The Green Light of Greed
Let’s be honest. Money does not buy happiness. One may say that wealth is all they need in life or that it is their only source of joy; their enlightening motivation and passion to live for. Don’t get me wrong here. Wealth certainly does give satisfaction to one’s self but triggers the ceaseless greed that can ultimately bring us down. It's a vicious cycle that we have been taught to avoid. The problem with this is that greed has become so ingrained into our culture, it's almost as if it's a piece of our DNA.
The hidden consequences of constant satisfaction, creation of war and selfishness rooted in our souls is what we now call ‘happiness’. In the award-winning novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the film Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream, the frightening reality of these consequences are freakishly portrayed.
Jay Gatsby, a multi-millionaire in West Egg, is the hedonistic protagonist of the classic tale, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald depicts Gatsby as a definition
of wealth and exuberance, dazzling his ignorant guests with lavish parties funded by his illegal acquisition of illegitimate funds. I’d like to think that he understands the chaotic catastrophe he creates. Yet, his desperateness to catch the eye of his love, Daisy, is his number one priority. In other words, Gatsby is just one of those many ‘money-obsessed’ citizens of West Egg.
Fitzgerald’s interpretation of the era of the roaring 20’s correlates with the corrupt lifestyle of the residents of 740 Park Avenue, which is set almost a century later. Both texts underpin and display the fact that greed is timeless and will always prevail through the representation of the rich and the poor over some time. The novel also shows how the wealthy can control their own lives by controlling others and using them as a tool for self- interest.
Whether it be the poverty-stricken individuals of The Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby or the destitute citizens of South Bronx in Park Avenue, the cruel distinction of material wealth is evident. Both the novel, The Great Gatsby, and the film, Park Avenue, represent the teeth-grinding nature of greed that has plagued mankind.
740 Park Avenue and West egg/East egg is home to the wealthiest residents of New York City. Palatial houses, exorbitant vehicles, and branded clothing are just a few of the extravagant aspects that contribute to their everlasting freedom and peace the rich enjoy.
On the other hand, the citizens of The Valley of Ashes and South Bronx greatly suffer in poverty-stricken lifestyles of starvation due to their self-centred, wealthy neighbours, to whom they have no real connection.
The prevalence of greed in today’s society is simply represented in Park Avenue through a basic simulation of the game, Monopoly. The game starts with one player being given an advantage of additional wealth and property than the other participants. Unsurprisingly, the player who started off wealthy becomes hubristic and entitled. There is no longer any sympathy or consideration towards their opponents. I mean, back in the day this game was my go-to entertainment, there was nothing, but fun involved. Unfortunately, the game now accurately represents the disgraceful society we live in today. Money equalling power, authority and control. The inevitable fact that humans are losing sympathy for materialistic wealth.
It has become quite clear that over the last thirty injurious years, the rich of Manhattan have comfortably enjoyed watching the unprecedented prosperity of a system that they have increasingly controlled. A system that forces the poor to pay more, so the rich can pay less. How ridiculous is that? Who cares about their private jet planes and their over-priced vehicles, it’s all about their bloodthirsty greed for political power!
As revealed by a former lobbyist, a majority of wealthy CEOs bribe politicians to favour themselves with the changes of polices. How would you feel paying higher takes than the rich while earning less than $40 a day? Put yourselves in their shoes. They’re continuously climbing up the ladder for wealth, only to find themselves back at square one.
To no surprise, these prosperous residents are no different than the money-obsessed citizens of West Egg and East Egg. In The Great Gatsby, the immoral actions of Gatsby have readers fuming. Not only does he urge immediate satisfaction from wealth, but he also participates in the illegal sales of alcohol. It’s such a pity that he continues to yearn for the wealth that he will never be satisfied with.
And where do we even begin with Tom Buchanan? Living the dream life like no other is a very fine gentleman called Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. With his extravagant possessions including “a string of polo ponies”, his barrier of greed is beyond the boundaries. Not only is he so obsessed materialistically but also with women. Yes, women. Buchannan’s urge to controlling women in his life through money is like a cheetah viscously roaming around his prey. Not only does it represent his extent of greed, but the fact that Buchannan and his wife, Daisy, will literally do anything to achieve what they want, whenever they want. Even if it means corruption.
Similarly, the residents of 740 Park will preserve their wealth at all costs. Let me introduce you to the ‘Teacup movement’. Inspired by Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism, which alleges that today’s society is heavily constructed on the backs of the wealthy. She claims that we would all be experiencing an existential crisis if the rich all disappeared. Do we have to depend on our lives with these self-centred individuals?
Fitzgerald’s significant distinction in the rich and poor portrays the extremity of greed. The daring jubilance that led to decadent partygoers – epitomised in The Great Gatsby by the plush events that Gatsby throws weekly is just one example. I mean we’d all like to celebrate like him if we all had the opportunity, right? But what about those who live in poverty?
Not to mention, how extravagantly Buchanan’s luxurious mansion is described – “a cheerful red-and-white Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the bay”. Moreover, Gatsby’s act of prosperity when peacocking his lavish clothing over Daisy, depicts his materialistic greed. “He took a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one … shirts of sheer linen and fine flannel…”. He also shows his wealth through extravagant parties, which are often held at Gatsby’s house. This shows that he has money and power, yet it is not enough for him to be wealthy.
In contrast, The Valley of Ashes is described as an arid wasteland where “ashes grow like wheat into… grotesque gardens”. The barren and godforsaken state of the district portrays the plight of its poor residents, as well as the social and moral decay of the rich due to their materialistic greed.
Likewise, South Bronx in Park Avenue is depicted as dull, gloomy and despondent, where poverty-stricken residents are helplessly lining up for limited food rations daily. Through the evident contrast between the rich and the poor districts, the audience is left to have a sympathetic response.
You probably realised that in both texts, the separation between the rich and the poor is quite apparent. The luxury of West Egg and East Egg is separated from The Valley of Ashes by what they call ‘eyes of God’. The gigantic stained billboard painted with the faded glasses of ‘Dr. Tj Eckleburg’ overlooks the greedy pursuits of materialistic residents.
It’s not even surprising that even a century later, the somber of South Bronx and Manhattan are also divided. Detached by a river that effectively prohibits the poor from crossing, the separation symbolises their inability to achieve a path up the social hierarchy.
I don’t know about you, but when people talk about meanings behind colours, I honestly thought they were putting random things together. Like how red represents anger and yellow represents happiness. And just in case you didn’t know, apparently the colour green represents greed. And according to The Great Gatsby, it surely does.
In The Great Gatsby, there is a constant obsession with a green light across the water from Gatsby’s home. The light creates desire, hope, and motivation to accomplish a goal. Daisy provides the green light in Jay Gatsby’s life, but a sense of drive and yearning can be found in many of the characters.
Green also brings to mind money. Money meant so much in the 1920s, and it provided a means to distinguish status. Additionally, green evokes spite and jealousy. I guess everything just looks better when someone else owns it.
The key point is that greed will always be around unless we make a change. The wealthy, despite succeeding in life, will never be satisfied with their own wealth and the poor will always be trying to make a living. Greed will constantly allow the rich to control and will always seem impossible for the poor to even take a step forward. The sooner the corruptive flaws are closed, the sooner we can reflect on what ‘true happiness’ is and how we can demolish greed from this demoralising society we live in.
Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction
- Erich Fromm
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