29 April 2013
I think that Tyson’s post-colonial reading of The Great Gatsby was probably the most solid out of all the lenses we’ve read so far. At first, it seemed to me that she was harping a lot on the point of othering, for instance, writing, “he emphasizes their ethnicity as if that were their primary or only feature and thus foregrounds their “alien” quality. For example, the woman he has hired to keep his house and cook his breakfast, whom he sees every day, is referred to six different times and always by such appellations as ‘my fin’”. Othering, while perhaps being the most psychologically important aspect of colonialism, should not be the only point in a post colonial reading. However, towards the end, she did bring up a few other intriguing points supporting her reading through this lens.
Once Tyson began to move away from Nick’s othering of other’s ethnicities, I began to look more favorably toward the reading. The second character that she applies to post-colonialism is Jay Gatsby, whom she claims represents a colonial subject, “Its subtle social codes and gradations of social status are unfamiliar to him, and he can’t quite get the hang of them.” This was just about the first time that Tyson had anything to say about the psychology of the colonialists, which is what she promised in the introduction to her essay, but when she finally got past the obvious alienation of other cultures that occurs in post-colonialism, what she had to say made up for the first half of the essay.
Finally, Tyson discusses Tom, the old money type that would have been behind the colonization of the new world. Tyson argues that although he is of low moral character he is still kept in his economic position because of his heritage, “Tom is clearly the most culturally privileged character in the novel. Despite his lack of personal refinement and he “ungentlemanly behavior, he has all the cultural advantages afforded by race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, family, and education.” I think Tyson could have definitely gone a little more in depth with the psychology of Tom, but instead she chose to write about his relationship with the colonial subject Myrtle, which is equally as engaging a point to read about, it just didn’t quite live up to Tyson’s promise of psychology focus.