The Truths of Happiness, Love, and Marriage in “The Great Gatsby”


Aumryannah Kean, Reporter

About a year ago, I got the chance to read a classic in literature- The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby was published in April of 1924, some 97 years ago. Some might say it’s an awfully old book, yet many people still read it or re-read it every year. Here’s my question for you, does something lose its relevance just because there are other options? There are other things to do besides reading books, countless other things. But it’s not about what the thing is, it’s about what it means. There are countless movies and books, some old and some new- what keeps movies and books loved is how they relate to people, how they can evoke so many emotions and sometimes make you seriously think about life. The Great Gatsby isn’t a timeless classic because it’s about some rich man named Gatsby that somehow got ‘Great’ added to his name because of his richness, it’s a timeless classic because it shows you how not-so-perfect being rich can be- that no matter how much money you have, that money can’t buy your happiness. And sometimes there are some serious issues going on behind those fake curtains. Which especially after the events of last year, I think many of us can relate to in some way or another. 

Humans are emotional beings. Our emotions are what help us survive. Negative emotions such as fear and anger help us get away from danger or defend ourselves, like fight or flight for example. Positive emotions like enjoyment and hope help us connect with others and build our capacity to cope when things go wrong. Everyone feels a wide range of emotions every day and it’s okay to sometimes feel those negative emotions- denying such emotions would be to deny the human condition. Happiness is something that everyone feels in their life, it could be from something as simple as receiving a compliment to getting married to the love of your life. Happiness is something that every human craves, happiness comes in all sorts of forms and it’s different for everybody. Matthieu Ricard, biochemist turned Buddhist monk once said “Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.” There is always the fight over whether or not money can buy you happiness. Some think once you become rich and famous-or just rich- that you’ll finally be constantly and truly happy. Yes, the money you have can buy you countless things that make you happy, but once they’re gone you’re no longer happy- no longer satisfied. That money and/or fame only gave you temporary happiness. Themes of greed and empty pursuits of pleasure are everywhere in The Great Gatsby. Tom Buchanan is a great example of a greedy person. He’s greedy for pleasure and money, he married Daisy, yet is having an affair with Myrtle. With all that Tom is and has, he just wants more. When his life with Daisy stopped satisfying him, he added Myrtle to the picture that way he could have two lives that fulfilled his greed and pleasure in different ways. We can all think of someone we know personally or not, who is greedy for love. Those who cheat and break hearts constantly. Even Gatsby himself struggled with his empty pursuit of happiness and pleasure. When Nick told him “You can’t repeat the past!” Gatsby said “Can’t repeat the past?.. Why of course you can!” Gatsby has an unrealistic desire to recreate his past, so he can attain a perfect future. Even something as simple as changing his name to Jay Gatsby from Jimmy Gatz is a perfect example. He thought the name Jimmy Gatz was lower-class. His new name gave him a new identity which helped reflect his new lifestyle. As we grow, humans do anything or almost anything they can to create their perfect image. Some people change their image for others, even society shows boys, girls, women, and me, what the perfect “them” should look like, and some people take that very seriously. Both men tried to fulfill their greed and/or empty pursuit for pleasure to try and fulfill/attain happiness. 

Love and marriage is an interesting topic to think about within the book, there’s nothing fairytale about it. There are two marriages within the book, but there is no love within them. One example being Tom and Daisy Buchanan, and the other is George and Myrtle Wilson. Tom and Myrtle are having an affair, both being greedy people and trying to fuel their empty pursuits of pleasure. Myrtle had explained that when she married George, she saw him as “a gentleman”, which can suggest that she hoped he’d raise her class status. Class influences almost everything within the book. Myrtle mentions in regards to her husband George, whom she mistook for someone of better “breeding” saying, “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.” Myrtle loves to party, and with Tom’s class status and desire for fun, that helps fulfill her wants. The only reasons why Tom and Daisy haven’t divorced is because of their shared class status, desire for fun, and material possessions. Daisy knew about an affair that Tom had within a year of their wedding and she even almost decided not to marry Tom the day before their wedding. Myrtle keeps Tom busy and with Daisy slowly “falling” in love with Gatsby, which keeps them both busy- chasing empty pursuits of pleasure and happiness. Gatsby didn’t even feel he could make his move on Daisy until he got a certain amount of fortune. Yet Daisy doesn’t love Gatsby, she loves the idea of it (same as Gatsby). All the material things she gets and the fun, pleasurable things they do together. Nick himself ends up dating Jordan Baker, yet Nick recalls “I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity.” That “tender curiosity” could be the closest thing to actual love within the entire book. 

No matter how old this book is, it will always be a classic. Because it deals with happiness, money, love and marriage, the American dream, and war, anyone can relate to the book to some extent. The book makes you think, it makes you look at your own life. Hopefully after reading The Great Gatsby people who have the false idea of what it’s like to be rich, will change their mind/ the way they look at it. Or people will realize that love and marriage isn’t a Disney fairytale. The characters in The Great Gatsby are perfect examples of what life is really like behind the curtains that rich people put up in order to look a certain way to fit into their class and the picture that they are upheld to keep.