Study Guide

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz Wealth

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Wealth is the object of scrutinizing social satire in "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." In this story, America is a country obsessed with wealth to a gaudy, destructive, and shameful degree. Wealth has replaced religion; men worship at the altar of diamonds and gold. Horrible things are done in the name of wealth, including imprisonment and murder, and these actions are written off as natural consequences of success and expansion. The detrimental consequences of such an obsession are made clear. Wealth can be its own prison, the narrative argues, and blindly chasing it dehumanizes its pursuers and devalues human life.

Questions About Wealth

  1. How does John feel about wealth at the end of the story as compared to at its start?
  2. Consider Fitzgerald's opinion on wealth as expressed in other works, specifically The Great Gatsby and " Babylon Revisited." Are the views expressed in those works consistent with those expressed here in "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz"?
  3. Are the Washingtons morally corrupt because they are wealthy, or did they only get filthy rich because they were morally corrupt? (This questions is a little bit like the chicken/egg question.)
  4. Diamonds are a natural resource, but how much of the Washington estate is natural? What is the relationship between wealthy men and the natural world around them?

Chew on This

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" argues that one can be free only when one is poor.

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" argues that one can be free only when one is rich.

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