It is my believe that Lois Tyson’s writing style suffers from on major blemish- she convolutes simple ideas. This shines particularly bright in her Marxist reading of The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It goes without saying that Marxism is a particularly difficult lens to master, and to teach it is even more difficult, but some of the concepts and examples which she presents are so simple, but presented in such difficult ways that the reading makes no sense. It is my goal to critique her in a helpful manner, and hopefully decode the literary detritus which we sometimes read.
A prime example of her overcomplicated ideas is Tom’s interest in Myrtle- or lower class women. While Tyson could have said something along the lines of, “Tom was interested in women of a lower class than himself because he was almost guaranteed to be fawned over,” she states that, “Tom’s consistent choice of lower-class women can also be understood in terms of his commodified view of human interaction: he “markets” his socioeconomic status where it will put him at the greatest advantage- among women who are most desperate for a most easily awed by what he has to sell.” (Pg. 70) While this interpretation or wording certainly sounds better, and reads better for those willing to digest the information, it seem to me that Tyson is working hard to apply Marxist vocabulary to everyday phenomena. Maybe this is what Marxism is- the application of “deep” theories on occurrences we already have labeled in lay men's terms, but if this is the case, I would prefer Tyson to acknowledge this, instead of ignoring the simplicity and continuing on. Granted- I agree with her point, just once I get past the construed and buried nature of it.
While still obscured by Critical Theory jargon, I believe Tyson has a much stronger point by drawing similarities between Nick, Gatsby and Communism. It is illustrated throughout The Great Gatsby that Nick and Tom are different, and that somehow, Nick and Gatsby’s backgrounds are somewhat similar. As talked about in the first section, Tom is basically the god of Capitalism- but later in the chapter, we begin to see how Nick and Gatsby are “the people” of communism. For simplicity sake though, let us only look at early on Gatsby, because as he ages, and gains wealthy, it becomes incredibly difficult to draw similarities between his excessive wealth and communism. Tyson notes that Nick, “At the age of thirty, and still being financed by his father...” (P. 77) What I extrapolated from this, was that Nick was a symbolization of those being supported by the government, who would later give back to the government, and his “community.” This is the communist way! I wish that Tyson had made a stronger link between these two parts, but I believe that this was an example of her finding a valuable nugget in the text that was actually, “legitimate,” and not a complete “pull.”
Finally, I should mention a point I thoroughly disagreed with. The Great Gatsby’s closing line, “ Beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (Pg. 78) is known for being deep, and seeming existential, so it would only make sense that Tyson would try and bring sense to the line with Marxism. Unfortunately- it seemed fluffy. Tyson claims that this symbolizes how capitalism is, “Bearing us ceaselessly back under capitalism’s spell.” Say what? Capitalism is the current, which we are beating on against? Sure, I guess this does makes sense, but there is no way this is how Fitzgerald intended it. I also have to wonder if I’m not misunderstanding what Tyson is trying to say, bringing me to my final point. Write clearly and concisely. If Tyson did this, her readings would be far more “accessible” and be easier to interpret, and then make it better to build off of. Tyson, I beg of you, write sentences which do not require rereading over three times.
While I believe Tyson has some excellent points, I strongly believe she is often trying to contrive the text to fit the Marxist lens, as opposed to trying to view the text through a pre determined lens. It does not always seem like she really believes what she is saying, making all points feel somewhat shaky.
Do you believe connections were created between Nick and communism on purpose in The Great Gatsby? How do you think Fitzgerald would respond to a Marxist reading of his book? Would he agree? Would this lens be the one he would appreciate most, or do you believe he would want to read the book through a different one? If so, which? Would he care?