AP Lang Pd.6
November 23, 2014
New Money Is Not Always the Best Money
In the 1920’s, whether it be how they acted or how they are perceived, a person’s legacy was heavily dependent on the type of society they were born into, old money or new money. Those with old money, such as Tom Buchanan, wore their wealth and superiority behind a veneer of civility while those from new money, such as Gatsby, were gaudy and irresponsibly flaunted his money. Old money oozed of a secure and a traditional lifestyle, such as the one Daisy led. New money may have seemed appealing at first, but underneath lies a risky and unsecure lifestyle. Like the hordes of partiers at Gatsby’s extravaganzas melting into the dawn, new money could disappear just as easily. This is primarily because new money was achieved through crime, resulting in dirty money. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author of The Great Gatsby, uses the symbolism of West Egg versus East Egg to represent the underlying theme that old versus new money dramatically shapes how individuals act and react. West Egg, where Gatsby lives, represented new wealth. It was described as “the less fashionable of the two” (9) implying that East Egg, Tom Buchanan, was better. The blatant differences between West Egg and East Egg symbolizes an understatedly opulent lifestyle versus a garish lifestyle, respectively. Tom and Daisy live among prominent established wealthy families in a "red and white Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the bay” (11) with "wine-colored rug[s]". While just as impressive as Gatsby's “imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normady” (9), it is clearly a more tasteful and a low-key reminder of their bottomless wealth. Tom struts with confidence because he knows that he will have money throughout his life and he does not need to worry about losing it. Tom, knowing that he symbolizes Daisy’s security, states “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife” (137). Gatsby, knowing that Tom’s statement was true, constantly tried to be a “somebody” by wearing his money like a flashing neon sign. The 1920’s was a time for everyone to flaunt their money. As the stock market rose, the lavishness with which people drowned in rose as well. Old money did not buy into the latest craze and continued to live their traditional and conservative lives. On East Egg, the wealthy were kept separate from the money-grabbers in New York City while those in West Egg desperately tried to emulate East Egg. After World War I, the surging economy turned the 1920’s into a time of easy money, allowing people to make money with just a lift of a finger. With the influx of money in the economy, growing one’s wealth was simple yet often illegal. Aware that new money garnered little respect, Gatsby simply told everyone, including Daisy that he suddenly “came into a good deal of money” (65). However, his new money status was obvious from the way he threw “gleaming, dazzling parties” (188) and bought “gorgeous cars” (68) for attention. During the 1920’s, since it was basically possible to buy your way into wealth, there was little real respect for people like Gatsby. They were good sources of entertainment, but ultimately not people you wanted to be associated with. Tom, understanding the corrupt ways Gatsby obtained his wealth, tries to convince Daisy that Gatsby is nothing more than a peasant with a fancy suit. Daisy begins to register that what she thought was silver was actually just shiny tinfoil. Gatsby had been manipulating her with his nouveau riches and she ultimately remains with Tom and the security of her extravagant lifestyle.
This is similar to citizens during