous turn. Set in the 1920s during the Roaring Twenties, The Great Gatsby is about the lives of wealthy people in New York. This novel explores themes of the American Dream, wealth, and love. The novel is narrated by Nick Carraway, who is involved in the lives of his rich neighbors, like the mysterious Jay Gatsby, whose pursuit of wealth and status ultimately leads to tragedy. In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays the corruption of the American Dream through the characters' pursuit of wealth and status, demonstrating the destructive effects of excessive materialism on society and the individual during the 1920s.

Through the portrayal of characters driven by materialistic desires, Fitzgerald highlights the corruption of the American Dream. In Gatsby and Nick’s conversation regarding Tom, Nick said that Tom and Daisy "were careless people" because "they smashed up things and creatures". Then they "retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness" and "let other people clean up the mess they had made." (Fitzgerald 191). This conversation exposes how Tom and Daisy's pursuit of wealth and status has led them to become careless and destructive, causing harm to those around them without any sense of responsibility or guilt. Gatsby disturbs Daisy and Tom's marriage in order to regain her lost love: “The two come from comparable backgrounds in terms of status, wealth, and social milieu: prosperous families at the top of the social hierarchy. Daisy’s physical beauty and social gifts are as striking as Tom’s wealth, ensuring her social success”(“American Classics”). By disrupting Daisy's marriage, Gatsby is ignoring the predictable patterns of mate selection based on social background and material wealth. It emphasizes the significance of social success and physical attractiveness in this society.

 Fitzgerald exposes the destructive effects on both society and individuals during the 1920s in the United States. During a conversation between Gatsby and Nick, Gatsby reveals his belief that material possessions can secure love and happiness. He says, "She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!" (Fitzgerald 130). This conversation highlights Gatsby's misguided belief that wealth and social status can rewrite the past and win back Daisy's love. His lavish parties and extravagant lifestyle are all fueled by the belief that wealth and social status will lead to happiness and accomplishment. However, Gatsby's pursuit of the American Dream ultimately leads to his downfall, as his obsession with materialism blinds him to the true values of love and friendship. The author describes the background of the 1920s: “The decade before survived the cataclysm of World War I and a deadly global influenza epidemic. This brought about a cynical post-war mindset: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” At the same time, long-simmering efforts like the temperance movement rose to the surface that led to high-minded laws that brought about unforeseen consequences and made law breakers out of the everyday citizen” (“American Fads and Crazes: 1920s”). This quote highlights the impact of historical events and societal changes on the characters and their behavior in The Great Gatsby. It underscores the theme of societal destruction between civil norms and individual desires.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald conveys a critique of the corrupted American Dream and exposes the destruction of excessive materialism. The author highlights the corruption of the American Dream through characters obsessed with material desires. He exposes the devastating effects on both society and individuals in the 1920s United States. By examining how excessive materialism and the pursuit of wealth can lead to moral decay and the breakdown of personal relationships, we gain insight into the consequences of valuing material possessions over human connections.

 Jina Choi

Jina Choi is originally from South Korea. She enjoys reading and writing in her free time, as well as travelling, and spending time with friends and family. 


Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2004.

Saunders, Judith  P. “American Classics: Evolutionary Perspectives on JSTOR.” Jstor, 2018,

Thomas, Heather. “American Fads and Crazes: 1920s: Headlines and Heroes.” The Library of Congress, 24 Jan. 2023,


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