Language Arts 5
The Great Gatsby: Capitalist, or Marxist?
This section of Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today has confused me not because of the words and concepts, but because it’s so different from the previous couple lenses. I do not think that any critical lens, least of all so far Marxist theory is substantial enough to analyze an entire book without making things up, I actually agreed with the vast majority of what Tyson said. This is likely because The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald lends itself well to Marxist theory because of the importance of money to the story.
First, Tyson says that the text portrays capitalism in a bad light because of Tom Buchanan. Tyson writes, “The wealthiest man in the novel, Tom relates to the world only through his money: for him, all things and all people are commodities,” (70). I completely agree with this statement, as it is fairly clear. Throughout the entire novel, Tom is loud, controlling, and is always physically moving people around. These behaviors clearly exist to show his dominance that comes from his money.
Tyson then makes a similar claim about Daisy. She then writes, “And certainly, Daisy is capable, like Tom of espousing an idea for the status she thinks confers on her,” (71). Again, this though is fairly obviously true. At the beginning of the book, Daisy seems like a nice young woman who is just a little dumb, however, as the story continues, it’s clear she’s shallow, and only concerned about socio-economic status. Thus, she gives up on Gatsby the minute she finds out he’s not part of her class.
Finally though, Tyson also says that the text has a flaw in that it also glorifies the wealthy and puts down the less wealthy, when she writes, “-Is a powerfully chilling image of the life led by those who do not have the socioeconomic resources of the Buchanans,” (72). This passage is referring to the dark, description of, “the valley of ashes,” which is where the Wilsons live. The Wilsons, like the other people in the awful valley of ashes, are not as wealthy as people like Tom, daisy, and Gatsby. While this discrepancy in opinion seems not to make sense at first, I think that since Nick is the narrator, I think this could all be exaggerated in his perception as his opinions change.
Though they didn’t fit together, Lois Tyson’s ideas in this section were sell supported and made sense. They were also surprisingly non-condescending. All together, I would say that I agree with her on this one.
Do you think only one of these sides is true?
Which one did Fitzgerald mean to imply (if only one)?
Did Fitzgerald mean to imply anything about money?
Does it matter if he did or not?