The Evil of Money and Power: Jay Gatsby, Macbeth and Tom Walker

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In today’s society, the idea that money can buy happiness is prevalent in the ordinary lives of most people. As a society we often equate the attainment of money or power with happiness. In many cases obtaining wealth or power does not always guarantee happiness. Furthermore, wealth exposes people to more sadness because greedy people are never content with life. These people are constantly seeking more. In the works of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Macbeth by William Shakespeare and “The Death Of Tom Walker” by Washington Irving , greed is a substantial motivator in the main character’s Jay Gatsby, Macbeth and Tom Walker relationship, ambitions and future. The works expresses the undeniable urge to succeed even at the cost of losing morals, even though obtaining this does not ensure happiness in the end.

The Great Gatsby is introduced from the point of view of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s next door neighbor. The story is set on the north shore of Long Island between two classes the East Egg and West Egg during the 1920s. East Egg consists of people who come from wealthy families or old money and West Egg consists of the newly wealthy or new money. The characters Tom Buchanan and Daisy Buchanan live in the East Egg; while Daisy’s cousin Nick and Jay Gatsby live in the West Egg. This story follows the four main characters and their undying desire for wealth and power. This unending pursuit influences the characters to be careless and disregard the consequences of their actions.

During the altercation between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby, Gatsby desperately begs Daisy to tell Tom that she does not cherish him and she is leaving him. In the quote “ Oh, you want too much!' she cried to Gatsby. 'I love you now—isn't that enough? I can't help what's past.' She began to sob helplessly. 'I did love him once—but I loved you too'( 141-142). It becomes clear to the reader that Daisy can not leave her husband. This stuns Gatsby because he has dedicated his life to winning over Daisy. Although Gatsby obtains a great amount of wealth, he is still incapable of achieving his goal of winning back Daisy. This action ultimately makes the money and the power useless.

In the quote:

He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the re-public rolled on under the night (193)

Nick Carraway is reflecting on Gatsby’s life and comes to the conclusion that Gatsby already had happiness. Gatsby had happiness in North Dakota, but left it due to his pursuit of wealth and the illusion that he can repeat the past. Although he has come a long way, happiness is still at a reach because no amount of money can achieve his dream.

Throughout the novel, Gatsby is a conflicted; he assimilate the love of a woman with accomplishment. When daisy rejects Gatsby and returns to Tom Buchanan, Gatsby is emptied of love and ambition. Brian McCombie stated in his article “ Gatsby vast fortune acts as a great emotional cushion, allowing Gatsby to indulge his romantic and fanciful ideas about his relationship with Daisy”(McCombie). Overall wealth and material do not guarantee happiness.

In the novel Macbeth by William Shakespeare, the main character struggles with his ambition and the retainment of morals. Ambition is displayed as a treacherous element that ultimately leads to the downfall of Macbeth. Ambition also brings about the many deaths that occur throughout the story. The story begins with Macbeth and Banquo receiving information about their future. After this encounter, Macbeth becomes obsessed with the idea of obtaining this power and tries to kill of anyone that poses as an obstacle. In the end, Macbeth fiery ambition is extinguished when Malcolm becomes the king.

Macbeth ambition is motivated by numerous of factors such as the witches prophecy that was Macbeth will become king. Once the prophecy is revealed, Macbeth becomes obsessed by the idea of becoming a powerful man and he wonders how the throne will become his. It becomes obvious that the witches how stirred an urge in him to obtaining this idea in the quote “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, Shakes so my single state of man that function Is smother’d in surmise” (Act 1, Scene 3). Macbeth considers doing an evil deed in order to get the throne and become king.

Macbeth ambition is also motivated by his wife, Lady Macbeth, she is the driving force that encourages Macbeth to act on his evil deeds. Although Macbeth knows he had to take action and participate in an evil deed he is still uncomfortable with the idea. However. Lady Macbeth is willing to do anything to fulfill this prophecy including aging blood on her hands. Lady Macbeth questions his masculinity by stating “When you durst do it, then you were a man” (Act 1, Scene 6). Eventually Macbeth overcomes his sense of guilt and his ambition spilled out of control a de forces him to commit numerous murders throughout the play.

According to an article by Renaissance Quarterly, “vaulting ambition stops as nothing, not evening associating with the Devil” (Freund). This is evident throughout the play when he is commits murder numerous of times to cover up his wrongdoings. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s ambition ultimately causes their downfall with Macbeth viewed as a murderous tyrant and Lady Macbeth committing suicide due to guilt.

“The Devil and Tom Walker” is a short story set a few miles from Boston,Massachusetts about the main protagonist Tom Walker; a miserly man and his equally despicable wife, who cheat each other and constantly fight. Both Tom and his wife are willing to do anything to obtain wealth including selling their souls to the Devil for worldly benefits.The main conflict in the story has to do with the protagonist’s greed. Toward the end of the story Tom realizes that he does not want to go to hell and becomes a vigorous church-goer.

The short story proves that greed and selfish corroborate to the destruction of humans. Throughout the story it becomes evident that Tom had distorted values; this is evident in the quote:

'Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property, with the loss of his wife, for he was a man of fortitude. He even felt something like gratitude toward the black woodsman, who, he considered, had done him a kindness (pg.662).”

Tom values material property above his wife. Tom despise his wife so much he considers that the Devil has done him a favor for killing her. Greed is a popular theme throughout the short story and ultimately lead to the demise of Tom Walker. Tom Walker is filled with greed and when greed is put on view, the ability to sympathize and empathize are forgotten.

The three works demonstrate that although the characters Jay Gatsby, Macbeth and Tom Walker thought that money and power would bring them happiness. Sadly, money and power only led these characters to lose their morals and ultimately led to their downfall. Money and power are incapable of creating a sense of fulfillment in each of the characters. In fact, the attainment of money leads to the loss of morals among the characters.                  

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The Evil of Money and Power: Jay Gatsby, Macbeth and Tom Walker. (2021, Mar 24). Retrieved September 27, 2023 , from

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