There are several key messages in The Great Gatsby – the renowned novel by F Scott Fitzgerald. These messages are mainly portrayed through the characters of Daisy, Tom, and Jay Gatsby, the way they live their lives, and their actions. One of these messages concerns shallowness and the fact that everyone can be prone to frivolity, shallowness, and great gaiety. However, the message is that constant shallowness seldom, if ever, ends well. The tone that Fitzgerald has chosen to show how care-free his characters are is a cheerful and light-hearted one, and this is illustrated through the use of experiences that feel realistic, imagery that is vibrant, and thoughts that are optimistic.
The book’s key character – Tom
Tom – is used to epitomize shallowness Tom’s shallowness is consistently on display, manifested through a hatred and segregation of people of lower class. In one passage, Tom expresses his belief that it is the responsibility of the dominant race – i.e. his own race – to be vigilant so that other races do not take control. This view demonstrates Tom’s belief that people of other races need to be kept in place or “under control” so that his own race can dominate. Essentially, this shows that Tom dislikes of other racial groups and he makes it sound as if these groups do not deserve anything. This is a clear example of the shallowness of Tom’s character since his beliefs are based in the notion of race supremacy. Throughout the entire text, it is constantly apparent that Tom does not like lower class people. His treatment of George Wilson is very poor indeed purely because George comes from a poor community – “The Valley of Ashes.” The shallowness of this character goes well beyond how he acts towards the lower classes and his views of other races. Throughout his affair with the wife of George Wilson, Tom never considers the consequences. Instead, his life is without care and he acts as if there is nothing wrong in his behavior. It can therefore be deduced that Tom is devoid of empathy since he does not care how his actions are affecting his own wife’s life or Wilson’s. There is no emotional gravity to Tom and the author uses his actions to portray the shallowness of his character throughout the book.
As well as Tom, Fitzgerald also uses Daisy (Tom’s wife) to get his message across. Throughout the text, Daisy’s actions are shallow, selfish, and frivolous. She is at first portrayed as virtuous and innocent. However, this view begins to fade early on when the reader hears about Daisy’s daughter. Daisy expresses the wish that her daughter turns into a “beautiful little fool” since she believes this is the best option in life for a girl. This quote demonstrates Daisy’s belief that this world has little value for women and that it is best for them to use their looks to get what they can. Intelligence is of no use to a woman. For herself, Daisy aspires to have the best she can in life but, to get this, she must be shallow. When her visits to Gatsby begin, she is immediately attracted to him when she realizes he is very wealthy. She comments on how beautiful his shirts are and says it makes her sad because she has not seen shirts so beautiful before. This shows that Daisy’s only interest in Gatsby is his material possessions and wealth, and what he can provide. The love they once shared is of no consequence.
Finally, there is Gatsby. It is possible that Jay Gatsby could be perceived as one of books most manipulative, unaware, and shallow characters. He seems to care only about money and material possessions, but he does care about Daisy. His desire and love of material things clouds his judgment. Even though most of his actions concern the acquiring of material things, he does value Daisy more than these things. Over the course of the entire book, Gatsby’s only goal is to win Daisy, and there is nothing he will not do to win her. All his actions are and have been done to achieve this end. His move to West Egg was to be near her. The parties he holds are all in the hope that Daisy will attend. That same quote concerning the beautifulness of the shirts comes up again to demonstrate Gatsby’s shallowness. In inviting Daisy to visit him and letting her see his beautiful possessions, he understands how these will impress her and that she will start to desire him. Therefore, he is making use of material things to tempt Daisy to return to him. In doing this, he is using manipulation to cause Daisy to fall in love over again with him. Throughout the story, he is always manipulating Nick with offers of access to the parties he holds and the chance to make an impression on Jordan. These are all done with the one purpose of getting Daisy to the parties so that Gatsby can get close to her. As mentioned above, Gatsby is a manipulator but not aware of it because of his single-minded desire to win Daisy. These actions reveal his real desires and true personality.
So, as can be seen, The Great Gatsby has many characters. While all are portrayed as different, they are really the same when their goals and desires are exposed. Constant frivolity and shallowness never ends well. The judgment and characters of Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby are all clouded by some type of desire, and it takes their inevitable and eventual fall to hammer home this message.