Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Nick The Superior
In this chapter of Critical Theory Today, Lois Tyson provides a strong reading of The Great Gatsby, by Fitzgerald, through a postcolonial lens. Her attempts at proving Gatsby's and Tom's acts of "othering" are persuasive, but her most convincing argument is shown through Nick Carraway.
Tyson begins by discussing that "colonialist psychology finds in the insecure individual fertile ground on which to establish its self" (Tyson, 434). This is a prime set up to introduce Nick Carraway. Through out the novel, he is clearly concerned with his social status and fitting into the elite group with Gatsby. He is immediately portrayed as an insecure individual, being the lowest class in his social group. Tyson says, "Nick also has some personal insecurity that makes him need to feel he is in control, that makes him need to feel superior to others in some way" (438). Nick, not having nearly the fortune as his social peers, puts him at a "social disadvantage" (439). thus, he makes those who are not apart of the elite white class seem lesser to him.
Nick's constant referral to his house maid as "The Finn" (Fitzgerald, 89) clearly displays Nicks reluctance to humanize the Finish woman. His continuous mention of her ethnicity begins to become a way of describing her while dehumanizing and "othering" her. She is not a member of Nick's white elitist group, she is an "other". Nick not only "others" people by highlighting their ethnicity, he also makes them inferior to him by describing their unattractive-stereotypical physic. Tyson discusses the multiple occurrences of when Nick references Wolfsheim's nose. She makes a striking point when she says, "Nick is demonizing Wolfsheim because this character is a criminal of rather vast proportions. But Nick foregrounds Wolfsheim's Jewishness to such a degree that even Wolfsheim's criminal status becomes associated with his ethnicity." (436).This statement is accurate; as we read about Wolfsheim we think, the Jewish criminal with the big nose, directly associating Jewish, criminal, and big nose together. This is exactly what Nick's goal is; to make himself seem superior to those of different ethnicities. Lastly, the most obvious and common tactic of dehumanization is mentioned when Tyson discusses when Nick refuses to black men as "bucks". Describing any person or race as an animal is an immediate reaction when attempting to lesser them.
Lois Tyson's postcolonial reading of The Great Gatsby proves to be accurate and well presented. Her points are supported by clear evidence of Nick Carraway's personal insecurities and strive to be represented as superior to all "others" mentioned in the novel. Tyson pulls together all of the theories she has discussed and relates them together into one big picture presented in the postcolonial theory; she demonstrates that this theory is apparent in every day life. Congrats Tyson, you have seemed to sway my opinion of your far-fetched ideas and managed to help me realize the connection between all of the theories!