In F. Scott Fitzgerald s classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, several of the principal characters live mindless, indulgent and irresponsible life styles where consequence is only an afterthought. Indeed, Daisy, Tom and Jordan exhibit a carelessness that exposes the true corruption of the American dream. The social class to which these characters belong allows for them to do as they please and carry on with their selfish actions. Selfishness is also a trait found in other characters within the novel, and this attribute with its resulting carelessness eventually results in tragedy. The vulgar pursuit of wealth during the 1920 s is carried through the text and displayed in various ways by every character s thoughtless attitude.
This corruptive influence of wealth and materialism even directly affects and ruins the lives of the less affluent individuals in the novel. Throughout the book, Tom, Daisy, and Jordan seem to exhibit a position of indifference. They do not portray concern about anything of substance, aside from themselves. Because the inherited social status of these characters has desensitized them to various emotions, they seem disinterested in a world that does not revolve around them.
While these three are the most obviously self-centered, the other characters in the story show their selfishness in more subtle ways. Jordan Baker s careless and deceitful actions throughout the book continually demonstrate the self-absorption that brings about the downfall of every principal character. She was incurably dishonest (63).
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Nick s reaction to her inconsiderate ways displays that his care for others is extremely limited as well. It made no difference to me. Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame really (62).
Nick, although not born into this way of life, illustrates these careless ways appropriately, but to a lesser extent. Unlike the others, however, Nick exhibits some redeem in qualities. When Gatsby dies, he is the only one who seems to care From the start of the novel, Nick accurately characterizes Daisy and Tom as people who, drifted here and there unrest fully wherever people played polo and were rich together (10).
Daisy Buchanan, accustomed to wealth, adoration, and luxury, prompts Gatsby s murder with her own careless actions. Her inattentive driving directly causes the death of her husband s mistress Myrtle Wilson, and ultimately this reckless behavior inadvertently causes the murder of Gatsby.
Because of her excessively self-indulgent behavior, Daisy proceeds to bring about the destruction of the two people she had loved, Tom and Gatsby. Along with the other main figures in this novel, Tom shows an unyielding disregard for his wife or others. Tom s heedless affair with Myrtle Wilson illustrates their lack of concern for both Daisy and George. The relationship is painfully obvious to Daisy and in the end, causes Myrtle s death and agonizing consequences for her husband. George s realization of this affair and its traumatic aftermath is shown after the accident. It was the man in that car.
She ran out to speak to him and he wouldn t stop (166) he says. This sent him on his unrelenting pursuit of self-destruction. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess that had made. (187).
Nick correctly realizes that these superficial characters live in a completely self-centered world. These people have been born into a life of comfort and contentment but are unwittingly causing the displeasure and unhappiness of others.
Gatsby, however, was not a product of this wealth driven society originally. Because of his different background, Gatsby, although completely obsessed with his fantastical romance with Daisy, is not completely self-absorbed like the others. He strongly believes that his wealth will win over Daisy. Your wife doesn t love you She never loved you. She loves me She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me (137), Gatsby tells Tom.
... a married woman, Myrtle, confronts Daisy and Jay, and Daisy is forced to return to Tom. As Daisy and Gatsby are driving, they run over ... an accident. Nick: Suppose you met somebody just as careless as yourself? Jordan: I hope I never will, I hate careless people. That's ... at all. Jordan: I am careful. Nick: No you " re not. Jordan: Well, other people are. Nick: What's that got to do ...
In a sense, Gatsby is also selfish as his life and actions revolve completely around Daisy and are directed towards pleasing her. Nick describes Gatsby s illusions of a life with Daisy as a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way (101).
Gatsby s selfishness translates to carelessness when he confronts Tom about his love for Daisy, setting in motion the chain of events which results in tragedy. All of Fitzgerald s characters in The Great Gatsby are flawed to varying degrees. Careless actions result from their self-centered natures, and tragedy results. Tom and Myrtle are careless about concealing their relationship, and Daisy and Gatsby are careless when they reveal theirs to Tom.
Even Nick and Jordan are selfishly careless to some extent and unable or unwilling to stay connected. The decadent nature of the times and the excessive lifestyle contribute to the narcissistic atmosphere that is prevalent throughout the novel. Everyone lives in their own self-absorbed world, and the careless nature of their interaction brings this story to its inevitably tragic conclusion.