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The Contribution of Money to Happiness in the Diamond as Big as the Ritz

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Some people say, would you rather live wealthy but alone, or live at mediocre quality, but surrounded by family and love? Think about this. Most will say they want to be surrounded by love, showing that money cannot buy happiness. Similarly, in “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Percy lives in a secluded and isolated area, but he is very wealthy, while John lives in a regular town, but he is surrounded by people who love him. At the end of the story, those who lived alone wish they move to John’s town. Fitzgerald published this story in 1922 as an allegorical short story about lost illusions. “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz… was designed utterly for my own amusement” (Author’s Preface). This is what Fitzgerald says about this story. He wrote this because he was in a ‘mood’ and had a “craving for luxury” (Author’s Preface).

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Fitzgerald was never known as the generous type, and it is shown through his writing of the novel. He references religious allusions many times throughout the novel, revealing some of his selfishness. The religious allusions chosen in this novel, Heaven/Hell and the 12 disciples of Jesus, are used to portray to the readers how this story is a cautionary tale, warning the readers of what power and greed will do to an individual and their future. Fitzgerald references the religious allusion of Hades, which he inherited from the name of John’s hometown, and he references the Garden of Eden, an allusion to Percy’s home, to show how Heaven and Hell allude to the theme of a cautionary tale in the story, warning the readers that power is not the solution to everything. The reader learns about the exposition of Hades, which is said to be known as the God of the underworld and is considered the final destination for the souls of the dead. In the story, Hades is described as an “old-fashioned Victorian motto,” and “a little depressing” (Fitzgerald 2).

The word depressing gives the reader a dark feeling about the town, literally alluding to the gates of Hell. When John leaves his home, his father says, “You can be sure, boy, that we’ll keep the home fires burning” (Fitzgerald 1). This quote is a humorous joke to the fact that Hades is known as Hell, and Hell is not quite known for quality air-conditioning. When John, Jasmine, and Kismine discover they have attained rhinestones instead of diamonds, John disappointedly says, “We’ll have to live in Hades. And you will grow old telling incredulous women that you got the wrong drawer” (Fitzgerald 39). Since they have acquired jewels of fewer value, they must unfortunately resort to living in Hades, which John makes very clear is not his desired solution. Percy’s home, described as “perfect symmetry… golden light… high marble steps,” (Fitzgerald 8) is an allusion to the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden, also known as paradise, symbolizes happiness, peace, and the end of innocence. “This garden was a unique place quite impossible to be reached or identified as the garden for the future generations. This only added to the secluded and isolated panoramic view” (P. J. 183). This description of the garden resembles the description of Percy’s home. The home in the story is on a high risen chateau, alluding to how the garden symbolizes peace. It is almost impossible to find Percy’s home because it is very secluded. The home is also very isolated, showing no description of any houses nearby. Percy’s home is alluded to be Heaven in the story. At the end of the story, Kismine asks John if her father will be in Hades when they arrive there. “Your father is dead,” says John, “Why should he go to Hades? You have it confused with another place that was abolished long ago” (Fitzgerald 39). From this quote, the reader can conclude that John, Kismine, and Jasmine look forward to their arrival at Hades, but why should they be looking forward to Hades (Hell), especially when they are leaving the Garden of Eden (Heaven).

They are relieved to live in a more stable environment where they have freedom, and do not have to be kept isolated. The religious allusions to Heaven and Hell warn the readers that those who live the dream life, isolated and secluded, rather live in a town, so-called ‘Hell,’ to have freedom and peace over power. Another reference in the story is the religious allusion to the twelve disciples of Jesus, where Fitzgerald shows how the world is largely obsessed with the idea of wealth and fortunes, also showing how wealth has dramatically impacted the people. The village of Fish is a desolate, barren land, described to be ‘poisoned’ and ‘forgotten’ (Fitzgerald 4). The men of Fish “were beyond all religion… there was no altar, no priest, no sacrifice…” (Fitzgerald 4). This village of supposed religion has proven to completely abandon all religion. If ‘the barest and most savage tenets of even Christianity could gain no foothold on that barren rock,’ (Fitzgerald 4) then they have truly turned away from God. Since the Americans have stopped worshiping God, they worship the value of money. “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 New Testament). The words spirit and truth correspond to how and whom God shall be worshiped. Worshiping God in spirit is far different than worshiping in more external ways. Worshiping in truth is worshiping in the adequate view on God. The people have turned to worship money and power. The value of money has caused them to completely disown their religion and beliefs. They have turned away from God.

Braddock, who is the antagonist of the story, is shown to be obsessed with wealth and a tragic flaw. Fitzgerald portrays him as inhumane because he has no remorse on whom he tarnishes or exploits, as long as he has money. Braddock tries to bribe God by promising him a giant diamond. He does this after realizing his own destruction. “This diamond would be cut with many more thousand facets than there were leaves on a tree… many men would work upon it for many years. It would be set in a great dome of beaten gold, wonderfully carved and equipped with gates of opal and crusted sapphire” (Fitzgerald 35). Braddock tries to speak only positive on the diamond, letting God know it would be carved beautifully and worked on for many years. He tries to win God over by presenting the diamond with very great value, because in this land, it is all about the value and wealth of everything. When Braddock’s bribe does not work, it is a message from Fitzgerald that religion is so fundamental, it cannot be destroyed by the vapid worship of wealth. John reflects that ‘the simple piety prevalent in Hades has the earnest worship of and respect for riches as the first article of its creed,’ and that if he deviated from this standard ‘his parents would have turned away in horror at the blasphemy’ (Fitzgerald 6).

Fitzgerald allows to reader to understand that these characters have been ingrained in wealth their whole lives and the reader should not be blaming them for it. “Parents can influence their children’s involvement in bullying situations by modelling positive social behaviour, offering advice about appropriate responses to bullying, and encouraging help-seeking” (Lester 2). This article shows that the parents of the house have a huge impact on the children’s lives while growing up. However the parent acts or says, the child will most likely imitate and do the same thing. Fitzgerald shows in his book that because of the parents, the children have grown up obsessed over wealth. If it wasn’t for the parents poor teaching abilities, the children would not be so close-minded and selfish to others around them. Money is clearly the new religion in this land – men treat the wealthy as a God and they worship at the altar of diamonds and gold.

The religious reference warns the reader that God is still there, the story seems to threaten, and they will all have to own up to their actions at the end, even if it is not their fault. Many of the events in “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” have an underlying message underneath them. Fitzgerald wrote this novel in a different way than most authors, including himself. He expressed his opinions honestly which made the novel credible and trustworthy for most. Most of the novel is surrounded by the youth and wealth, but not many people saw the references to religion. These references were important because they alluded to a theme of a cautionary tale. Fitzgerald warns the readers of many things, but mainly the idea of what wealth can do. He expressed openly that wealth is not the solution to everything, and most of the wealthy are arrogant and egotistical. The future meaning behind this novel is to not conform to society. Just because a person does something or purchases something does not mean the rest of society has to conform. If the world did not conform to society on a daily basis, then there would be many more opportunities for all types of people. The world would be more accepting of diversity.

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