The Great Gatsby

Explain the difference between what material objects mean to Gatsby and what they mean to others?

Chapter 5 of the Great Gatsby

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Gatsby, in his extreme insecurity about class, cannot believe that anyone would befriend him if he did not possess a mansion and make several million dollars per year. Fitzgerald seems to bitterly affirm this insecurity, given the fact that Gatsby was abandoned by Daisy because of his poverty, and remains ostracized by the East Eggers even after his success. In the world of the novel, only Nick does not make friendships based upon class.

The gross materialism of the East and West Egg areas explains the obsessive care that Gatsby takes in his reunion with Daisy. The afternoon is given over to an ostentatious display of wealth: he shows Daisy his extensive collection of British antiques and takes her on a tour of his wardrobe. Gatsby himself is dressed in gold and silver. His Gothic mansion is described as looking like the citadel of a feudal lord. Nearly everything in the house is imported from England (the scene in which Gatsby shows Daisy his stock of English shirts is one of the most famous in American literature). Fitzgerald implies that Gatsby is attempting to live the life of a European aristocrat in the New World of America. This, Fitzgerald suggests, is a misguided anachronism: America committed itself to progress and equality in abandoning the old aristocracy. To go back to such rigidly defined class distinctions would be retrograde and barbaric. This is reinforced by the fact that the major proponent of such ideas is Tom Buchanan, who is clearly a brute.

Daisy, too, ceases to play the part of a world-weary sophisticate upon her reunion with Gatsby. She weeps when he shows her his collection of sumptuous English shirts, and seems genuinely overjoyed at his success. In short, Gatsby transforms her; she becomes almost human. Daisy is more sympathetic in this chapter than she is at any other point in the novel.