Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sometimes Tyson just goes too far

          The biggest problem I often have with critical theory experts is how they often read way too far into parts of literature. Granted that is their job, but sometimes it just gets excessive.
          In Lois Tyson's psychoanalytic criticism of The Great Gatsby in her book Critical Theory Today, she claims that every character and specifically every couple in the novel suffer from fear of intimacy. She starts off talking about Tom and Daisy on page forty two saying that, "For both Tom and Daisy, fear of intimacy is related to low self-esteem." It is clear that they have fear of intimacy, but it doesn't seem like this is the cause. First, Tom spends the entire story strutting around as if he owns every place he goes, all the way up to the near end when he tells Gatsby to drive home with daisy because he is so confident he won the argument. This low self-esteem is more plausible for Daisy because of her extreme superficiality, however because of all the praise and attention she gets from practically every other character (especially Gatsby) she is quite full of herself. Tyson then says in the next paragraph that, "Daisy's low self-esteem, like her fear of intimacy, is indicated in large part by her relationship with Tom." This statement is similar to many made throughout this reading about how Daisy is defined by Tom. This theory is to some extent true because of the fact that she hangs onto his every word like he's a genius. However, it also seems like an inadvertently sexist claim. If we look at Daisy's past with Gatsby, while we do not know much on account of the fact that Nick wasn't present, it is fairly clear she was still the same, superficial Daisy who was only in love with Gatsby because she thought he was rich. Daisy and Tom are extremely similar, but their connection was an effect of that similarity, not a cause. Finally, Tyson starts talking about Gatsby and, on page 49 quotes Gatsby, "Can't repeat the past?… Why of course you can!" She then connects this quote to the premise that Gatsby's repression of psychological issues, "condemns him to repeatedly incur them." Tyson claims this quote proves Gatsby's fear of intimacy, yet it actually proves quite the opposite. This simple sentence does not refer to Gatsby's psychological problems, but simply his desire to go back to the simpler times with Daisy before he left, thus proving that Gatsby does in fact want intimacy with Daisy.
          Granted it wouldn't make a great critical theory book to be vague and uncertain about these theories, and if she were, Lois Tyson would not be as well known as she is, but it could be beneficial for her and others like her to take a step back once in a while and realize that that's all they are; theories.

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