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Critical Lens Essay

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Jeff Benzos said "I don't think wealth actually changes people". To me, this quotation means

that when someone gets a large sum of money, they wouldn't have any change their behavior and characters. I disagree with this quotation because there are hundreds of examples in literary works and in reality that show this quote is not true. This can be seen in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, especially in the characters of Myrtle Wilson and Tom Buchanan.

The quote can be disproved by observing the character Myrtle Wilson. Myrtle lives in the Valley of Ashes at a Garage with her husband George Wilson. They are poor and live in a small apartment above the garage. Myrtle is cheating on George with Tom Buchanan. Tom is a wealthy man that is also cheating on his wife. He buys Myrtle things, like a puppy, and lets her buy things, like the furniture in their apartment that they meet in. When Myrtle is with Tom, she acts like she thinks a rich person would act. She doesn't really know how the rich act. The furniture in the apartment is that she bought is oversized and tacky. The dresses she wears are overly flashy and brightly colored. Those are definitely not things old money wealthy people, like Tom's wife, would buy. Myrtle thinks that just because she is spending time with someone with money, she is rich too. She changes her behavior to make herself be what she thinks is appropriate for a wealthy person to act. At one time, Myrtle buys gossip magazines at the train station, begs Tom to buy her a puppy, and even makes Nick and Tom wait for a lavender taxi. Fitzgerald uses these things to symbolize, or represent how shallow she really is. The money is obviously going to her head and it's making her change who she is.

Another example is Tom Buchanan at the time of Myrtle's death. Myrtle is Tom's lover. She was struck and killed by a car outside her home. Someone who saw the accident said a big yellow car (Gatsby's car) hit her. Tom had driven the car on the way to New York City. When he sees the commotion at the garage, he has to make sure that Myrtle's husband George knows it wasn't him driving the car. He doesn't care that the girl he "loved" enough to cheat on his wife with is dead. He just wants to make sure nothing bad happens to his reputation and that he gets no trouble from it. Fitzgerald characterizes Tom in a really good way. You learn through the course of the story that Tom is a violent, self-centered man who only cares for himself and things concerning him and believes he is better than most of the people in the world. A normal person with a conscience would have been more concerned with the accident and about Myrtle's death. They wouldn't have worried if they looked good to other people. Just because Tom has money, he believes he is instantly better than everyone else who isn't



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