In pursuit of personal fulfilment, people often struggle with the balance between hope and action, truthfulness and deceit and reason and impulse. Benjamin Franklin impacted wisdom through his maxims in “The Way to Wealth“, which guides people when navigating life’s complexities. In the first maxim, “He that lives upon hope will die fasting,” Franklin cautions people against relying solely on hope without action (Franklin, 2006). He encourages people to balance between optimism and action. In the second maxim, “The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt,” he emphasizes the importance of telling the truth. He argues that running into debt may be dangerous, but deceit carries greater moral weight over debt. In the third maxim, “If you will not hear reason, she’ll surely rap your knuckles,” Franklin emphasizes the importance of reason and critical thinking in decision-making. He suggests that ignoring reasons can lead to unfavorable outcomes. In The Great Gatsby, the characters of Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway reflect upon Franklin’s maxims. Daisy Buchanan is a beautiful socialite married to Tom Buchanan, a wealthy and arrogant man (Anushirvani & Alinezhadi, 2016). Lastly, Nick Caraway is the story narrator who observes the lives and actions of those around him. Therefore, this essay will elaborate on the three maxims from Franklin’s “The Way to Wealth”, which include “He that lives upon hope will die fasting,” “The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt,” and “If you will not hear reason, she’ll surely rap your knuckles.”
Daisy Buchanan embodies the maxim that “He that lives upon hope will die fasting” through her reluctance to take action to achieve his desires. She is portrayed as a dreamer who yearns for a better life. For instance, she is dissatisfied with her marriage and the confining nature of her society (Roberts, 2006). However, she fails to take action, remaining trapped in her unhappy marriage. She waits for her life to change on its own. This reliance on hope alone leads to her downfall resulting in unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities. In the film, Daisy says, “I wanted my life shaped now, immediately—and the decision must be made by some force—of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality—that was close at hand” (Anushirvani & Alinezhadi, 2016) This quote shows her desire for instant gratification and reliance on hope alone. Daisy’s failure to take action results in a life of disappointment and unfulfilled potential, serving as a cautionary example to viewers of the importance of balancing hope with action. Therefore, she indicates the need to seize opportunities and actively shape our destinies rather than solely relying on hope.
Secondly, Tom Buchanan embodies the maxim that “The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt” through his habitual lying and reckless approach to finances. Tom is constantly portrayed as a liar, manipulating people and situations to serve his interest. For instance, he engages in extramarital affairs, betraying his wife Daisy with other women such as Myrtle Wilson. His dishonesty is also evident in his financial affairs. In one instance, he says, “I’ve got my man out West to sell the car. He can’t get a penny out of it. It’s all gone. … I haven’t got a cent left, but I’ve got many debts” (Anushirvani & Alinezhadi, 2016). This quote exposes his lies about his financial position, trying to conceal his financial troubles. Tom shows the effect of lying and irresponsible financial behavior, which destroys the trust in his family and exacerbates his financial challenges. Therefore, The Great Gatsby uses Tom to enlighten the people on the dangers of dishonesty and financial irresponsibility. Tom’s embodiment of this maxim shows the importance of truthfulness and prudent financial management.
Lastly, Nick Carraway embodies the Maxim “If you will not hear reason, she’ll surely rap your knuckles” through his commitment to rational behavior amid irrational characters. He acts as a voice of reason, evading the moral corruption that permeates his society. His adherence to reason is evident in his unwavering desire to understand others. He states, “I’m inclined to reserve all judgments,” demonstrating his desire to understand those around him (Roberts, 2006). By reserving judgment, Nick shows his willingness to accommodate the perspectives of others. As a result, Nick’s rational behavior allows him to navigate the world’s complexities with clarity in The Great Gatsby. While others engage in corrupt behaviors, Nick maintains good conduct as a moral compass in the film. Therefore, Nick presents a contrasting figure to the moral decay prevalent in his society (Reinert, 2015). His commitment to reason serves as a guiding principle, allowing him to maintain integrity. Nick’s character helps the film highlight the importance of rational thinking, the dangers of abandoning reason and the power of critical thinking.
In conclusion, the maxims from Benjamin Franklin’s “The Way to Wealth” serves as a guiding principle to navigate the complexities of life. Characters in “The Great Gatsby“, such as Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway, embody this maxim, showing the importance of balance, truthfulness and reason. Daisy embodies the maxim “He that lives upon hope will die fasting“, highlighting the need to balance hope and action. Her passive approach to life leads to unfulfilled dreams and missed opportunities. Additionally, Tom exemplifies the maxim “The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt” through his lying behaviour. His deceitful nature destroys the trust in his family and increases his financial troubles. Lastly, Nick reflects on the maxim “If you will not hear reason, she’ll surely rap your knuckles” through his rational behavior amidst corrupt characters. He is a voice of reason, maintaining a moral perspective in a corrupt society. Therefore, “The Great Gatsby” highlights the importance of balance, truthfulness and reason in pursuing personal fulfilment. The film offers valuable insights into the consequences of relying solely on hope, the dangers of deceit, and the power of critical thinking. These lessons resonate with audiences, reminding us of the wisdom in Franklin’s teachings.
Anushirvani, A., & Alinezhadi, E. (2016). An analytical study of the 2013 cinematic adaptation of The great gatsby. International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, 68, 73-85.
Franklin, B. (2006). The Way to Wealth and other writings on finance. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.
Reinert, S. A. (2015). The Way to wealth around the World: Benjamin Franklin and the Globalization of American Capitalism. The American Historical Review, 120(1), 61-97.
Roberts, M. (2006). Scarface, the Great Gatsby, and the American Dream. Literature/Film Quarterly, 34(1), 71.